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Whose responsibility is it to prepare students for the workplace?

MBOT_Rosa_002By Rosa Lokaisingh

This question is an ongoing discussion for parents, students, academia and business today?

Academia says their role is to provide students with an academic education that allows them a range of vocational choices in their related field of study, plus critical thinking and research skills.

Businesses say that students come with a good academic knowledge in their specific field of study, but little or no understanding of the workplace requirements, and academia should spend more time on preparing students for the workforce. Students feel cheated by both sectors. Parents don’t know where to turn, and are having to continue supporting their kids financially and emotionally.

There are endless pros and cons in each corner, with little resolution, and students are being turned away daily from jobs due to limited or no work experience, or not enough understanding of what employers are looking for. It is becoming a huge problem in our society and will significantly impact our future economy.

At Advantage Mississauga, we did some business engagement focus groups and here is a taste of what we learned:

Businesses say (about students):
•    Students lack work experience, soft skills, communication skills, commitment, professionalism, and have unrealistic expectations
•    Students need a better understanding of the reality of the workplace, culture, ethics, protocols, and manners, and need both life and technical skills.
Businesses say (about business):
•    They don’t have the time and resources to spend on recruiting students on campus, but interested in exploring other options.
•    SME’s (small to medium size enterprises) don’t have time or resources to provide an extensive training plan, mentoring or job-shadowing, or writing detailed job descriptions
Students say:
•    They can bring in new skills that do not exist, and it is up to the employer to create value in student engagement.
•    Businesses don’t recognize that students have a lot of value to bring, and get the sense that small businesses are not interested in hiring students.
•    They get the perception that employers are busy, and don’t have time to spend on training.
Academia says:
•    They are looking for partners in business to create opportunities and projects together, and would like to expand on typical roles.
•    SME’s are very monetary driven, and are attempting to get highest possible value for lowest possible cost.

The time has come for both the business community and the academic institutions to collaborate on providing solutions for students to receive adequate vocational training, as working in silos has only increased youth unemployment. The Career Centres and co-op programs can work closer with employers on preparing students for todays’ workplace, and businesses can train a student hands-on in workplace ethics, professionalism, communication, protocols and having realistic expectations, with a very simple training plan. To employers’ benefit, this would also increase having qualified graduates with up-to-date technology return for employment and increase employee retention, while saving on recruiting and hiring costs.

Academia says they are looking for partnerships with the business community! Become a Partner, and help grow a healthier community!

Rosa Lokaisingh, is our Business Innovation Connector at  Advantage Mississauga. She can be reached at 905-273-6151 Ext. 390 or

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