Despite a barrage of news stories about how bleak the job prospects are for college grads, students graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Packaging Design from this institution are busy interviewing and evaluating job offers.
I write this now just two weeks since graduation and most of the new graduates are receiving calls and are interviewing at multiple firms—some receiving counter offers as well. Their parents are likely bragging to their neighbors that their child had an offer right out of school, some even before classes ended, or that their new graduate was offered freelance work for an extended period of time. Bleak economy yes—but for this group of twenty-five graduates, their academic decision, steadfast effort, and dedication to excellence has positioned them well.
Dedicated effort on the part of the faculty and a close partnership with a supportive industry creates the setting that ensures graduating students enter their profession able to meet existing needs and expectations. Some of these students present innovative, “out-of-the-box” creativity while others stay true to more traditional and business-oriented values and objectives. Some start out at a corporate in-house design group while others join a design consultancy. Some work for a small, entrepreneurial design firm while others favor a large, structured business. Regardless of which path the new graduates take, outstanding presentation and communication skills and cross-cultural and international sensibilities are across-the-board expectations among employers. Educational programs must continuously emphasize these skills while helping students develop a world perspective.
Academic programs that are closely connected to their industries are an excellent educational model—and one that fares well in all economic times. Through a tight blend of liberal arts, related-area courses, a core focused curriculum, and industry partnership, the whole person is developed at the same time that a valuable employee is being prepared. The interconnections that happen throughout this educational experience lead to career-shaping opportunities for new graduates.
It is imperative that academic programs bridge the gap between theory and practice. Collaborating as a community to develop educational opportunities—whether they are scholarships, internships, or competitions—exposes students to the diverse challenges and opens the door to opportunities and possibilities. These experiences are critical to entry into the workforce. Individuals within companies should reach out to their alma mater and find ways to connect. And their company can do much to develop programs that meet a broad range of needs of any potential employer—mentorship, networking, and access are powerful ways to boost a young person’s self esteem. Technology enables these connections. Webinars, chats, and video guest lecturing can be ways to ease the challenges of time and distance. Academic programs would gladly receive the support. The economic outlook may not be positive, but when the workforce and the academy work in partnership, the future for our rising global citizens looks good.
Marianne Rosner Klimchuk ([email protected]) is Associate Chairperson, Associate Professor, Packaging Design Dept., Fashion Institute of Technology.