Utah students graduate unprepared, study says

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Many college students in Utah lack the verbal and written communication skills employers want, according to a recent survey.

Concerns about the coming crop of professionals arose in a recent convention of Utah educators and businesses. In a recent survey by Dan Jones & Associates, 90 percent of employers felt recent graduates lack adequate oral and written communication skills, as reported by the Deseret News.

Some of Dixie State University’s students, such as Damian Miera, a sophomore general education major from Kearns, are confident in their capabilities. Miera credits participating in student government and performance groups such as Raging Red for part of his communication confidence.

“I think [the article is] an over-generalization, but I can see where the companies are coming from, ” Miera said.

Robert Long, a junior elementary education major from Ewa Beach, Hawaii, said he sees both sides. Prior to attending DSU, Long spent three years teaching special education in Hawaii.

“Honestly, after my two years here, I’ll probably be about ready,” Long said. “I’ve found my college classes haven’t totally prepared me, so I’ve had to do some on-the-job training.”

Jeremey Forsberg is an adjunct instructor of digital design and art director at TCS Advertising & Public Relations. Forsberg sees poor communication skills from new graduates during interviews at his workplace as well as students presenting projects verbally to their classmates or in writing.

“I think people need to be more aware of how they communicate,” Forsberg said. “If you’re typing something that you’d type to your friend through a text message, that’s not the same as when you apply for a job.”

Forsberg said he feels the convenience of technology sometimes leads to causal behavior.

“You have to make sure you’re speaking appropriately,” Forsberg said. “[If you] send some kind of introductory letter to a prospective employer and they’re like, ‘Whoa … should I text back or just update their Facebook status?’ [Or] the way you’re spelling and the way you’re speaking is the equivalent of a fifth grader, that’s not going to transition well to the job market.”

Forsberg advised students who want school to help prepare to look at the required English or communication classes as an opportunity to improve themselves rather than a burden.

“I think a lot of it is attitude and how we look at our classes,” Forsberg said. “They might not be the [most fun] classes ever, but if its going to help us be better prepared or better for going out into the workforce, do it.”

Jocelynne Hayward, a senior medical laboratory science major from Castle Dale, said she knows staying in student housing has improved her communication.

“I’ve had to be able to communicate with my roommates and suitemates,” Hayward said.

Joy Cooney, English adviser for literary studies and technical and professional writing, said she feels if employers better understood and valued the humanities, students would have the skills employers seek.

“The humanities — particularly literary studies — teach all of the in-demand skills listed in Jacobsen’s Deseret News article: oral and written skills, critical thinking, analytical reasoning, social sensitivity and cultural awareness,” Cooney said.

Cooney draws fault away from students or teachers and toward culture.

“The problem is that we receive strong messages daily that the professional emphasis is on specialized skill and vocational or technical skill, which are necessary, of course,” Cooney said. “But so too is the ability to complement these skills with good communication and critical thinking.”

Steve Bringhurst, executive director of the career center, said DSU students are well prepared for the workplace in many ways but overlook gaining experiences, especially internships.

“[If] you’re going to college to get a job, […] the internship piece is pretty important,” Bringhurst said.

Bringhurst stressed that students seek help in their preparations.

“The experience piece is really big,” Bringhurst said. “We can help you do that, your professors can help you do that. […] we’re always trying to engage students to get connected to us so we can connect them to employers.”