From Campus to Career: How to Better Prepare Students for the Future of Work

    Higher education institutions have an important role in preparing graduates for the changing job market. Digital credentials can help bridge the gap between education and work by providing students with tangible proof of their abilities.
    calendar-plus-01 August 23, 2023
    user-circle Credly Team
    hourglass-01 6 min read
    Group of students engaged in a discussion about their prospective career paths

    Stepping into the professional world is difficult for many newly qualified graduates. An Early Careers Survey found that 45% of university students felt unprepared for employment. Unsure about entering the workforce, they face an array of uncertainties: 

    • Do they possess the right skills? 
    • Can they effectively translate classroom knowledge into practical skills? 
    • Have they had enough work experience? 
    • How do they stand out from their competitors? 

    These uncertainties serve to highlight the crucial role that higher education institutions can play in better preparing their students for the challenges of the job market.

    Key Challenges Faced by Students

    The transition from campus to career comes with unique challenges students must navigate.

    • Skills Gap: One of the foremost challenges is the disparity between the skills students acquire during their academic journey and those demanded by employers. The ever-evolving job landscape necessitates not only technical expertise but also a broad range of soft skills such as critical thinking, communication, and adaptability. Although it's predicted that soft skill-intensive occupations will make up two-thirds of all jobs by 2030, nearly 3 in 4 employers say they have difficulty finding graduates with the soft skills their companies need. 
    • Lack of Practical Experience: Many students lack practical experience relevant to their chosen fields. Yet, Companies recognize that having the right people with the right skills sets them up for turbulent times in the future — and are shifting towards a skills-first approach to achieve that. With work experience continuing to be important for graduates in the eyes of employers, bridging the gap between theoretical knowledge and hands-on application is crucial for building the confidence and competencies needed in a professional setting. 
    • Networking and Industry Exposure: Networking plays a pivotal role in career progression, yet students often graduate with limited professional connections, which can impede career advancement. Gaining exposure to industries, professionals, and real-world scenarios is essential for understanding the intricacies of different job roles and career paths.
    • Increased competition: Graduates face stiff competition, which has increased with the advent of a global jobs market, a tightening economyaligned with tech and financial services layoffs and the growth of artificial intelligence (AI). In addition, students often lack clarity about their strengths and are confused about the many different types of job opportunities available, which can hinder effective job searching – and ultimately getting hired.

    Strategies for Solving Challenges Using Digital Credentials

    In light of these challenges, digital credentials offer an effective solution for students. 

    Digital credentials – certificates, badges, and micro-credentials – are essentially a digital representation of achievements, skills, or competencies individuals have earned. They serve to validate and showcase accomplishments in a verifiable and shareable format. Here's how digital credentials can help institutions answer some of the key challenges their students face and better prepare them for the future of work. 

    • Bridging the Skills Gap: Digital credentials can be designed to recognize specific soft skills such as communication, teamwork, leadership, adaptability, problem-solving, and more. This granularity allows students to demonstrate proficiency in aspects of their personal and professional development that employers seek.

      Collecting a series of digital credentials helps students build a narrative around their soft skills development journey. They can explain how they acquired each skill, share experiences related to those skills, and demonstrate growth over time.
    • Gaining Practical Experience: Digital credentials facilitate practical experience acquisition before entering the job market. Many programs use project-based learning, allowing students to work on real-world assignments and earn digital credentials to prove their ability to apply theoretical knowledge to practical situations. This approach prepares students for their careers and boosts confidence and adaptability.
    • Building Networks and Industry Exposure: Digital credentials enhance students' visibility and connect them with professionals in their chosen fields. Online platforms, like LinkedIn, enable students to display earned credentials on their profiles. In addition, industry-specific badges earned from workshops, seminars, and conferences demonstrate active engagement and a commitment to staying informed about industry trends. 
    • Standing Out in Competitive Job Markets: New graduates need to set themselves apart from other applicants to succeed in a competitive job market. Digital credentials help them demonstrate their up-to-date and relevant skills, providing verifiable evidence of ongoing development, dedication to personal improvement, and commitment to continuous learning. 

    The Role of Higher Education Institutions 

    As the world of work undergoes rapid transformation and new technologies such as AI gain popularity, higher education institutions have a responsibility to equip students with future-proof skills and practical experiences. 

    So, to ensure their success, higher education institutions must support their students and prioritize developing and demonstrating their soft skills. By addressing the highlighted challenges, they can ensure their graduates are well-prepared to thrive in an ever-evolving job market. 

    Integrating digital credentials not only bridges skill gaps but empowers students to confidently navigate their professional journey, bolstering their prospects and ensuring they are ready to make a meaningful contribution in their chosen field.

    Download our whitepaper below, where we also discuss in depth the different factors influencing students' educational transitions and best practices to ensure a successful and seamless transition for students from school to higher education.

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