In the summer of 2008, Columbia College Chicago conducted a phone survey of 188 businesses identified as having hired Columbia graduates. This Employer Survey is a tool used by the college to better understand the strengths and weaknesses of our graduates and gauge employers’ experience with Columbia when recruiting new employees and developing internship opportunities.
The survey questions were grouped into two categories: 1) skill acquisition; and 2) professional conduct. Respondents were also asked to rate graduates’ preparedness for careers in their field as well as their ease in recruiting interns and employees from Columbia. It is hoped that the information provided by 75 employers about their experiences with Columbia graduates will provide the college with additional insight to better server our students, as well as the businesses which will employ them in the future.
Overall, most employers have a positive impression of their employees who graduated from Columbia; 88% of employers surveyed believed our graduates are well prepared for careers in their fields. These survey responses were confirmed by numerous comments, including:
- “You did a fine job with this graduate.”
- “Keep up the good work.”
- “Good network, good reputation.”
In general, Columbia graduates demonstrate creative and artistic skills: at least 80% of employers reported that Columbia graduates meet or exceed all areas of skill acquisition expectations. Employers rated graduates strongest in their general technical/computer skill base and their ability to complete fundamental tasks of the job. However, employers also identified areas in which graduates fall short. Graduates did not exceed expectations as often in areas such as public speaking and/or presentation skills, planning and organizational skills, and written communication skills.
Columbia graduates also exemplify a strong work ethic and conduct themselves professionally. Employers reported more than half of Columbia graduates exceed expectations in all professional conduct areas except for their ability to balance creativity and timely completion of assigned work (44%).
Overall, most employers have a positive impression of their employees who are Columbia graduates. Employers report Columbia graduates satisfy high levels of expectations in their skill acquisition, professional conduct, and preparedness for careers in their field.
The Employer Survey confirms the creative and artistic ability Columbia graduates obtained while studying and learning here and, in turn, are applying to their jobs or internships. However, as evidenced by employers’ responses to the survey, Columbia “[is] very good at training the practical education of the graduates, but they should focus more on writing skills and report format.” Columbia must continue to emphasize the foundation of its educational core curriculum to improve students’ skills in areas such as communication, public speaking, and presentations – skills every graduate must have in order to make it in the “real world.”
While Columbia has augmented services of the Portfolio Center, students and alumni would benefit from a more enhanced career recruitment system. One employer stressed that Columbia needs to “get us connected with interns in a more aggressive way – once they’re here, they’re great, it’s just getting them here.” These survey results indicate that, most importantly, Columbia needs to do a better job of connecting industry professionals with current students to jump-start their careers or internships.
As Columbia enhances its career and internship placement services, the college should also focus on preparing students and graduates for interviews. Employer responses indicate students “don’t have strong knowledge of interview protocol, professional mannerism, and how to dress.” Others suggest “greater emphasis on preparing students for the job market” and “do mock interviews or bring models in for interviews.” Such focused efforts will improve and enhance not only our graduates’ market potential, but also employers’ desire to hire alumni and our reputation in the growing arts, media, and communication fields.