The following material is an excerpt from a 1,200-word essay provided to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. We were asked to provide a scenario for higher education and graduates’ employment prospects for 10 years from now. The essay will be posted on the NACE Web site after its annual conference in June.

The year is 2017. Virtual worlds engage students early. Employers have established major installations in Second Life and other virtual worlds where the students can work for the employer any hour of the day or night at the organization’s office or hospital. The students love the reality of the game and the employers enjoy being able to “teach” the students their cultures — effortlessly.

Mentors play a substantial role in growth. Now, beginning in ninth grade, students are paired with full-time employees. When, after college graduation, a mentee chooses to come to work for the employer, the mentor receives a substantial financial gift; most employers are paying $5,000 to $10,000, because the companies discovered long ago that these mentored young people have a better track record with their firms.

Colleges and universities have found efficiency in numbers. Ten years ago in 2007, we saw the beginning of this trend on the part of colleges and universities to work together to capitalize on advancing technologies and eliminate duplication of efforts.

At this point in time, they have created consortia in a variety of areas, from forming buying groups to holding career fairs, and even working on common projects, like building national databases of internships and other career resources.

Alumni play a greater role. College alumni working for large organizations converge on campus to recruit the best and the brightest beginning during the freshmen year. The goal is to attract top talent to work for their employers.

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Recruiting alumni will use personal music programming and pod casts, as well as other media (not yet invented in 2007) to win the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s students.

College-employer partnerships thrive. Employers sponsor summer programs for high school students and pay for college in an effort to win top talent. Students identified early, sometimes feel like they are riding magic carpets that allow them to explore their field(s) of interest, while receiving valuable guidance and financial support.

It’s not happening yet, but some employers are even discussing working with fifth-grade teachers to identify the most promising students and gain a competitive edge.

From The Herman Trend Alert, by Joyce Gioia-Herman, strategic business futurist.