From 2018 to 2019, the percentage of bachelor’s degree students’ overall placement and employment rates increased, totaling 86% and 59% respectively, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. However, the pandemic shook the numbers up in 2020. The rate of students finding employment dropped by 5% and overall graduate placement fell to 82%.
While NACE’s “First Destinations” 2021 report found some promising increases, several schools have bucked the national trend, averaging bachelor’s student placement rates well over 10% than average.
Pennsylvania College of Technology recently reported a 96% graduate placement rate and the most robust 4-year degree return on investment out of all Pennsylvania public colleges and universities. Similarly, the renewable energy program at the College of Southern Idaho announced a 97% job placement rate. Villanova University and South Dakota State University (DSU) are touting similar numbers; their graduate and job placement rates are both north of 95% and 70%, respectively.
These colleges all share a commitment to a highly involved, deep network of public and private sector business partnerships. “We take great pride in the partnerships we have cultivated with employers in the region and across Pennsylvania, who are eager to hire as many graduates as we can produce,” said Penn College President Michael J. Reed.
As colleges fight to remain relevant in the public eye as a viable pathway for workforce placement, college-industry partnerships are helping students find work by providing them with hands-on career experience and premium connections to internships and full-time positions.
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Why industry partnerships are win-win
Public and private companies are vested in partnering with colleges to improve employment rates and workforce skill gaps. “One thing that I hear employers say in meetings, particularly in Washington, is, ‘The people aren’t really well qualified when they come out of cyber programs.’ Why is that?” said DSU President José-Marie Griffiths. “A lot of students in cybersecurity programs are not getting practical experience whatsoever.”
South Dakota State University students can earn school credit by working on classified NSA projects due to a recent partnership agreement. At the University of South Florida, hospitality groups McKibbon Hospitality, Aramark and Mainsail Lodging and Development partnered with the school to combat industry staffing shortages, employing up to 130 graduates.
With a network of over 2,000 industry partners, Penn College delegates an industry advising committee to every academic program to help shape relevant, career-centered coursework and lab programs. As a result, the college is well-stocked in lab work that weaves curricula and real-world experience together. For every hour of lecture, students spend three hours in labs.
An additional perk of this personalized connection between industry professionals and institutions is that its students immediately connect with employers. Industry partners are hiring Penn College students for full-time positions after graduation. At Southern Idaho, employers in renewable energy don’t wait until graduation to take students on.
“Actually, two of them did not walk because they were already out and about at the job; one is in Washington, and one is in Iowa, climbing turbines as we speak, so it’s awesome that these scholarships from the industry partners are helping students get through college and then get jobs,” said Eli Bowles, an associate professor.