Executives: College graduates lack non-classroom skills

Poor communication and non-classroom skills continue to hurt new college graduates in the workplace, a university official was told by local business leaders.

Bill Moncrief, senior associate dean of undergraduate studies at the Neeley School of Business, conducted a focus group with 10 Dallas-Fort Worth business executives to discuss what college graduates are lacking upon entering the workforce. Moncrief said he and members of a “curriculum task force” were told that interviewing, critical thinking, and teamwork were areas where college graduates need the most improvement.

Moncrief said he believes the Neeley School does a good job of preparing students for situations they will face in the real world, including interviewing.

“Because of instant messaging and all these technologies, (the college) generation isn’t used to these face-to-face interactions,” Moncrief said. “They said that’s something that universities in general have to do a better job of. The Neeley School works hard on that.”

Moncrief said interview day, which is the day when sophomores have to interview to get into the business school, has made a big difference in preparing students. Students must go through mock interviews, resume writing classes, and software classes for Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel.

Garrett Essl, a senior entrepreneurial management major, said he thinks interview day is extremely beneficial to Neeley students.

“I absolutely think the business school does a great job,” Essl said. “It’s probably one of the best in the nation I would say, just because you’re sitting down with an actual business person who will give you feedback.”

Rachel Hughes, a junior marketing major, also said she believes the interview day gives business school students a competitive advantage.

“The interview day is extremely helpful with interviews because they ask you every question that could potentially be asked,” Hughes said.

Moncrief said the businesses’ representatives said that college students have basic math and reading skills but they sometimes avoid extra work in those areas that would be advantageous. He said representatives from businesses like Luther King Capital Management, Range Online Media and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway said that a better understanding of both subjects will make the transition to working a lot smoother.

Moncrief said the Neeley School will continue to make changes within its curriculum to prepare students for what they’ll face when they leave campus.

“We asked them if our basic curriculum is still appropriate and they said ‘yes’,” Moncrief said. “But what they would like to see is changes within specific courses to modernize it. Our curriculum task force will look at the courses we have and make some recommendations and we’ll go from there.”

Essl said he thinks the school could improve its curriculum by removing tedious work that doesn’t apply to the real world.

“A little more real world work would make it a lot better,” Essl said. “Especially with some of the pre-reqs. Give us more business work so kids know what they’re getting into.”

Hughessaid she thinks most of the business requirements are justified but she doesn’t believe the software tests are because they are mostly memorization.

“Although you learn the material to pass the tests, you don’t remember any of it,” Hughes said. “It’s all memorization and you forget it the second you get done taking the test.”

Another potential obstacle for new business graduates is that many in this generation of workers have a sense of entitlement that prevents them from being the best possible worker, Moncrief said.

“Too many times this generation comes out and has unrealistic expectations that they should be at the top pretty quickly,” he said. “Not willing to start at the bottom and work your way up.”

Moncrief said businesses, however, are attracted to new graduates’ social networking skills, with Web sites like Facebook and MySpace being used more often in the business world.

“All the different ways we communicate now, those are good skills to have because businesses are just now figuring out how to use them,” Moncrief said.