By Jana Scott, Prosperity 2020
The Wall Street Journal reports this week that 37 percent of recent college graduates surveyed wish they had been more careful about selecting a major or had chosen a different major. Too often, students don’t realize the impact of their choices until it is too late. Thousands of dollars and at least a few years later, students enter the workforce or at least the job search phase, too often to find that an important life investment was not well-directed. Perhaps their college track doesn’t prepare them for the kinds of jobs they want. Perhaps the salaries are not what they envisioned. Perhaps the industry is crowded and demand for their skills is low.
This phenomenon impacts not only individual lives and options, but the broader economy. The availability of skilled workers is a key factor in the location decisions companies make. If students were more careful in selecting a major, we may have a different pool of workers, and Utah would attract businesses that we don’t yet. If Utah were to have a larger population of graduates skilled in engineering, math, science and business, we would naturally attract higher paying jobs to our economy.
Think of the potential benefit that has for Utah’s future prosperity, both individually and collectively.
A number of parties in Utah are working to help young people make informed choices. Utah’s new online planning tool, UtahFutures, is perhaps the most valuable tool currently under development to make the connection from education to career.
Utah universities are working with business to better prepare students for Utah jobs. Many elementary, junior high, and high schools are focusing on how to better help their students prepare for college and career. The State Office of Education is focused on college and career preparation.
The Legislature is considering tools such as the ACT Explore and ACT Plan, available for 8th and 10th grade respectively. These tools help students begin to explore their options and interests earlier and then help them chart a path.
Even with a community pulling together to prepare young people for the long-term, perhaps the best opportunities to help students understand how college choices affect their future income, lifestyle, and prosperity, still remain with those in their circle of influence. A graduating high school senior recently said that his career choice was influenced by two neighbors who were his “heroes.” Another senior’s choice was based on what she had seen her older sister do. A good friend followed her mother’s path into nursing. Often, the greatest influence in a young person’s decision is the people in their immediate circle, so take the time to help the young people you know understand how their college choices affect their future options.
It may be as simple as a one-liner. You’ll impact their lives for good, and at the same time, you’ll be doing something good for Utah’s economy.