April 15, 2021
Given the change of course that has happened in the world, we wanted to provide expert opinions on what aspiring graduates can do to start off their careers in an uncertain economic climate. We wanted to know what skills will be more important, where the economy is doing relatively well, and if there will be any lasting effects on the job market.
Companies are looking for candidates that can handle the new responsibilities of the job market. Recent graduates actually have an advantage because they are comfortable using newer technologies and have been communicating virtually their whole lives. They can take what they've learned and apply it immediately.
We spoke to professors and experts from several universities and companies to get their opinions on where the job market for recent graduates is heading, as well as how young graduates entering the industry can be adequately prepared. Here are their thoughts.
Maria Salazar Ph.D.: The coronavirus will have an enduring impact on higher education graduates. In the field of education, graduates have experienced first hand the deep and lasting inequalities that the coronavirus has had on youth and families from Communities of Color. The have seen educational gaps widen into education chasms. They have witnessed the struggles, successes, and resiliency of families as they navigate the impact of the virus. Graduates leave education programs with their eyes wide open to the systemic racism and other isms that impact youth and their families, from education, to healthcare, and beyond.
In teacher education programs, our graduates have had a front row seat to inequality. They have witnessed children and adolescents disengage from schooling and life. They have struggled to support their students' mental and physical health. They ache to be with their students in classrooms, yet fear the repercussions of close contact due to the virus. Yet, they persist, and they keep believing they can make a difference.
Maria Salazar Ph.D.: A day at work for a recent graduate in the field of education is unknown, yet it is known. Schools will certainly change. We will definitely see greater use of technology. Innovation may impact the school day and approach to schooling. Yet, traditional schools may eventually revert to what is known. The factory model of schooling is engrained in U.S. Society. The school enterprise may eventually go back to the "normal" disengaging and alienating model that existed before the virus. And yet, a work day may look radically different. Innovative options for schooling may arise that push beyond the boundaries of what is known. The potential for change is everywhere, in all sectors of the economy. Why not education?
Maria Salazar Ph.D.: Technical skills that stand out to employers in the education sector during and after the time of COVID include interpersonal skills, ability to navigate change and challenges, and commitment to educational equity. Interacting with colleagues, students, and families online is challenging. This requires a set of interpersonal skills that involve a tolerance for uncertainty, risk-taking, creativity, and innovation. The ability to navigate change and challenges is essential during uncertain times. In schools, the landscape is alway changing, and more so in a global pandemic.
It is important to foster a growth-mindset in oneself, and also in one's school community. Employers are also looking for a commitment to educational equity. With emerging consciousness of racial inequality and the need for systems that promote racial justice, employers want to hire people who are culturally competent and can move beyond statements of the value of diversity, to the enactment of educational environments that promote equity for those who are marginalized. This skill set includes: cross-cultural communication, culturally responsive teaching, and strength-based practices.
Colorado State University
Center for Educator Preparation
Dr. Ann Sebald: Not sure what is meant by 'enduring'. However, if you are asking if there will be a long/longer term impact of the pandemic on recent graduates entering the teaching profession, I would say yes. As the state continues to work through the fiscal impact of the pandemic, schools will need to identify their priorities. As it relates to in-person learning, educators have done an amazing job at continuous adjustments during the past year. Teacher candidates have learned along-side veteran educators how best to adapt the learning environment for all students and their needs. What we've learned over this past year is being applied in schools around the globe moving forward.
Dr. Ann Sebald: The state of Colorado, similar to many states across the country, is experiencing a teacher shortage, and more recently, a substitute teacher crisis. The job market is good for novices entering the field. The need for teachers is greatest in rural areas of our state. For details regarding the teacher shortage and how districts are addressing, see www.cde.state.co.us.
Dr. Ann Sebald: Within the field of P-12 education, the question that should be asked is what will help people in our field improve student learning. Professional development opportunities, supported by what we have learned from recent and on-going research, is what will support teachers and leaders within the field of P-12 education. The goal remains the same, how can we best prepare future children and youth to be well prepared to address the challenges and opportunities they will face as they graduate and move out into the workforce and world.
Dr. Stevie Schmitz: I believe that there will be an enduring impact on the entire education system due to the pandemic. Students may experience gaps in their education due to remote learning which will have to be addressed by educational leaders and their faculty members as well as parents. Social emotional stress is bound to be a factor as students return to school. Leaders need to support students and staff with this transition. Educational technology will occupy a new role in public education and we need to embrace and support it. Financial impact will also be a reality for newly graduated educational leaders. Money spent or needing to be spent on safety measures will continue as more students return to school. All of these situations (and others not yet imagined) will impact new leaders.
Dr. Stevie Schmitz: It will be stressful and rewarding...complicated by the impact of the pandemic and yet still rewarding because of working with young people and helping them reach their full potential.
Dr. Stevie Schmitz: The demand for more leaders may increase earning potential, but it will be tempered by the additional expenses incurred and the stagnant revenue stream to meet those demands.
Randa Suleiman Ph.D.: The pandemic had an impact on all of us including our students. In education, the shift from face to face teaching to online pushed our teacher candidates to show their skills. As an Alverno graduate, our teachers tend to be ore versed in technology integration and comfortable teaching in multi-media classrooms.
Randa Suleiman Ph.D.: Are you asking about my job as a faculty? If yes, here is my answer: As a faculty, I worked diligently to model best practices teaching in a virtual environment. I believe in modeling my expectations. As education faculty, we have to walk the talk. I created effective learning environment for my teacher candidates that they can take ideas and strategies to implement in their own teaching.
Randa Suleiman Ph.D.: As more teachers are leaving the field, there is a teacher shortage. All teaching licenses are needed. Some of the areas with immediate needs are special education and bilingual
Antonio Estudillo Ph.D.: A range of considerations come to mind, all of which are interconnected and speak to sustainability in the field of education. Generally speaking, there is a teacher shortage where specific endorsements are concerned (e.g., STEM, Special Education, ESL/working with Multi-Lingual Leaners as well as historically underrepresented students). Of immediate interest is the recruitment and retention of our teaching force that cannot simply pivot how they approach teaching pedagogy, but actually how prospective teacher-educators can change their practices to be more learner-centered, equity-minded, and intentional moving forward (i.e., namely, concentration in quality of technology applications and usage; online learning/blended learning/hybrid intruction).
Specific to the pandemic, this is perhaps most pressing when considering how to better differentiate within and across learning environments/spaces to offer a personalized student experience-facilitating and cultivating meaningful engagement, especially having incoming teachers bring with them an increased/enhanced sense of self and awareness-knowledge of the backgrounds and representation of children of color (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and in particular Latinx and Black/African-American students. In addition too, per job market and the current pandemic, there is still a tremendous need to increase and diversify the ethnic-racial representation of the teaching force.
Antonio Estudillo Ph.D.: I may not have an exact estimation, but I do foresee pre-service teacher educators who enter into the profession with technical skills that are integrative and flexible as being most favorable. Per our times in COVID-19 and beyond, the increased saliency in willingness to be both mindful and continuously learn newer skills even after one graduates will be critical to one's success. This may also include some awareness and practice in underscoring an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning/curriculum development and assessment.
Meaning, as far as one's experience in teaching pedagogy-skill development prior to entering the profession ought to be open to increased experiences in such areas as collaboration/encouraging professional learning (e.g., team-based approaches), independent project management, and continuous means of self-reflection (i.e., reflective artifacts or representation of works that signal an aim to increase competencies in all things related to the profession; spotlighting research and informed decision making; culturally sustaining practices).
Antonio Estudillo Ph.D.: One where an individual out of college has the opportunity to gain access to critical mentorship, professional learning (e.g., professional development), a greater sense of autonomy, and the presence of a community (e.g., sense of belonging as a professional). These combined considerations may be aspirational, but in the context of schools, a recognition for school leadership also matters. Therefore, those seeking a position should aim to consider the present and ongoing investments that are in motion/developing within an institution and how these investments may become increasingly comprehensive, forward-thinking, and accessible over time and after one is hired.
Dr. E.Del Chrol: Useful soft skills are definitely those that Classical languages produce: ability to look closely at a body of work and pay attention to cultural context, ability to articulate complex ideas through speech and writing, deep focus to understand the fiddly bits of syntax.
Dr. Nicole Barnes: Although the abrupt changes that occurred to K-12 schooling in the Spring of 2020 have given way to more detailed reopening plans and a vaccine is now available, the use of hybrid and remote learning remains with the ongoing influence of COVID-19. Therefore, it seems essential that teacher educators, researchers, and K-12 school districts rethink what good teaching looks like for K-12 education's changed landscape. Teachers more then ever will need to be prepared to teach in virtual environments and garner the same academic, social, and emotional student outcomes that they would face to face.
Dr. Nicole Barnes: The two areas where current teachers appear to be struggling are how to motivate and assess students in a virtual environment. In our Certificate Program in Educational Assessment at MSU, for example, we provide teachers will the knowledge and skills to do this well, and administrators with the tools to scaffold their teachers' development in these areas.
Dr. Nicole Barnes: Our graduates are obviously looking for teaching, counseling, or administrative positions in K-12 schools. What I hope for them is that they are in an environment that supports their future learning, and puts kids (all kids) at the forefront of their decision making processes.