We know there’s a skills gap between the know-how that fast-growing tech businesses are seeking and the skills students learn in college. It means millennials often need a prep course before entering the working world, and that’s why Fullbridge, a Boston, Massachusetts, company, offers monthlong business-training programs to new graduates.
I interviewed Candice Carpenter Olson, co-CEO and founder of Fullbridge, to find out what kind of development millennials are lacking and how corporate learning can help bridge the gap. Below are edited excerpts of our interview.
What kind of professional development are millennials lacking?
Olson: Millennials often lack an understanding of how to apply their skills to real world work situations. Millennials can be portrayed as overly confident, but in reality, they actually crave constructive feedback and reassurance from their managers. Throughout their academic careers, students are instructed how to do things step-by-step and emerge into the workplace with little confidence in their own judgment.
Millennials are one of the most educated generations. However, they need to have a more effective combination of hard and soft skills before entering the work place. They also need the understanding of how to apply those skills, which include languages like finance and business, effective communication and project management. In order to accomplish this, real world simulations need to become more deeply ingrained in academic curriculums. This will allow millennials to practice more nuanced interactions in an educational setting and then apply their learning to their work.
Tell me about your program. How does it work? How will it help bridge that gap?
Olson: Fullbridge prepares students and young professionals to succeed in the global economy. Our programs are designed to shift mindsets to ensure our graduates are ready for the workplace. Our pedagogy combines an online platform with in person exercises and individualized coaching. Participants gain skills that resonate in a 21st century marketplace. For example, we have modules in finance, marketing and sales, as well as in design thinking, entrepreneurship and communication. Participants are taught to be autonomous and self-sufficient, but also how to work well in teams and delegate work appropriately. They are constantly working on short deadlines and learning skills like time management, project management and workplace interactions throughout the process. The purpose of the program is to simulate a real world work experience where you’ll have to deliver high-quality work on a deadline while working with various personalities and communicating with your manager.
Managers of Fullbridge graduates have shared that their Fullbridge-trained employees are outperforming their nonFullbridge counterparts. This type of training prepares young people for the workplace in a way that a traditional classroom has not been able to: by changing mindsets.
Ideally, something like the Fullbridge Program wouldn’t be necessary. Millennials would just have the necessary skills for the workplace. What’s going on now? Why don’t they have them?
Olson: Millennials have many sought after skills, and they are often underestimated based on how they’ve been portrayed. In the past, it was not uncommon for employers to offer on-the-job training to new hires and allow a grace period during which an employee could learn the ropes. In contrast, today’s fast-paced workplace doesn’t sustain this model. Now, managers don’t have the bandwidth to train and develop employees, creating the expectation that new hires should come into the workplace with the competencies needed to perform on their first day. Additionally, students have little practical experience managing their time well, communicating with supervisors, displaying flexibility and presenting their ideas publicly. With so much competition within the applicant pool, it is up to the individual to make themselves stand out among their peers. If students don’t take the time to sharpen their skill sets before entering the workplace, they are less likely to succeed professionally.
Did previous generations have this problem?
Olson: Previous generations had very different career paths than millennials. Past generations went to school, got a job and most likely stayed in that company for the entirety of their career with hopes of rising through the ranks. That’s what success looked like then. Fast forward to today where it is anticipated that millennials will have, on average, 27 jobs over the course of their lifetimes. Add to that the fact that another 30 percent will be part time, freelance or contract employees — and you can see how things have changed. The career landscape looks different and therefore millennials need more complex skills than previous generations.
Something like the Fullbridge Program gets Gen Y ready for the workplace, but what about leadership? Will they be ready to take on positions with more responsibilities and power in the future?
Olson: Fullbridge prepares Gen Y for the workplace, but the skills developed throughout the program are building blocks for creating future leaders. The lessons taught in the classroom paired with the workplace competencies learned at a career accelerator program such as Fullbridge provide an excellent foundation. From there, students are well equipped to enter their careers, apply these principles and prove themselves as dependable, sharp and dynamic team members. Fullbridge is an excellent launching pad for a successful career.