Members of Temple Student Government met with local student and business leaders on Thursday inside the Student Center for a 19-person roundtable discussion on area economic development.
Hosted by the National Campus Leadership Council, the panel included Student Body President Ray Smeriglio and Vice President of Services Blair Alston. They were joined by other campus leaders from Drexel University, La Salle University and the Community College of Philadelphia as the student leaders engaged in open dialogue on ways to improve the local workforce through recent college graduates with local companies.
The companies involved on the panel included United Healthcare of Philadelphia, Campbell Soup Company, Wawa Inc., AmeriHealth Caritas Family of Companies and SEPTA. Nonprofits Campus Philly, CEO Council for Growth and the Temple Career Center also took part in the conversations.
Smeriglio said the roundtable talks were important to have, given the state of recent graduates trying to land a job upon receiving their diploma.
“I think it’s definitely an important conversation to have,” Smeriglio said. “Given the severity of the issue, and graduating college, for seniors it can be a scary workforce out there. So it’s comforting to know that there are people from around the table from nonprofits, from businesses to other student governments that are working on this issue.”
“A lot of times, we don’t crisscross on this issue,” he added. “This way you get a feel for what everyone is thinking. So it’s good and take some action items out of it and help out our seniors.”
After opening remarks, the discussion quickly went to the topic of what students needed to do to stick out to hiring businesses. According to the NCLC, recent studies have found that 96 percent of college academic officers believe their graduating students are ready for the workforce – compared to only 11 percent of business leaders.
The panel came to a quick consensus that the reason for a lack of hiring was due to a shortage of communication skills, like learning how to write emails correctly or communicate their ideas, to as well as a lack of the right amount of experience, like internships. The group agreed that while the millennial generation was more intelligent than previous generations, a lack of those skills hurt the group in the job market.
From that point on, the topics discussed were tailored around how students should acquire those skills. This is where opinions started to differ – those from the education side felt that businesses needed to allow student-interns to be involved more than just “getting coffee,” while business leaders felt that colleges needed to be more accountable and teach students skills that could be used in the business world, not just academics.
“That’s the main reason that we are hosting these types of discussions,” said Andy MacCracken, the executive director of the NCLC. “We want to know why the employment rate for college graduates is only 11 percent. Getting student and business leaders in the same room is key. It facilitates the discussion on why there is this gap and how to improve it while still having students leave college with the least amount of debt possible.”
MacCracken added that he hopes that these discussions will further the message and get the word out to both students and administrators about what still needs to be done.
“I think this is really important,” he said. “You look at student leadership on campus and they already have a lot of the skills that we’ve talked about today. This is more for those other students on campus that haven’t development them and the ways that they can [develop] them. These are really complex issues, but there are simple things that we can do today to fix them.”
David Glovach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DavidGlovach.