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Is There A Difference Between US & European Attitudes To Student Employability?

Is There A Difference Between US & European Attitudes To Student Employability?
Written by MicroStartups

Students having a hard time entering the working world is an international experience; that much is certainly true. A focus on experience and tenure over skill and aptitude leads to many capable young people struggling to find even the most basic opportunity either before or after finishing their studies.

Universities and colleges are under mounting global pressure to equip their students for the changing world of work, and in some cases, justify their high tuition fees. If academia is not the end goal for the majority of students, then surely employability needs to be at the top of the agenda?

But what difference is there, if any, between how Americans view student job candidates and how citizens of European countries view them? And if there is a difference, can it teach us anything about how to better support younger generations as they move into adulthood?

It’s often tempting to think that the grass is greener elsewhere, and other countries are getting it right where we’re getting it wrong — but that isn’t necessarily the case, as we’ll see.

Let’s look at what inferences we can make about how European and American higher and tertiary education establishments are tackling student employability.

Career Centers

When analyzing U.S. and European attitudes towards student employability across higher education, one thing is clear: the respective regions are doing everything they can to boost students’ chances of landing a job after graduation.

The study of structural indicators of graduate employability showed that nearly all of Europe’s institutions of higher education offer high-quality career guidance services throughout the course of study. Many universities, particularly across the U.K., also support their students up to two years after graduation with free career counseling and exclusive alumni employability mixers. In Europe, it’s the Nordics, Germany, and the U.K who really come on top when it comes to equipping students with adequate employability resources.

In the U.K, brands frequently sponsor careers events and can even become a semi-permanent fixture at the local university career center. Companies often like to hire from a select group of universities, so developing long-lasting relationships is key.

But these resources aren’t limited to Europe; it very much extends throughout the U.S. too, with almost all top colleges helping students and graduates from education to vocation.

But how are these career services an asset? For a start, they host a range of live jobs suitable for any student or graduate across all industries and faculties. As a result, students gain visibility of top jobs suitable for them from one hub, making job searching and applying simple. For students who can be incredibly time-poor, this is a great alternative to scouring the internet for opportunities that might match their qualifications and goals.

Career centers across the world also prepare students for employment with free resume and C.V. reviews, tailored workshops for different styles of working, such as freelancing, and mock job interviews, to help students buff up every tool in their job search arsenal.

If anything, it shows the right attitude to educators, students, and investors — that the institution is looking beyond the narrow confines of its walls to external partnerships.

Support For Student Leadership

Interestingly, the nationally-prized freedom that lowers the demands on the young may well also serve to elevate their hopes and expectations for the future. This 2014 study found that 42% of the Europeans surveyed were willing to consider going into business for themselves, contrasting with a significant 51% of the Americans surveyed.

And doesn’t this make a good deal of sense in light of the American dream? The notion that everyone is essentially equal, and anyone of any stock might one day ascend to a position of great wealth and power.

With the accessibility and versatility of the internet at their fingertips, students have a plethora of ways to chart their own financial courses. They can pursue niche vocations, take outsourced work; even build their own businesses cheaply and easily.

And that’s just looking at existing avenues! It is also entirely possible for them to create their own. It has never been more viable to go directly from schooling to self-employment, especially with many university and college career centers worldwide offering entrepreneurship schemes.

It’s heartening to see that many business schools and centers of higher education around the world are putting on ‘think tank’ and startup events to encourage students to push their ideas and aspirations further (this is especially true of larger cities in Europe and the US). Through leadership training programs, universities can help empower and prepare the next generation of leaders.


In principle, the question I posed in the title seems to pertain to employers, wondering how American and European businesses view the promise of student candidates — but it would be remiss to overlook the attitudes of the students themselves, surely.

After all, how a student views their own employability will, in the long term, be a very important element of their professional path. And with the American educational system providing a longer-term and more generalized framework, it might well ready students to feel more capable of taking on broader challenges.

Closing Thoughts

It’s extremely difficult to make a direct comparison of young unemployment between America and Europe, as the myriad studies use very different parameters and conditions, so the numbers will likely never make it starkly clear whether European or American students are better positioned to be considered by employers.

That said, my answer to the titular question is as follows: not meaningfully. Not in a way that will have a long-term effect on a student’s eventual career.

An employer’s inclination to give students opportunities is not a consequence of national identity but a result of an ability to empathize and a determination to invest in the future.

That said, it perhaps wouldn’t hurt if we took some kind of inspiration from Europe’s cultural holdouts, and remembered that young adults can handle far more than we may often think.






About the author


A team of writers and marketers, MicroStartups was founded to inspire the entrepreneurial and business community to give back. We believe in business growth through giving and supporting the local community.

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