Screen-Shot-2013-01-25-at-3.52.31-PM-300x194The South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas captivates our imaginations for a few days every year. How do they do it? The conference makes science and technology look both lucrative and cool. Bright-eyed startup teams leave the conference with dreams of being the next Twitter or Instagram.

We need to see more of this momentum, especially amongst Millennials. To generate interest in technology careers such as those created by the Big Data wave, incentive structures in higher education must be examined and restructured.

The Challenges

A movement towards career-building incentives for Millennial students could revolutionize investment in higher education and lead to a workforce that is better equipped to solve business challenges like the growing need for experts in emerging technology fields such as Big Data.

How can a career services office accurately advise a graduating Mathematics major if their staff does not know what exciting jobs exist? What about an English major who builds computers on the side and wants to be a tech reporter?

Metrics drive behavior. If a university does not track the metrics of job success by the industry and major of their graduates, they’re doing a disservice to the students investing money and time at their institution. Students deserve to have career advisers who are keeping abreast of business trends like big data analytics that are driving job creation.

The problem does not lie entirely with career services offices, though. Students generally understand that they should be demanding concrete metrics around employment. More often than not, though, they don’t know that they should care that they are missing out on jobs in industries that they never knew existed.

Measured Incentives, Measurable Outcomes

The Millennial student is wary of debt, cynical about their career options, hears many voices blaming them for their college outcomes, and sees little to no leadership on fixing the problem. A way to rebuild a generation’s trust in higher education is to see universities tracking data around the success of professors and students alike, as well as noting what the next frontier in business is and how students can be guided to rewarding careers in those fields.

Millennials live and breathe information inundation, yet when looking to invest in higher education, the information is scarce regarding employment outcome. If we want to see our students succeed both before and after graduation, they need concrete examples of what inspiring things they could do with their education. Students need someone to spend some time educating them about modern industries, where the jobs are, and how their disparate interests can be applied to innovation.

Our higher education institutions want their students to tackle some of the biggest problems of our times. In order to do that, colleges and universities must better educate themselves and their students about where these challenges exist, and how a career can be built around tackling them.