Workforce preparedness is key for higher education institutions focusing on the student experience.

Students feel alarmingly unprepared for the workforce

Almost half of students predicted their qualifications would only be relevant for their chosen career path for five years or less after graduation

Alarming new data reveals that only a jaw-dropping 11 percent of postsecondary students report feeling very prepared to enter the workforce.

Only one-third of a third of students say they have had great university experiences–a worrisome statistic as the student experience becomes more critical to universities competing for enrollments in a post-pandemic learning environment.

Salesforce’s third annual Connected Student Report surveyed more than 1,300 students and 1,300 higher education professionals around the world, and suggests institutions must innovate and change if they hope to to attract and retain students.

Key findings include:

  • Almost half (47%) of students selected their institutions based on potential future career prospects, yet just 11% felt very prepared for the world of work. 
  • Just a third of students surveyed rated their onboarding experience highly.
  • Only 2% of students who reported a poor onboarding experience say they went on to have a great university experience overall. 
  • Almost half (48%) of students predicted their qualifications would only be relevant for their chosen career path for five years or less after graduation.
  • Higher education institutions have a long way to go to make students feel at home – only 12% of students reported they felt a strong sense of belonging at their schools.

And while these statistics are concerning, the report outlines opportunities for higher-ed institutions to buoy student success by ensuring students have great experiences and support beginning with their very first day on campus, in-person or virtual:

  • Students who had a great onboarding experience were 35x more likely to have a great university experience overall than those who didn’t. 
  • Nearly seven in ten (69%) of students who had a great onboarding also felt that their college offered a personalized experience that was tailored to their individual needs and interests.
  • Half (49%) of students expect to get work-related skills and knowledge from their universities, whether online or in person, and the same number say that their university could support them in lifelong learning by providing access to free elective courses after graduation.
  • Forty percent of students say they need their universities to offer job-specific workshops to help them build their careers.
  • Only 10% of students reported feeling very connected to their student or alumni community and just 24% said they were very satisfied with student services and support.

Institutions can meet these critical student requirements by tailoring student experiences to each student’s needs and interests. Some of those needs and interests include focusing on student well-being, offering career planning resources, and working to create stronger workforce preparedness programs with on-the-job experiences. This way, institutions can deliver stronger student outcomes and carry students through graduation.

The report’s survey results offer insight behind these suggestions:

  • A third of students want more career planning, while 36% of students want more wellbeing resources (up from 24% just last year) such as mental health support, pastoral care, and financial aid. 
  • Forty percent want more help balancing their academic, work, and personal lives. 
  • And, when asked what values they want their university to uphold, diversity and inclusion was the third most common choice by students, ranking just behind academic excellence and student wellbeing.

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Laura Ascione