Many students drift through college unsure of what they want to do, what jobs are available, or how to get them. Now efforts are under way to better sync up graduates’ skills with workforce needs. This series of stories relates to the problems and solutions in the area of higher education and workforce preparedness.


Conventional college route shifts to “education buffet”

By Jon Marcus

Danine Adams has taken a few courses at a four-year university, some at a community college, and still more online while working all over the country as an investigator for the federal Bureau of Prisons—career experience that she has also been able to transform into academic credit. A little from here. A little from there. […]

Photo courtesy Starbucks

Tired of waiting, employers provide just-in-time education

By Christopher Connell

Arianna Suarez’s first job after emigrating from Cuba as a teenager was as a cashier at a Walmart in Hialeah, Fla.  Thanks in part to college-level classes in business administration that the company provides, she’s since worked her way up to store manager. “It’s all online,” Suarez says of the courses she takes. “You get […]

In era of high costs, humanities come under attack

By Jon Marcus

Oregon State University President Ed Ray flinched when a stranger confronted him to say his daughter had just graduated from the school with a degree in philosophy. “I thought, ‘Oh my God,’ ” says Ray, who expected he would have to fend off yet another diatribe about the questionable value, in a weak employment market, […]

Nashville State Community College

Community-college grads out-earn bachelor’s degree holders

By Jon Marcus

Berevan Omer graduated on a Friday in February with an associate’s degree from Nashville State Community College and started work the following Monday in his new job as a computer-networking engineer at a local television station, making about $50,000 a year. That’s 15 percent higher than the average starting salary for graduates not only from […]

The Seattle satellite campus of Northeastern University, which moved into that market when "spidering" technology showed there was demand there. (Photo courtesty Phototainment)

Colleges take new approach to anticipating—and meeting—workforce needs

By Jon Marcus

A handful of colleges think they’ve found the secret to closing the gap between the types of graduates they’re turning out and the types employers say they need. Spiders. Not the hairy, creepy kind. The colleges are using artificial-intelligence spiders that crawl through search engines and read thousands of online “help wanted” ads to check […]

CLIMBING TO THE TOP. Georgia Piedmont Technical College student Kenny Minish adjusts his gear during a practice climb on the 30-foot utility poles at the college’s training center. Georgia utilities teamed with the state’s technical colleges to create an eight-week boot camp to groom future lineworkers. Minish, 31, a laid off machinist, says, “I’m in love. I’m a believer. I always wanted to be a lineman and this was the perfect opportunity.” The utilities say the college classes help them find prospects more likely to succeed in the long, arduous and expensive ($250,000+) apprenticeship to become a certified lineworker.

Impatient employers step in to educate prospective workers

By Christopher Connell

Cable TV installer John Hoffmeister was strapped to a utility pole 30 feet in the air when his cell phone rang with the offer of a better job. The energy company AREVA was calling to say that it would train Hoffmeister to repair nuclear reactors and at the same time send him to a community […]

The LinkedIn photo booth in the Wake Forest career office. (Photo courtesy Wake Forest University)

As grads seek jobs, universities cut career services

By Jon Marcus

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Courtney Flynn spends a lot of time in a bright, bustling office suite that looks like something out of the Fortune 500, gleaming with floor-to-ceiling frosted glass, conference rooms, and shiny contemporary furniture. She doesn’t work here. She’s what she calls a “serial visitor,” popping in to get advice she hopes will […]

Students at Bronx Community College examine a human skeleton. (Photo by Ryan Brenzier)

New pressure on colleges to disclose grads’ earnings

By Jon Marcus

Joyce English was about to start studying toward an associate degree she hoped would lead to a job as a consultant to healthcare companies around Tacoma, Wash., where she lives. Then she discovered a database created by the state’s workforce training agency estimating what she’d earn with that degree versus how much she could make […]

Michelle Chen (left) helps dress Jay McKenna (right) during “Dress for Success,” a short class about how to dress on the job or for an interview, at MIT's 2012 Charm School. (Photo by Holly Hinman)

Colleges step in to fill students’ social-skills gaps

By Jon Marcus

After final exams are over, MIT students will return from their holiday break to experience something different from their usual studies—but almost as important. It’s the university’s annual Charm School, offering instruction in everything from how to make a first impression to how to dress for work to which bread plate to use. Other colleges […]

Apprentice ironworkers from Local #86 with their instructors on a steel scaffolding where they learn their craft at Bates Technical College in Tacoma, Wash. The apprentices, who start at nearly $25 an hour, are among more than 200 whom the union is training as demand for them in the Seattle area picks up after a two-year lull. The apprentices earn college credit for the classes at Bates. (Photo by Christopher Connell)

Economic reality marries age-old idea — apprenticeships — with college

By Christopher Connell

TACOMA, Wash. — Five-foot-two Jesica Bush exudes confidence, whether she’s scribbling notes in a 6:30 a.m. class at Bates Technical College here or wrestling 900-pound girders atop a mock two-story building. With her blond ponytail tucked inside a brown hardhat, the 30-year-old is an apprentice with the ironworkers’ union, a job that starts at nearly […]