Over the past few weeks, graduation ceremonies have been taking place all over the world. This is an exciting time for everyone in higher education, as institutions and communities recognize their students’ academic achievements.

While every guest speaker will laud these graduates’ academic accomplishments, many will also speak of the world that’s waiting for them once they step off of that stage, all with an air of hope and positivity—and also some uncertainty.

Have faculty, administrators and advisors actually prepared these students for the “real world” and aligned programs, degrees and training with the job market? Without diminishing the quality of the academic program, have students made the right choices to fulfill their ambitions and aspirations and begin their contributions to society?

For decades, institutions have made it their missions to improve not just academic outcomes for their students but also career outcomes. Career fairs, services and internships have been a staple of the student experience for decades.

But the reality is that most employers still find graduates lacking essential skills and academic programs lagging behind current needs in a rapidly evolving marketplace. Often, educators find themselves out of sync with the job market.

Enter Big Data 

With the amount of real-time data that’s available on the economy and job market online, institutions can now leverage this data to better align programs with workforce needs—and to change or fine-tune academic programs in response to the market.

(Next page: How colleges and universities can use big data to help grads land careers)

About the Author:

Rob Sparks is Chief Marketing Officer for Campus Management, which recently announced a strategic partnership with Burning Glass Technologies to deliver job market analytics that empower educators and students to make data-driven career decisions, and has been in the higher education and technology industry for the past 20 years. He began his career at George Brown College in Toronto, Canada, and has held leadership positions within the higher education market since then. Mr. Sparks is a graduate of Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario.