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The PreparedU Project Reveals Solutions to the Millennial Preparedness Gap

Bentley University officially launched the PreparedU Project on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 with findings from its groundbreaking survey on millennials’ preparedness for workplace success. The PreparedU Project brings together all stakeholders, including businesses, higher education and millennials, to explore the “why, what and how” for defining and solving the preparedness gap.

Bentley University President Gloria Larson released the survey results during a panel discussion at the New York City headquarters of Bloomberg Media.  Co-hosted by Larson and Bloomberg's “Taking Stock” co-host Carol Massar, the panel featured expert analysis from David Burstein, millennial writer, filmmaker and speaker; Scott Jaschik, editor of Inside Higher Ed; Alexandra Levit, workplace author, generational speaker, columnist and consultant; and Mike Metzger, CEO and president of PayScale.

Leaders from the education and business world were on hand to hear the panelists discuss the research findings and describe their own experiences. The event began with a keynote from Bloomberg Media Group chairman, Andy Lack, who shared anecdotes from his own experience hiring and working with millennials.

Preparedness: mixed messages prevail

The Bentley University Preparedness Study, conducted by KRC Research, revealed that 51 percent of business decision-makers give the business community a “C” or lower on how well they are preparing students for their first jobs.

Yet millennials themselves believe they can do more to be better prepared for success in the workplace, as six in ten recent college graduates blame themselves for their lack of preparedness.

What’s contributing to the problem? “What’s unique today is that it is particularly difficult to transition from college to professional life,” noted Jaschik, and hiring managers are contributing to the challenge.

“We’re hearing mixed messages from employers. In a tight market, managers are going to hire the person with the hard skills who can do the job today, but they need a broader skill set too,” said President Larson.

When it comes to what employers look for in young new hires, Metzger said, among other things, it’s “fire in the belly.” When candidates don’t make the case for why they should be hired, he said, it’s because they do not have “a passion…or do not demonstrate that they are a lifetime learner. Not because they don’t know how to use Excel.”

Millennial disloyalty in the workplace? Not exactly

The panel also addressed the issue of retaining millennial employees. “There’s a misconception that millennials are disloyal employees. The fact is that they are job jumping because they’re not finding what they need,” said Levit. “The average length of millennial employment is under one year. Being able to extend that employment from one to three or five years will be worth the investment.”

Higher education’s role: what makes millennials tick

The panel members reached consensus as they discussed students’ motives for earning a degree.  Burstein, a millennial himself, believes that ultimately college is about making each student a better person, making sure they lead happy, meaningful lives that encompass empathy, compassion, and entrepreneurial thinking. “Millennials don’t think about work and life in two different buckets. The two are no longer separate for people in this generation.”

The breadth of the Preparedness Study

Ultimately, millennial preparedness is not a concern limited to graduates and employers. Bentley University’s Preparedness Study looked at the responses from nine different audiences: business decision-makers, corporate recruiters, higher education influentials, parents of students, recent college graduates, college students, high school students, guidance counselors and members of the general public. Since millennials are expected to make up 50% of the workforce by 2020, their success is critical to the future health of U.S. business and the broader economy.

Moving forward with solutions

President Larson concluded the panel with an optimistic view of millennials, referring to them as a group of “triple bottom line thinkers” who are “the most promising generation ever.”

The 16 solutions tested in the survey set the stage for change and offer promising next steps  Larson and the other panelists urged those who have a stake in this issue to learn more about the solutions featured in the study and take on a sense of accountability and responsibility for closing the preparedness gap.

The conversation continues at and online on Twitter using #PreparedU.

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