Before the end of this month, three million students will graduate from their college and university programs Many of them have seen their job offers evaporate and expectations to find employment during Spring recruiting season disappear, only to be replaced by uncertainty and confusion. Some may find it tempting to relate this to the experiences of the Class of 2009, but the impact of COVID-19 is far worse.
Higher-Ed institutions know that their response to the crisis will have a long-lasting influence on relationships with alumni and on enrollment decisions of future students. Unfortunately, that’s just the latest in a long list of considerations schools have had to mull over in recent weeks, including how to make all education available online, accommodate students who were unable to leave campus, aid professors unaccustomed to online teaching, change grading policies, adapt graduation ceremonies, help students maintain a level of hope about their futures, and more. Most of these issues are unchartered territory for schools, which means they need the same level of attention and support that impacted companies are receiving.
Eightfold.ai is positioned to help Higher Education institutions with at least two of the four ideas presented in this article, which serve to offer guidance to colleges and universities eager to help their students. Though the employment landscape is more fragile today than it was ten years ago, Eightold.ai’s Talent Exchange and Talent Intelligence Platform can enable schools to be better equipped to support recent graduates.
Position Graduates to Get Hired Fast
The traditional approach of on-campus recruiting has been replaced by virtual events. Even so, some of the regular companies are absent because of a hiring freeze. Career services advisers are trying to encourage students to be open to a broader range of jobs, but, as a New York Times article aptly noted, “all the traditional rules of engagement in a job hunt suddenly feel irrelevant.” That also means the methods that universities employed in 2009, like in-person speed networking or “taste of the industry” office tours, are not feasible today.
It may be difficult to be hopeful about employment opportunities, but there actually are many companies that are hiring both for essential worker and knowledge worker positions. At Eightfold.ai, we are aware of this because our mission is to enable to right career for everyone in the world, and we are even more committed to that during this pandemic. We launched the Talent Exchange (powered by Eightfold.ai in partnership with Food Industry Association and supported by McKinsey) on top of our existing Talent Intelligence Platform to match impacted workers to open positions quickly, easily, and at scale. University graduates are even more in need of support, however, because unlike impacted workers, new grads will not be eligible for unemployment income.
While some graduates are frustrated to receive recommendations for jobs that do not require a four-year degree, others are in need of the income either because of their family status or the looming burden of student debt. Career centers can help connect their students (and alumni) to the companies that are hiring now through the Talent Exchange and give grads the opportunity to identify the types of jobs they’re open to receiving offers for. There are 600,000 openings across all 50 states, and they range from essential roles like personal shopper and grocery store worker to knowledge worker roles like software engineer, product manager, marketing associate, sales associate, and more. On the Exchange, your institution will be able to stay in touch with grads through bespoke messaging at scale, and will also receive visibility into how many of them are interviewing and receiving offers. Hiring companies on the Talent Exchange are given a prioritized list of candidates based on skill and preference matches, which can reduce the time to hire from several months to a matter of days.
Provide Guidance for Developing Career-Ready Skills
The sad truth is that some of your recent graduates and rising seniors will be without a job or internship this summer. These internships tend to provide a path to job offers, meaning senior students need guidance just like new graduates do. Without insight into their career opportunities, it will be difficult for both groups to stay motivated and make progress toward preparing for their futures. This can not only negatively impact their mental health but can also put a strain on their career progression (like it did for the Class of 2009) and hinder companies’ abilities to recruit talent for years to come.
Universities, with the support of Eightfold.ai’s Talent Intelligence Platform, can help graduates and students identify the skills that can make them career-ready, and create programs that can guide their development.
To enable the right career for everyone in the world, Eightfold.ai built a robust artificial intelligence and machine learning platform that has examined more than 1 billion career paths around the world and understands how people move from job to job, and why. In total the AI knows more than 1 million skills and more than 500,000 unique job titles. This platform allows us to extract a range of insights about the skills and potential that make candidates a good match for different positions.
Eightfold.ai can partner with Higher Education institutions to provide insight into the skills that are trending up across a range of industries, which the universities can then apply to recommend projects that new grads and students work on over the summer months. The direction around what actions can maximize their chances of getting hired will serve as an essential motivator. Universities can take it a step further by creating an online community for students and grads to encourage each other, work toward common goals, and share stories about how they are coping with the challenges.
Engage Your Alumni Network to Become Mentors
Some universities have robust alumni engagement platforms, but others do not. Either way, this is the time to mobilize your network because alumni can provide a practical and trustworthy perspective on the current job market. Contact alumni by email and through social media channels such as LinkedIn and Facebook to survey their current employment status and willingness to mentor recent graduates. The format can be one-on-one conversations, industry-based and geographic-based workshops, or mentor-mentee matching for longer-lasting relationships. Institutions that have alumni networks in different cities or industries can call upon the leaders of those groups to support with the outreach and coordination. By casting the net as wide as possible, some of these mentors will likely work for companies that are hiring, while many others will be able to provide subjective guidance for the types of skills their industry and companies are seeking. Mentors can also give the graduates ideas about industries and positions they otherwise would not have considered. This insight can give new graduates an extra dose of direction and motivation to take online courses, develop personal projects, and build their employable skillsets.
Give Graduates a Backup Plan
The jury is still out about whether universities will fully reopen in the Fall, offer online courses, or delay the start of the academic year. At first glance, it may not appear this decision will have any connection to the 2020 grads, but it can have an impact for those who are unemployed or underemployed. If courses remain even partially online in the Fall, then can universities invite their impacted graduates back to be enrolled at least part-time and take resume-building courses? For universities transitioning back to on-campus learning, can they partner with schools specializing in online learning to offer courses to recent grads? This would eliminate delays due to enrollment cycles and the hurdles of the application process, and even though the logistics in terms of pricing, access to classes, and class size would need to be worked through, this could represent a major career and morale-boost for graduates and their concerned parents.
In 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on the current unemployment rates of graduates from the Classes of 2007-2011. Perhaps not surprisingly, the 2011 unemployment rate was highest among 2009 grads with a bachelor’s degree, but the difference in unemployment rates was negligible for those who went on to complete an advanced degree. The National Center for Education Statistics also reported that enrollment in postbaccalaureate degree programs spiked to 1.6 million in 2010, and has stayed steady ever since. These results align with the premise that during times of recession, people go back to school so that they can work toward improving their employable skillsets and be ready when the job market improves.
Why should 2020 grads have to commit to a brand new program, and potentially take on more crippling debt, when all they need is the opportunity to feel productive while they take on part-time jobs or internships and wait for companies to unfreeze hiring?
COVID-19 is an experience unlike any other and has likely changed academia forever. Therefore, changing one more thing to allow recent graduates to continue preparing for their career (which is supposed to be the outcome of higher education) warrants serious consideration since it could be mutually beneficial for university enrollment and alumni relations in the long term.
How to Get in Touch
If you think the Talent Exchange would be a good option for your 2020 graduates (and impacted alumni), visit https://eightfold.ai/talent-exchange-for-universities/ to sign up your institution. Once registered, you can invite recent graduates and alumni to fill out a quick profile to be connected to jobs. The Talent Exchange is a no-cost solution for universities, students, and alumni, since Eightfold.ai’s purpose is to help your students find a meaningful start to their careers despite the turbulent economic conditions.