“What’s the next step?” “What do you want to do after college?” These are only two of the terrifying questions college seniors are asked among juggling school, jobs and personal lives. Sometimes it seems like our academic decisions will work out, other times we end up re-mapping our path. The truth is, according to Virginia N. Gordon in her book, “The Undecided College Student: An Academic and Career Advising Challenge,” 75 percent of college students will change their major at least once or twice in their career. While completing academics and pursuing a major of one’s choice is important with the $62 billion-plus spent in tuition each year, there is one important aspect left out: obtaining professional skills applicable to success in future careers.
According to a skills gap survey given by the National Association of Manufacturers in 2001 and 2005, 40 percent of employers cited “inadequate basic employability skills” as a reason for why they can’t hire and keep workers. Some of these skills include work ethic, timeliness and attendance. In my senior communications capstone class, I sampled six students from different parts of the classroom. Four out of the six expressed they hadn’t completed any internships or worked a job outside of their college education.
With professional skills not being adequately tended to, how can students adequately find work after graduation that will meet the needs of employers?
Enter student media. At Colorado State University, student media comes in the form of student-run organizations such as the Collegian, 90.5 KCSU radio station, CTV and College Avenue. Each branch of the Rocky Mountain Student Media Corp. is run by the students with professional media heads on staff to help with legal matters.
What makes student media an appropriate outlet to fix the lack of professional skills in the workforce problem? The fact the entire organization is student-run is an excellent start. From the music played at the radio station to the content chosen for print media, students collaborate together to schedule, research and brainstorm what will get the campus’ attention.
Mario Caballero, Journalism and Technical Communications coordinator and pro-media head at the Rocky Mountain Student Corp., says that collaboration effectively “produces products,” and “these skills are essential in all aspects of their lives.”
“Students learn how to manage their time in order to be productive. They also begin to learn that organizations require precise and immediate communication strategies to be effective,” Caballero wrote in an email interview.
Now you may be thinking: “I’m not a journalism student. How is this applicable to me?” As a member of the Rocky Mountain Student Corp., I can confidently say that I am not a journalism student. I am a Communication Studies major, and have fit right in. I have never taken a class on AP Style, but learned this technical language in my first semester as a copy editor with the Collegian, and perform the position of copy chief on the editorial board.
According to Neill Woelk, professional staff and adviser for the Rocky Mountain Student Corp., about 300 students, including those in paid and volunteer positions, made up both print and broadcast staffs last academic school year. Of these roughly 300 students, only 40 percent are declared journalism majors, which stays relatively consistent each school year. In conjunction, there is a variety of ways non-journalism students can succeed at student media, including being a “beat” reporter in an area of interest, or having their own segment at the radio station.
With all of this being said I call to those students who feel directionless. I call to those students who may not know where to start when finding an internship to fit their needs or prepare them for life beyond graduation. I call to those soon heading out into the working world, whom may not have the exact skills needed to find that entry-level job. Student media is an opportunity to step outside your comfort zone, to become a positive statistic and to work in a professional atmosphere that can easily be applicable to life after college.