What colleges don’t teach: How to get a job

Twenty years ago, Aimée Eubanks Davis taught low-income, black students in a New Orleans middle school, reports Gabrielle Emmanuel on NPR. She was proud when former students earned college degrees, but many first-generation college graduates “didn’t know how to get that good, first job,” the teacher discovered. They didn’t know successful professionals. They had no career networks.

Black and Hispanic college graduates are less likely to find employment than white classmates and earn less over their careers, researchers have found.

Eubanks Davis created a nonprofit called Braven, which has partnered with San Jose State and Rutgers. Professionals from the working world teach workplace skills to small groups of college students.

Yannick Kpodar, a consultant by day, teaches Braven students in an evening class at San Jose State. Students do most of the talking, while he critiques their presentation skills.

Jalil Ahmad, a Braven student at San Jose State, was inspired by a tour of Google.

Jalil Ahmad, a Braven student at San Jose State, was inspired by a tour of Google.

Acting as consultants, Braven students analyze data, conduct interviews and recommend solutions to the student debt crisis.

One group says colleges should solicit corporate sponsors to pay some of the costs, while another plans to itemize everything — the gym, the library, the student union — so students pay only for what they use. A third group proposes giving students a lifetime to repay college loans.

The top team won a tour of Google.

Braven students are more likely to stay on track to graduation, reports San Jose State, which has made the program a for-credit course. Braven students are twice as likely to find internships and other work experiences.

“It’s extremely difficult for college graduates to figure out what they need to do to best prepare for the workforce,” writes Jeffrey Selingo. “One recent study predicts that nearly half of American jobs are at risk from automation and artificial intelligence.”

After college, what comes next?

Young people spend lots of time choosing a college and very little choosing a career, writes Alex Tabarrok on Marginal Revolution. He provides two graphs:

For those interested in “effective altruism,” the 80,000 Hours career guide has advice on careers that are enjoyable and useful.

Only 40 percent of college graduates are confident their education has prepared them for a career, according to a McGraw-Hill survey. Men — and those in technical majors — feel better prepared.

While 79 percent of students are satisfied with their college experience, an increasing number say they wish they’d had more internships and professional experiences, more time for career preparation and better access to career planning tools.

Six years of high school (with job training)?

President Obama’s visit to P-Tech, a six-year high school in Brooklyn, spotlighted the idea of combining high school, community college and job training.

Linked learning — schoolwork combined with job internships — is expanding in Oakland Unified.

Entrepreneurship for all

With foundation help, community colleges are helping fund and mentor local entrepreneurs in exchange for student internships.

Mandatory volunteerism

I know I’ve banged this particular drum before, but it’s always good to remind yourself of the absurd and insidious, lest it draw you in.  High school seniors in Maryland right now are busy rushing around in that typical year end frenzy to make up credits, pass exams, and… get their community service hours squared away.  Maryland is the only state with a statewide “service learning” requirement.

Twenty years after Maryland became the first state to require student service for a diploma, the senior scramble is a rite of spring. In Montgomery, 25 percent of seniors still had hours to turn in this week. In Prince George’s County, 36 percent were not yet done.

Spring break is crunch time.

“Hopefully they’re going to find something meaningful to do,” said Pam Meador, coordinator of the program for Montgomery schools.

Because as we all know, working to make your life and the life of those you love better, to make yourself a content and happy member of society… that’s not meaningful.  But is this really the best way to go about it?

“All of us want kids to intrinsically want to give back,” said Peter Noonan, an assistant Fairfax superintendent.

But forced service can backfire, he said. “My experience with kids is that when they are forced to do things, they typically don’t want to do it again,” Noonan said.

You don’t say?  Well at least we’re clear about the purpose: to change what it is kids want to do, intrinsically.  It’s absolutely straightforward values manipulation — which is usually called indoctrination.  I’ve previously argued, on many occasions, that unpaid internships are really unfair to kids from poor families who can’t afford to spend the summer working for free.  (I wasn’t arguing for their legal abolition, merely pointing out their moral perniciousness.  I’m a free marketeer at the end of the day.)   We shouldn’t be surprised that kids with more home support are better able to deal with these requirements as well:

Some students have advantages. Their parents might drive them around to activities starting in middle school. They might attend community-service summer camps, which can cost $350 a week. They might accumulate hours for, say, a bar mitzvah or a church confirmation and use that to meet school requirements.

I’m not anti-community service.  Have people come in to schools and preach about the joys of community service if you like.  Maybe they’ll inspire someone.  Post opportunities at school on a big colorful board.  Maybe the curious will become true believers.

Heck, if you’re going to have mandatory community service, have it be school improvement.  Plant and tend gardens at school (decorative, not productive).  Clean buildings and floors.  Do tech work for a play.  Work as the water boy/towel washer for a sports team.  Work in the library.  Help with minor construction projects.  Sort files.  Straighten up the music library.  Polish the band’s instruments.

At least then the students will be engaging in public service that obviously benefits them, and they’ll be able to see daily the results of their labor.

Of course, the classified employee’s labor union would object to a lot of these.

Georgia may require ‘career clusters’

Georgia students would be required to choose a career focus at the end of 10th grade, under a proposal to be decided this fall.  The state’s single-track college-for-all focus is pushing some students to drop out, says State Superintendent John Barge.

Under Georgia’s plan, students would take the same general core of classes with basics like algebra, English and history. At the end of their sophomore year, students would choose a cluster to determine what advanced classes they take.

For example, a student in the health sciences career cluster wanting to be a certified nursing assistant would take nutrition and wellness, chemistry and physical science — and go straight into a job after graduation. A student wanting to be a doctor would take Advanced Placement biology, physics and biotechnology and go to a four-year college.

Students will be able to switch clusters if they change their minds and all graduates will be able to go to college, according to Mike Buck, chief academic officer at the Georgia Department of Education.

The plan includes internships in students’ chosen career fields, which will be difficult to set up. Not every business wants a 17-year-old hanging around. Teachers — presumably relieved of some teaching duties — will serve as counselors.

While I’m no fan of college for all, I’m dubious about career clusters for all.


Interns are worth what they’re (not) paid

Interns are worth what they’re (not) paid, argues legal blogger Josh Blackman in response to a New York Times story which blames colleges for “failing to inform young people of their rights or protect them from the miserly calculus of employers.”

There’s no protection from the law of supply and demand, writes Blackman.

College students with no experience are not particularly valuable. Usually, they are a liability, and require extensive training and supervision to make sure they don’t screw things up too bad. Were interns to demand a salary at minimum wage, employers would be better to not hire them in the first place.

Unpaid interns can’t afford apartments in expensive cities, the Times complains, quoting a Colgate student who crashed on “more than 20 floors and couches” for a summer. “It definitely hurt my confidence,” Will Batson told the Times.

Few summer jobs pay enough for a student to afford rent in New York City, notes Blackman.

What’s unfair, he writes, is charging students’ tuition for a summer spent working off campus. Thanks to labor law, students can’t qualify for an unpaid internship if they’re not earning credit and they can’t earn credit if they don’t pay up. Blackman’s college charged out-of-state tuition but “provided no guidance, no assessment, and simply made my boss fill out some annoying useless forms.” Still, it was worth it.

An unpaid internship is an investment in your future. When two college students graduate – with the exact same academic credentials, but one spent his summer interning at an industry leader, and the other worked as a lifeguard – which one do you think is more likely to get the job?

Paid work is hard to find these days, even for college graduates. Unemployment is 25.7 percent for teenagers and 15.7 percent for those 20 to 24 years old, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Recent college grads are despairing of landing anything above the fast-food counter, where they face stiff competition from millions of recent immigrants,” writes Robert Knight, a senior fellow for the American Civil Rights Union, in the Washington Times.

If college graduates aren’t worth more to employers than recent immigrants . . . Well, let’s assume the unemployed grads earned low-value degrees from undemanding colleges — and never let themselves by exploited by a miserly employer.

Transforming teacher prep

Teacher education should be “turned upside down” to prioritize teaching internships over academic coursework concludes “Transforming Teacher Education Through Clinical Practice,” a report by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).  This is a seismic moment for teacher education,” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, a co-chair of the blue ribbon panel that wrote the report.

Eight states – California, Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Oregon, and Tennessee – have agreed to implement the panel’s recommendations.

The earth did not move for Rick Hess. He likes the shift to practice teaching “interwoven with academic content and professional courses.” But he doesn’t see radical new thinking.

If the training is happening in K-12 schools, do we need colleges of education? Should every teacher be a jack of all trades? Do internships work for online teachers or tutors? What about emerging school models?

Instead, I see a call for a new “one best” approach to teacher preparation, one ill-suited for serving educators in new kinds of roles or for supporting more agile, cost-effective staffing models.

Past “seismic” edu-reforms proved to be little more than fads, Hess writes.

As someone who spent five years supervising student teachers, I’ve seen a whole lot of pretty awful practice-oriented teacher preparation. It’s not clear to me from this report how preparation programs can be counted on to guard against that or keep their “clinical” training from simply meaning that their students are wasting time in K-12 schools instead of on the college campus.

Teacher internships will cost more, but the report mentions no offsetting savings — or proof that clinically trained teachers will “enter the field ready to teach.” Hess follows up here.

Teacher Beat, who’s seen many reports and little change, has more on the recommendations.

Unpaid internships may be illegal

Unpaid internships — growing rapidly in a bad economy — may violate minimum-wage laws, federal and state regulators tell the New York Times.

According to federal law, unpaid internships at for-profit employers should resemble vocational or academic training; the intern must not displace regular paid workers and the employer should  “derive no immediate advantage” from the intern’s work. It’s awfully hard to design a job that provides no benefit to the employer and is educational for the worker.

In 2008, the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that 83 percent of graduating students had held internships, up from 9 percent in 1992. This means hundreds of thousands of students hold internships each year; some experts estimate that one-fourth to one-half are unpaid.

I’d bet that many internships that used to be paid no longer carry a salary.

Many students do get valuable work experience and contacts from unpaid jobs, even if they do relatively menial work. That’s why they take the jobs. I know my nephew, who’s majoring in computer science with a video-game design specialty, applied to unpaid internships. (So far, no success.) He’d love to work for free as opposed to not working at all.

Non-profits can accept volunteers without penalty. My daughter is an unpaid lawyer for the San Francisco Bar. (She’s on half pay from the law firm that offered her a job and then asked her to wait a year to start.) The pro bono program has been flooded with unemployed and underemployed lawyers eager to work for nothing so they can impress a future employer.

Update: College grads looking for work had better have a Plan B, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Ain't no cure for the summertime blues

Well-paying summer jobs and prestigious internships have vanished, reports the New York Times. Parents can’t afford to fund “art tours of Tuscany” for college students. The young are getting restless.

To a high-achieving generation whose schedules were once crammed with extracurricular activities meant to propel them into college, it feels like an empty summer — eerie, and a bit scary.

“Things have changed drastically,” said Ron Alsop, author of “The Trophy Kids Grow Up: How the Millennial Generation Is Shaking Up the Workplace,” a book that only last year portrayed young workers as entitled and in a hurry. “It has to be a huge wake-up call for this generation.”

Numbers provide the backdrop to the story — not just the grimly familiar national unemployment rate, 9.5 percent in June, but the even scarier, less publicized unemployment figure for 16- to 19-year-olds, which has hit 24 percent, up from 16.1 percent two years ago. Internships available to college students have fallen 21 percent since last year, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

Stop blaming parents for young workers’ sense of entitlement, writes Jessica Grose at XX Factor. It’s the economy, stupid.

For a while now, Generation Y has been portrayed as a bunch of sneaker-wearing lazybones who skateboard to the office and demand a four-day work week. But I would argue that the way Gen-Y workers used to behave had nothing to do with indulgent parents who told us we were infallible. The way young workers behaved in the first half of the decade had everything to do with the economy. In the mid-aughts, people of all ages were being entitled and demanding of their employers … because they could be. In a market where jobs are abundant, it’s logical for workers to try to get the most perks possible—whether or not their Mommies told them they were special.

By the way, federally funded retraining doesn’t help older workers get new jobs or increase their pay, concludes a Labor Department study. I remember similar results in the ’80s. Job training is very hard to do effectively; it’s even harder to predict the real “jobs of the future.”

Funemployed? Take a starve-cation, advises Iowahawk.