The skills gap has been at the forefront of the HR debate, especially when dealing with some highly specialized positions. Skills formation starts with students choosing their field of study. To help close the skills gap, it would be useful for students to look at employers’ needs when choosing majors and certificates. But is that really what’s happening?
A number of research studies have investigated how students choose their majors. Here are their main findings:
- Labor market prospects play a significant role in determining students’ major choice.
- Students’ ranking of the labor market prospects of broad majors is broadly accurate. For example, this means students know that science majors tend to earn more than humanities majors.
- Students tend to underestimate the labor market prospects of most majors.
- More disadvantaged students underestimate the labor market prospects of degrees more often, and they make larger errors.
What does this suggest for HR recruiting strategies?
If you can afford to work for the long term, you should consider approaching students at local universities and colleges who may be interested in your field of recruitment. Perhaps you could organize information sessions. Because students often underestimate the monetary returns to particular majors, you can help them by informing them about typical entry-level salaries in your field. Furthermore, concentrating on more disadvantaged students may be especially helpful because they often have less access to information to start with. In order to choose which universities or colleges to target, data from EMSI College Analyst shows you the educational institutions that are the most likely to train for your field of interest.
Of course, informational campaigns with students can take some time to pan out, since students still need to take classes before they can graduate with a relevant degree. In the short run, if you have difficulties recruiting, you may consider increasing compensation. Indeed, my research based on CareerBuilder data shows that higher compensation attracts more and better applicants.