University launches program to combat unemployment among graduates

Indiana University is taking steps to ensure its students find jobs after graduating. (Photo courtesy of IU)

Indiana University’s 900 incoming business school students will have access to a program with web-based components designed to lay out three years of education—a measure intended to help recent graduates avoid joining the lengthy line of peers at the unemployment office.

Officials at IU’s Kelley School of Business on Aug. 28 unveiled the Kelley Compass, an initiative that will pair every incoming student with an adviser who will guide students through a series of objectives in their freshmen, sophomore, and junior years.

The Compass is meant to prepare each student for a specific job in the business world, making them as qualified as possible for in-demand positions. The program will use a raft of renovated student workspaces that will connect students virtually with Kelley graduates from around the world.

The Kelley school recently underwent a $60 million expansion.

The program’s first-year focus helps new students tackle existential questions such as, “Who am I?” and “What do I want?” while examining how their cultural backgrounds, priorities, and skill sets will determine their future employment.

Second-year IU business students are immersed in work groups with their peers meant to stress “cross-cultural competence.” Many of these team-based exercises involve online meetings that address ethical questions in the businesses arena, mock interviews, and business etiquette.

In the Kelley Compass program’s third year, students set career goals, create a detailed plan for how to achieve those goals, and work with advisors to assess their results. Third-year students also will examine business from a variety of perspectives, according to the university.

“The rules of the game for today’s global business world are fluid, so students and schools must approach professional development as rigorously and thoughtfully as we do our bedrock academics programs,” said Tom Lenz, chair of the Kelley School’s undergraduate program. “We’ve integrated into our core curriculum growth opportunities that form a bridge from high school and family to university and business life.”

The university’s Kelley Compass was introduced in the wake of spring and summer unemployment reports that showed more than half of recent college graduates were jobless or working jobs that didn’t require a bachelor’s degree.

About 1.5 million college graduates younger than 25 were jobless or underemployed in a survey released last April, the highest mark for unemployment among that group in 11 years, when the dot-com bubble burst and temporarily halted job growth among young college grads.

The unemployment numbers were based on a 2011 Current Population Survey data by Northeastern University researchers and supplemented with material from Paul Harrington, an economist at Drexel University, and the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

IU business school officials said the Kelley Compass will emphasize the importance for the campus’s newest business students to pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses before they progress in the program without a set plan for what they’d like to do with a business degree.

“A fulfilling career goes beyond making money,” said Susan Vargo, co-director of communication, professional, and computer skills for the university’s business school. “Students will identify their talents, passion, and related career paths—perhaps ones they didn’t even know existed.”

Daniel Smith, dean of the Kelley School, said in a statement that intensive study of the political and economic factors that impact the subjects studied during a student’s three years in the Compass program would safeguard against a class of recent graduates floundering in the job market.

“Pursuit of learning, in all its levels and forms, should always be a goal, but a college degree is not enough to land a dream job,” Smith said. “We believe that our deliberate approach to career planning will give graduates a surer start and the skills to flourish in global job markets that may be equal parts uncertain and exciting.”

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