Published on 2012/10/17

Undergraduate Students And Workplace Preparedness

Higher education institutions would do well to ensure that their undergraduate programs contain elements of workforce preparedness learning so that students can transition from the college to the workforce.

Many students who graduate with excellent grades from top undergraduate institutions seem unprepared to function in a professional environment. And with the skyrocketing costs of a college degree, many question its value if it is not preparing students to enter the workforce. This question about the value of a college education is not only about academic or vocational preparedness, but more importantly, it is about professional preparedness to join the workforce upon graduation.

I think it behooves college leaders to ensure that students are being prepared to enter the workforce the day they graduate. How best to do this? In addition to their didactic curriculum, students have to be armed with professional competencies that are not career specific, but rather those needed to function in a professional setting. These skills, also known as transferable skills, include proficiencies such as oral communication, writing skills, public speaking, conflict resolution, giving and receiving feedback, teamwork, management and leadership skills, organizational skills, and time management, among many others. Students also must be competent in setting goals and prioritizing.

One tool that educators and students can use to help ensure they acquire these transferable skills is to develop a Professional Individual Development Plan (PIDP) upon matriculation in college[1]. This is a tool that helps enhance and improve academic and professional achievement by identifying goals, assessing strengths and weaknesses, defining the didactic, technical, and professional skills necessary to reach those goals. It also helps in locating the available opportunities to optimize reaching those goals, as well as the skills gaps that can derail goal-oriented strategies.

A PIDP identifies milestones and establishes deadlines to guide the student, as well as their advisors and mentors. Because of this, ongoing evaluation and assessment of the PIDP is essential. In other words, a PIDP is a dynamic process that is regularly reviewed and updated.

Stated a little differently, a PIDP developed upon matriculation can serve as a four-year strategic plan for the student in which they develop their vision and mission statements, conduct a self-assessment (SWOT analysis) to identify their strengths and weaknesses. Additionally, a PIDP can help students identify available opportunities and potential barriers to their success, set goals and priorities to fulfill their mission, and develop strategies and initiatives to reach their goals.

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[1] Bosch, C Gita “Professional Individual Development Plan” September 2012, Printed Scholar,

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Readers Comments

Simon Quattlebaum 2012/10/17 at 9:35 am

A great read! However, I think a PIDP could be started as early as sophomore year in undergrad. although there may be changes as their lives unfold, it could help keep their focus on the importance of maintaining stability in the midst of change. Further, the same could be said for high school students.

    C Gita Bosch 2012/10/24 at 12:36 pm

    Simon — the proposal/suggestion is for this process to start upon matriculation in college, not even wait until the sophomore year. I think the sooner students begin to think about their long term goals, knowing that they may/probably should change as they acquire new knowledge, the better they can plan.

WA Anderson 2012/10/17 at 1:14 pm

I agree with Dr. Bosch that the problem she identifies of underprepared undergraduates struggling to enter the workplace is very real and very urgent, but I do not think that her proposed PIDP solution would be very useful in an undergraduate environment; the best use of a PIDP is when it relates to a specific career goal or path with specific identifiable objectives in it. If the goal is just to develop general “professionalism”, as it is with university undergrads, I think that a PIDP is vague and unhelpful.

In my opinion, a more effective solution would be to integrate the development of the skills mentioned (all easily cultivated, with a little effort, in university courses of any discipline) into the curriculum and syllabi. This effort, combined with continually reinforcing to the students why these skills are important and why they are being asked to develop them, I think would lead to much more prepared undergraduates than ones who had filled out a PIDP. These new skills, gained through coursework, projects, et cetera, could even be semi-officially marked with digital badges– a new technology that hopes to mark less “official” student achievements, such as improved public speaking skills, or exceptional teamwork abilities, with digital “badges” that will all be recorded and made a part of a student’s transcript for anyone to go back and take a look at.

Greg Allan 2012/10/17 at 3:09 pm

WA, the across-the-board shift in curriculum and syllabi you’re describing as a solution to this problem would be very exciting and all that, but it is not realistically achievable; to coordinate all professors and instructors to deliver their course material in a probably new and different way that will likely disrupt their usual syllabi is not the kind of change that could happen overnight (any kind of cross-departmental coordination, in my experience, can sometimes be a feat in itself!) .

The author’s solution is more realistic; it could be implemented over a short-term period at a school, and PIDPs could very quickly be helping undergraduate students to define their goals and be aware of the skills they are developing, where there may be gaps, et cetera, so they could come out the other end better prepared, or at least more aware of the skills they need. I believe the PIDP suggestion to be very insightful.

    C Gita Bosch 2012/10/24 at 12:39 pm

    Greg — thank you for your response to WA Anderson. This is what I would have said.

    A PIDP will not only include professional/transferable skills, it will include both technical (statistical analysis, critical reading) as well as didactic foundation knowledge.

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