Dr. Kent Ingle: Coronavirus demands parents talk with their kids about education and careers

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If ever there was a time for parents to have a serious conversation with their students on their college and vocational track, it is in the midst of this pandemic. As a president of a liberal arts university, I can tell you there has never been a more crucial time for students to make the hard decisions that will heavily impact their future.

We can often excuse the college years as a season for young people to discover their passions, but now students must make concrete decisions in order to secure their careers in the future.

On March 27 the CARES Act was signed into law to bring a $2.2 trillion emergency relief package to the people of America. While this will offer immediate relief for some student and university expenses, it does not adequately address the inevitable economic struggles higher education will face. This means that higher education is about to change dramatically.

WISCONSIN COLLEGE STUDENTS RETURN HOME FROM SPRING BREAK WITH CORONAVIRUS

Therefore students (and parents) need to begin to plan adequately for the future. For some, that may mean some tough conversations about the trajectory of their college career.

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Within these major economic shifts, the demands of the workforce are rapidly changing. Our world is no longer the same as it was in January when students were stepping into their first classes for the semester. The high demands in the workplace at the end of the academic year are not what they were at the beginning.

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In order to help students secure their future now, parents must take the lead in helping them make sound decisions for their education. Now is the time parents need to encourage practical pursuits and for students to be sensible within their academic careers.

The Department of Education has found that 60 percent of students who pursue four-year degrees take six years to finish their program – and often end up with a degree that has nothing to do with their vocation. The Federal Bank of New York reported in 2013 that the majority of U.S. college graduates do not work in fields related to their degree. Studies have found that the majority of millennials are now working in jobs they are overqualified for.

Many students may not feel that their first few jobs impact their future. But in fact, research has shown us that the first job graduates take on is crucial for their careers. A CNBC report stated, “Recent grads who end up in jobs that didn’t require a college degree are five times as likely to still be in such a position five years later, compared with those who put their diploma to use right away.”

So parents, if your students aren’t already proactively thinking about these issues for themselves, now is the time – while your students are home – to begin having these difficult conversations.

Come alongside your kids by gauging if the major they are in is readily employable after graduation. Explore all the hard questions: Is this degree the most financially wise for them to move forward in? If it is their senior year, what are viable job options for them beyond graduation? What work should they consider if they have no clue what they want to do?

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Now is the time to guide students toward practical career choices (even if it may not be their dream job) while still exploring passions and interests.

While this pandemic crisis of COVID-19 has us all concerned about today, parents need to focus on helping students prepare practically for tomorrow. If your students don’t recognize it already, as parents you must acknowledge and equip your children to make the most of their education at this time, because it is what will prepare them for the days to come beyond this pandemic.

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