Employers Play Key Role in Career Readiness, Competency Development

November 18, 2019 | By NACE Staff

An employer discusses career readiness with an intern.

TAGS: best practices, competencies, Internships, nace insights,

Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals

Employers play an important role in ensuring that college students are career ready and in developing the competencies that broadly prepare college graduates for this transition.

“It’s a role that requires employer engagement with both students and college leadership,” explains Glen Fowler, a past president of NACE and, until his recent retirement, the recruiting and training manager for the California State Auditor’s office.

“The engagement with students comes through internships that build and enhance the students’ competencies. As for colleges, employers need to communicate to their college partners the essential career readiness competencies they expect from their new hires.”

A particularly effective way for employers to partner with college leadership is to serve on their advisory committees.

“It’s a wonderful way for employers to engage with their college partners and contribute firsthand to the implementation of the career readiness competencies,” Fowler says.

This engagement is critical because employer needs may shift in the future. Therefore, Fowler says, as employer expectations about the essential competencies for new hires evolve, it’s incumbent upon employers to communicate with NACE and their college partners about their changing expectations related to candidate career readiness so colleges can build the competencies into the classroom curriculum.

“Although one would expect that competencies such as teamwork, critical thinking skills, communication skills, and professionalism will always rank high for employers as essential career readiness competencies, it’s likely that over time, the ranking and importance of some of the competencies will shift and/or others may be added to the list,” he says.

Within their own organizations, employers can use the career readiness competencies when evaluating their interns to assess their performance. Fowler says that, to do this, employers can conduct pre- and post-internship experience assessments of the interns to gauge their individual progress. 

“This feedback is valuable for the employer to assess the intern’s performance, and, for the interns, it identifies the specific competency areas where they excel, and the areas they need to further develop,” he explains.

“By building the competencies into the internship program, both the employers and the interns can align expectations and work toward the same experience goals for the interns.”

Employers can also integrate the competencies into their internship programs by including specific opportunities for their interns to build and enhance their competencies.

“For example, employers can create opportunities for their interns to collaborate with others to achieve a common goal, which ties to the teamwork competency,” Fowler says. 

“This effort will provide for a more robust experience for the interns, and will ultimately better prepare them for success when they begin their careers.”

Leveraging the competencies can help employers eliminate some of the gray areas from the college recruiting process. For example, the criteria that some employers currently use for their new hires is based on “fit.”

“However,” Fowler notes, “when asked to define ‘fit,’ they’re at a loss for words. Or, even more troubling, is when an employer explains that it bases hiring decisions on its ‘gut feelings’ about the candidates.

“The Career Readiness Competencies provide employers with a list of core hiring criteria expectations of candidates. Specifically, they provide a common vocabulary and framework that employers can use to identify and assess when hiring the college educated.”

It is very important for employers to not only use the competencies, but to continue to communicate their needs and expectations to help shape the competencies and enhance the career readiness of the students they are recruiting.