Do University really prepare students to enter the working world?

Posted by Athena Parthenos

Do universities really prepare students to enter the working world? Yes and no. Yes because they are institutes of higher education and graduates have a deeper knowledge about subjects, no because students do not know how to put that knowledge into practice. It is well known that people with a college degree can aspire to higher working position as they have a learning career that guarantees for their ability to handle the job, nonetheless their knowledge of what needs to be done is pretty lacking. I am not going to argue that this applies to every job in the world, as a matter of facts I want to argue exactly the opposite and reveal the discrepancy in it. No one expects a barely graduated medicine student to be able to handle patients, or a lawyer fresh of grads school to win cases. These two are clear examples of higher education jobs where a minimum of practical knowledge is requested and required. Then why can’t we request the same for other jobs too?

I often found myself interviewing people with a translator degree that applied for the position as an in-house translator who barely knew what CAT tools are and mostly had no knowledge on how to use them while translating. In those occasions I found myself torn while making a decision about who to hire. In most cases companies expect, I would say, to have to teach a 20% of the job to the new hire; mainly because each company has its own rules, standards and processes while working and they need to make sure that everyone follows them. When I had to make a decision on whom to hire I had to keep in mind that I would have to teach at least 50% of the job, if I were to choose a person fresh from school. To think that nowadays someone can work in the translation industry without knowing how to use the technology of our field is a big mistake, and yet students exit from college having almost no clue on how to handle the job as they have no resources to do it.

If you dig into the matter you will realize that it is not their fault, but the school system’s. After interviewing people from different universities in Northern Italy -all of with a degree with language and translations as the core- they confessed that the school didn’t teach what, how and when to work with CAT tools.  In most cases one professor that has a work experience with the use of the CAT tools mentioned them for about 20 minutes during a classroom session. I pondered long on what to me appears as a big problem in the school system that results in a great loss for both the companies that want to hire graduates and for the graduates that need to compete for something without having all the means to win. At the end I reached the conclusion that if the , then companies should try and help out. Why should we do that? Well students graduating are the employees of the future; they are the people that we wish to hire for new jobs positions and for old ones when someone leaves the company. If we contribute to the education of the younger ones we will teach them the practical side that we know so well and is unknown to them, also we will reduce our 20% of things to teach to maybe a 5% when they actually enter our company.  You will contribute to shape and form the future; younger generations have the ability to see further down the road because they grew with things that in the past where deemed unreachable. They simply do not see the limit of things, what limits them is the inability to reach the tools to develop them. With their imagination, the higher education knowledge and the practical know-how they could make the world change, and you could be sitting in the first row to witness it.

My personal experience of graduate students applying for a job in a company is limited to Universities in Italy where education is public, classes have been the same for the last 20 years at least and where the school system is reformed every 5 years or so in the attempt to give a better chance to students but really not changing much. I constantly see young people with a lot of unexpressed potential, and I know that I want to make a difference, so I will try and contribute to make a change, what will you do?

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