New Grads: Ready or Not, Here They Come

Chris Carlson

Christopher Carlson, Director of Talent Acquisition and Diversity, Tennessee Valley Authority
Twitter: @cciCarlson
Co-chair: 2015-2016 Career Readiness Toolkit Tiger Team

In 2007, there was a preeminent report put out entitled “Are They Really Ready to Work?”  This report was the culmination of work by The Conference Board, Partnership for 21 Century Skills, Corporate Voices for Working Families, and the Society of Human Resource Management. It served as a catalyst for understanding the knowledge and skills gaps that existed with new college grads entering the work force. It has sparked a number of additional studies and surveys. Today, more than eight years later, companies are still reporting that many new graduates are not ready.

In 2014, Sam Ratcliffe, then President of NACE, established a Career Readiness Committee to formalize NACE’s position as a thought leader on this important topic. He noted then that our association, made up of both employers and university career services, was the logical group to provide insights and best practices. I had the pleasure of co-chairing that committee made up of some really smart people—honestly, I was not an expert in the topic other than reading the 2007 report. I was really glad that Sam had the leadership courage to put this topic on the agenda. The more the group researched, the more opportunities I personally saw for NACE to weigh-in on this topic.

When Dawn Carter took the reins as President in 2015, she extended the committee as a Tiger Team to address the development of a framework for two overall toolkits—one each for employers and colleges. Once again, I have the privilege of being a co-chair.  Although I’m still not sure that I am the smartest person on this topic as evidenced in the thought leadership assembled to tackle our charge, my appreciation for the effort has grown even more.

From our work, NACE has established a concise definition of career readiness and a list of key career readiness competencies, and recommended opportunities for NACE to connect with and expand its influence on this topic through strategic partners. In a few short months, we hope to roll out the toolkits, designed to provide tools and best practices for both employers and colleges. I am most excited because through our research and efforts, we found much about the problem, but not a lot of information about the solution.

This blog is the first of many to share with you the work of these committees. My hope is that you will hear from my fellow committee colleagues sharing their perspectives and that we will hear from you your best practices.

I challenge all of you to engage on this topic, and we welcome your best thinking and/or best practices that you are willing and able to share.  You can e-mail them to me or Donna Ratcliffe at Virginia Tech.

I want to share a special thank you to the 2014-2015 Committee – Board Adviser Adrienne Alberts, Co-Chair, Christine Cruzvergara, Marcy Bullock, Donna Ratcliffe, Toni McLawhorn, Cyndi Rotondo, Jennifer Arnau, Joseph DuPont, Norma Guerra Gaier, Justine Ramsey, Gary Miller, Jean Papalia, Markel Quarles, Espie Santiago, Scott Maynard and Marilyn Mackes (NACE Staff Adviser). I also want to thank this year’s Tiger Team for their great insights and efforts in building the Toolkit – Board Adviser, Sam Ratcliffe, Co-Chair, Donna Ratcliffe, Jennifer Arnau, Marcy Bullock, Fred Burke, Scott Maynard, Toni McLawhorn, Jean Papalia, Markel Quarles, Justine Ramsey, Cyndi Rotondo, Matthew Brink (NACE Staff Adviser) and Erin DeStefanis (NACE Staff Adviser).

Stay tuned for more as we delve into the world of career readiness over the coming months.  Ready or not, the students are graduating and joining the workforce.  We have the opportunity to ensure that the next generation makes a smooth transition and becomes the leaders of tomorrow.

Any views and opinions expressed in this essay are attributable to me and do not necessarily represent the opinions of the Tennessee Valley Authority or the U.S. government.


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