Book Review: PreparedU
PreparedU: How Innovative Colleges Drive Student Success by Gloria Cordes Larson. As president of Bentley University, Gloria Cordes Larson is in a good place to study how best to prepare millennial college students to join the workforce. Larson had observed that employers were giving the typical millennial a “C” grade in their preparations for a working career. For their part, the students were beginning to feel that the cost of a college degree did not offer a sufficient return on the investment to justify a delayed entry into the workforce. The PreparedU Project, a multi-year study, compiled more than 3,000 interviews of students, parents, educators, business leaders, and government officials worldwide. Not only did the study set out to learn how best to prepare students for their careers, but it also hoped to take advantage of the latest job trends in order to discover which careers and skills were most in demand.
It’s clear that having a degree is a sound investment in today’s workforce environment. For those who go on to an advanced degree, whether that be a master’s or a PhD, there can be even greater advantages. However, these degrees by themselves may not constitute a good investment—even in purely academic careers. What makes the investment pay is the addition of early internships, job-related experience, and a broader understanding of the world and human behavior. Larson also noted that the “shelf life” of these degrees is short and getting shorter. Employers are looking for life-long learners. They will often overlook otherwise useful academic degrees in prospective employees if these degrees are not recent enough to promise the hard as well as the soft skills required by the desired job. Typical hard skills for a project management position would probably include scheduling, estimating, and work breakdowns. But employers will also want to know that a new hire is well versed in the soft skills of cooperating with team members and negotiating executive influences. They also may want to know how agile the prospective employee may be: Would he or she be able, for instance, to transition into a “scrum master” role from that of project manager? Here’s where a certification from scrum.org or the Scrum Alliance would be helpful. As such, lifelong learning is becoming a critical factor in hiring and retaining employees.
Where do students learn these skills? PreparedU describes how the “hybrid learning” that teaches these skills takes place in four critical venues: classrooms, student cohorts, communities, and corporations. Meanwhile, more knowledgeable students are no longer content with classroom learning. They demand more active, hands-on settings. They are also demanding training in skills that are more relevant for today’s workforce. Hence, universities like Bentley are seeking to bring education experience into on- and off-campus laboratories rather than keeping it solely in the classroom. Students are encouraged to do internships as early as their sophomore year. And student cohorts are doing more teamwork and exercises together.
The Standish Group is taking these new trends in education to heart and working with Belgium’s Antwerp Management School to develop “nanoclasses” around workshops and exercises. Our next nanoclass workshop, “How to Mentor Project Owners for Successful Software and IT Projects,” will take place on January 11th 2018 in Antwerp. Go here to see overview.
In short, PreparedU is a must-read for anyone interested in higher education and workforce development.