Employers Say Michigan Tech Grads are Well-Prepared, Contrary to Gallup Poll

By Mark Wilcox | Published

Employers find well-qualified students at Michigan Tech's semi-annual Career Fairs.
Employers find well-qualified students at Michigan Tech's semi-annual Career Fairs.

A recent Gallup poll shows that while the vast majority of Americans feel a college education is important, only a small percentage believe that college graduates are well prepared for success in the workplace. Feedback from employers who hire graduates of Michigan Technological University tells a different story.

 The Gallup Poll results were included in the 2014 Gallup-Lumina Foundation Study of the American Public’s Opinion on Higher Education.

Gallup found that 96 percent of those surveyed feel it is “somewhat” or “very” important for American adults to have a degree or certificate beyond high school. But only 13 percent strongly agreed that college prepares students well for success on the job.

 The poll’s news gets worse. Gallup found that Americans with college degrees are much less likely than those without college degrees to believe that a college degree prepares people well for workplace success.

 “This is effectively a ‘no confidence’ vote in college graduates’ work readiness,” writes Gallup’s Brandon Busteed, Gallup’s executive director, education and workforce development.

 But results of surveys conducted by Michigan Tech’s Career Services indicate those who hire, or look to hire, Tech grads have quite the opposite opinion.

 Following a recent University Career Fair more than 400 surveys were sent to corporate representatives that attended/registered. Of those who responded, more than 87 percent said Tech students exhibited critical/analytical skills; 73 percent felt they possess written and verbal skills, and nearly 68 percent reported that Michigan Tech students exhibit ethical judgment and decision-making skills.

 Asked if students showed they could work well in teams, more than 73 percent of the respondents said “yes,” and nearly 60 percent believed that students would work well with people from different backgrounds.

 In his Gallup article, Busteed says studies point to a “skills gap,” a disconnect between jobs available and people with the skills to fill them. That’s not the perception of those who recruit at Michigan Tech either.

 More than 80 percent say that Tech students are creative and innovative problem solvers who also have the ability to solve and analyze complex problems.  And those who’ve hired Tech grads say they continue to impress once they’ve transitioned from the classroom to the workplace.

 Dan Madrid of Ford Motor Company calls Michigan Tech a “premier school for Ford recruiting.”  Madrid says, “… Michigan Tech has always provided superior graduates. When these students join Ford Motor Company they bring excellent work ethic, technical skill and ambition that have helped drive efficiency, innovation, quality and leadership in the industry.”

 Nathan Paul, campus relations manager for Oshkosh Corporation, adds: “A Michigan Tech education prepares students with the technical expertise to be extremely effective engineers and future leaders.”

 That thought is shared by ArcelorMittal’s Joe Nowosad, who says: “We value the caliber of students at Michigan Tech as they often become leaders in our company.”

 The results of the Gallup poll may give some in higher education cause for concern, but James Derochers, Michigan Tech’s Career Center’s associate director for employer relations, says prospective and current employers know Michigan Tech continues to produce graduates who are more than prepared for success in today’s workplace.

“In today’s economy, students have a broad variety of career options,” Derochers says. “Our students gain experience in the classroom, but also through collaborations on projects in a variety of forums and through experiential education.”

Derochers says a university’s responsibility is to prepare a student for their future career. “We are very proud of our placement rate and the consistent positive feedback we hear from companies that recruit on our campus and return again and again to hire more of our students.”

Michigan Technological University is a public research university, home to more than 7,000 students from 54 countries. Founded in 1885, the University offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, and social sciences. Our campus in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula overlooks the Keweenaw Waterway and is just a few miles from Lake Superior.