New Jersey college students are calling on colleges to offer more hands-on experience and to better tie academic and practical learning together.

The research from Stockton University finds that recent college graduates believe the most important college outcome is to get a good job and start their career.  Seventy-eight percent of the 770 current or recent students polled identified internships or practical experience in college as the most important to ensure success in a current or future job and career.

“They want good, practical experiences tied to their academic experiences,” said Dr. Darryl Greer, Stockton University’s William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy’s Senior Fellow, and author of “Measuring College Outcomes.”

The poll was conducted to uncover the students opinions on their college experience and desired outcomes.

In fact, 84 percent viewed internships as “very important” to overall success in finding and developing a career.

The research also found that many students and recent graduates wanted more direct academic and career counseling.

“Students believe that good academic advising and career counseling is very important,” Greer said.

Many students conceded that they do not often take advantage of the academic and career counseling resources that colleges offer, and some even felt that more counseling and internships should be mandated.

“Make them a requirement of my graduation,” he said.  “That’s a revolutionary thought because it means changing the resource management of colleges and universities.”

The college students also believe that their work experience during school should count towards their credits.  Nearly 40 percent of students are already working 30-plus hours per week.

“Help tie what we’re already doing to our academic experience,” Greer said.

Greer said that as the job market continues to evolve, more efforts are consistently being made by colleges to provide resources and tools for students to meet the needs of future employers. Still, many students do not believe the efforts are always sufficient enough.

“It’s a bit disconcerting that only about one-third think that colleges are doing extremely well, so there’s more that can be done there,” Greer said.

Another 44 percent feel their college experience prepared them “somewhat well” for a job or career.

Despite the escalating college costs, the majority of the students feel their college education has a high value.  Seventy-three percent of recent graduates felt that college is worth the cost. However, 31 percent felt that the most significant change their college could have made to add greater value would be increasing the level of hands-on experience.

The survey dug deep to determine which skills were most important to gain during college for the transition into the real world. Eighty-four percent identified problem solving as the most important skill.

“That’s the top ability that employers want, that’s the top one that students identify that they need, and it’s the top one that colleges recognize,” Greer said. “The students and employers are saying about the same thing regarding top skills and abilities,”

Greer said the research is very useful to get colleges, students, and employers on the same page, and while more needs to be done, much progress is being made to prepare New Jersey college graduates for an ever-competitive job market.

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