Despite the barrage of media attention to the issue, I have not yet come anywhere near being convinced that the main purpose of getting an education is to secure a job. From my own experience as a student and from a career of being involved with college students, I know that education is primarily about personal growth and development.
That said, I am also convinced that gaining meaningful and productive employment ranks a close second as a goal of becoming educated. Sigmund Freud was wrong about many things, but I think he was correct in observing that two things give meaning and purpose to life: love and work.
The mission of the James S. Kemper Foundation focuses on assisting students to complement their liberal arts education with hands-on experience in the world of work. For about 65 years the Foundation, through its Kemper Scholars Program and grants, has operated with the belief that enabling students to work in professional positions with mentoring will educate them about the workplace application of the skills they have been developing on campus and about ways to be an effective, ethical professional.
It feels good to have evidence that employers share our values and our philosophy.
The Chronicle of Higher Education, the trade paper of college and university professionals, reported in its March 8, 2013 issue on a survey conducted by The Chronicle and American Public Media’s Marketplace. The study concluded, “Employers want new graduates to have real-world experience. Internships and work during college matter most. . . .”
While that part of the conclusion may not be surprising, the other part is. It runs counter to what students think (as established by a parallel survey) and contrary to what they often told by others: “Employers said that each of those [internships and work] was about four times as important as college reputation, which they rated as least important. Relevance of coursework and grade-point average rounded out the bottom of the list.”
This study has many implications, but one that supports one of my favorite hobby-horses is that students should exchange their choice of seeking multiple majors and minors for opportunities to get internships and work experience.