Facing the challenge of the education/practical gap
New graduates are frequently entering the job market. This presence calls into question whether their education has equipped them with sufficient capabilities to be able to navigate through the realities of the adult world. The misalignment between knowledge and practical abilities is a challenge that can negatively affect both the individual and the organisation to inevitably hire them.
The theory that we learn in school is based on idealised scenarios where everything that can go right, does. The real world, however, is far from perfect and the truth is that no scenario plays out without encountering a few hiccoughs along the way. Models and best practices often form the basis of the theoretical framework, but these run the risk of becoming irrelevant as soon as an alternative element comes into play. Whilst textbooks can be updated and reprinted, curriculums are more often than not running behind what is happening in the world beyond the campus boundaries. Even if the theory was a true reflection of the uncertain and turbulent nature of the life that exists after graduation, it only forms half of what individuals need to prepare them for what is to come.
Not just a gap in knowledge
When a person is still in the education phase of their lives, majority of the people with whom they will interact share commonalities such as age and motivations. This provides the false impression that most social interactions will be with people that you have things in common with, but the reality is that when they join the labour pool they will be interacting with people from all walks of life. Education systems rarely prepare individuals for the behavioural and people challenges that is going to become a daily reality in their lives.
Not using realistic scenarios as a theoretical framework and not providing adequate/realistic social exposure leaves the preparation that people receive during their education much to be desired. If this is such a common problem, why is there not more being done to address it? What can organisations do to soften the impact that this gap between education and practical abilities has on them once these individuals join their workforce?
No simple remedy exists
There are many parties that have the ability to improve the preparation level of new graduates, and solutions often require collaboration amongst them. Even where a solution can be formulated by an individual party, no simple resolution exists. The following are ways in which this glaring issue can be addressed:
- Graduate programs are popular options and can be used by organisations to address specific skills and abilities that they have noticed are particularly lacking.
- Organisations can collaborate with educational institutions to prepare practicals and career days designed to expose students to the relevant circumstances they may find themselves in once they start working.
- Industry leaders and those responsible for educational standards can form a think tank to discuss current issues and how the preparation against which can be translated into their relative curriculums.
- Much like lawyers have mock-trials to test their abilities and theories, mock situations based on actual scenarios can be presented to students to test their abilities to practically apply their knowledge. It is important to ensure the nature of the scenario is clearly outlined. For added impact, information regarding the scenario can be communicated according to a similar timeline in which the various incidences really occurred. This will encourage lateral thinking and test students’ abilities to adapt to the unpredictable nature of the event.
For a solution to truly be effective, it needs to be based on the sound research and observations of how new graduates interact in the workplace. Without knowing where to focus any effort made, these solutions can cost any of the parties a lot of money to implement without having any real impact. It is therefore important that organisations and institutions themselves are in possession of sufficient skills and capabilities to address these issues before they attempt to resolve them in others.
Solutions to benefit everyone
An individual’s credentials is not a true reflection of the abilities they possess. Addressing the gap between knowledge and abilities will equip individuals with the necessary skills to have an immediate impact in their new position. Organisations will also be advantaged by saving money on new hires, having less disruptions in the productivity of other members during on-boarding, and will ultimately experience the return on investment in welcoming a new graduate to their company much sooner than they would had the issue been simply disregarded.