Friday, March 15, 2013

Why PayPal boss is wrong about our graduates

Peter Flanagan of The Irish Independent reported last Tuesday that the "PayPal boss says graduates are not hungry enough to succeed". Louise Phelan is quoted as saying that "A number of graduates don't seem to understand how to carry themselves in a workplace, but more importantly don't show an interest in learning how to do it", that they have a "sense of entitlement", and that there "is a sense that because they have a degree, then we should be grateful to have them". Strong stuff indeed from Phelan! She does point out that PayPal have some "superb graduates" working for them (I know this - some of them are graduates of NCI) - so at least it is not all doom-and-gloom?

Image source: ClipartPal.
Universities, Institutes of Technology, and other third-level Colleges such as NCI do have a duty to turn out the best graduates that we can. Our courses are aimed at providing the best education within our means - NCI's own mission statement is "To change lives through education", and I and my colleagues do our best to live up to this mission. 

One of the proudest moments for us all in the education system is Graduation Day. For me this is when I see young men and women graduating with pride three or four years after entering the College as boys and girls. The transformation is obvious to us all as these graduates embark on the next stage of their lives.

Here's my point why Louise Phelan is wrong...

We take in students of mixed ability, with different levels of intelligence and achievement to date, from different backgrounds, with different learning styles, with different levels of commitment and engagement in learning, some are juggling family life and part-time jobs with their study, some can barely afford to go to College and are living on the poverty line, some struggle with difficult content - and all this is done in cash-strapped Colleges. We have a very diverse student body in all senses walking in our door on the first day and leaving on the last day every year - and long may this continue I say.

So how do we turn this diverse student body into the perfect high quality graduates that Louise Phelan wants? The answer is that we can't! I'd love it if everybody got a First and that each graduate had a queue of potential employers lining up outside the door on Graduation Day - but I don't think is either possible or desirable. It is Louise Phelan that has the "sense of entitlement" to think that our third-level sector should be turning out perfect graduates every time.

For bosses to think that any College can take a person for three or four years (less than a sixth of the average 22 year old graduate's life) and make them perfect for their needs is living in fantasy land. Every organization is different (we teach this in our Organizational Behaviour modules), it is up to them to take our graduates and bring them to the next level. All we can do is help each student prepare themselves for the workplace as best we can in the short time that we have them. We are not factories turning out drones that don't have "their feet up on their desk" or "looking like they were out all night" all the time.

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