• Bentley University Initiative Engages Stakeholders to Tackle Work Force Preparedness

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
    April 2, 2014

    Bentley University is spearheading a research-based, dialogue-driven initiative known as the PreparedU Project that is sparking a national discourse among key stakeholders to define work force preparedness and determine how these groups can successfully prepare college graduates for today’s work force.

    “There is a disconnect between what hiring organizations want and what Millennials expect,” says Susan Brennan, Bentley’s executive director of corporate relations and career services.

    The initiative, Brennan explains, is seeking to bridge this gap in a way that the groups collectively understand the nuances of the issue from all of the stakeholders’ perspectives and work together to develop effective solutions.

    The foundation of the project is Bentley University’s Millennial Preparedness Study, which was conducted in the fall of 2013 and fielded more than 3,100 responses from various stakeholders, including:

    • Business decision-makers
    • Corporate recruiters
    • Higher education influentials
    • Parents of college and/or high school students
    • College students
    • High school students
    • Recent college graduates
    • Guidance counselors
    • The general population

    Bentley took a look at preliminary results at the end of November with Bloomberg—a major business partner with Bentley on the PreparedU Project—during the media company’s Business Summit in Chicago. Led by Bentley University President Gloria Larson and Bloomberg's "Taking Stock" co-host Carol Massar, the discussion featured Shama Kabani, founder and CEO of the Marketing Zen Group, and PayScale president and CEO Mike Metzger, who discussed what it means for college graduates to be prepared, the value of Millennials in the workplace, and how colleges and business can better work together to prepare graduates for their careers.

    During the full launch on January 29, 2014, at Bloomberg Media’s New York City headquarters, Larson released the final survey results and analysis, and co-hosted a panel discussion with Massar that featured Metzger; David Burstein, millennial writer and filmmaker; Scott Jaschik, editor of Inside Higher Ed; and Alexandra Levit, workplace author and consultant.

    The Preparedness Study found many gaps. For instance, 51 percent of business decision-makers give the business community a “C” or lower on how well they are preparing students for their first jobs, yet 60 percent of recent college graduates blame themselves for their lack of preparedness, indicating that Millennials believe they can do more to prepare themselves for success in the workplace.

    Gaps are evident elsewhere. High school students, college students, and recent college graduates are not recognizing certain key elements that employers say contribute to preparedness. Twenty-three percent of business decision-makers and 18 percent of corporate recruiters say preparedness is defined by “work ethic,” compared to 9 percent of college students and 7 percent of high school students.

    Meanwhile, in other areas, there is agreement.

    “There is remarkable congruence with some things [the respondents] saw in terms of issues and solutions,” says Victor Schlitzer, director of brand and content marketing at Bentley University.

    For example, the survey presented 16 solutions to the issue of work force preparedness that, Bentley says, “set the stage for change and offer promising next steps.”

    The highest-scoring solution among the groups—both with 94 percent of respondents agreeing to them—were:

    • Students must commit to being life-long learners both inside the classroom and beyond.
    • College learning must incorporate and blend together academics and hands-on learning.

    “These solutions have become one of the things we are using to leverage engagement and offer greater awareness of the possibilities that exist,” Schlitzer notes.

    In addition to its key role in the PreparedU Project, Bentley University’s career services office conducted its own research to see what its employers want in the students they recruit.

    “In advance of the [Millennial Preparedness Study], the career services office launched its own ‘PreparedU’ with our recruiters to really understand what ‘prepared’ looks like, the competencies involved, and the value to employers,” Brennan says. “We then combined our findings with the broader research from the Millennial Preparedness Study to tie into our four-year program for Bentley students in which students explore, experiment, experience, and excel on their way to entering the work force.”

    The goal of both initiatives is to engage the various stakeholders to work together to close the skills gap and ensure college students are better prepared to enter the work force.

    For more about PreparedU, see: