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  • Embedding Career Readiness Components Into Program Curriculum

    March 09, 2016 | By NACE Staff

    Best Practices
    A group of recruiters smiling.

    TAGS: best practices, spotlight

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals

    At Miami Dade College, there is a collaborative focus among leadership, faculty, and staff to find innovative ways to ensure that new and existing academic programs are preparing students for the work force. The implementation of career readiness components into the college’s new supply chain management baccalaureate program is an example of the college’s commitment to work force readiness.

    “When program leadership and faculty are engaged in the process, it changes everything,” says Matthew Tanner, director of work force readiness and internship initiatives at Miami Dade College.

    Tanner explains that this engagement is especially important at Miami Dade College, where a majority of the school’s 165,000 students are balancing their academic load with full-time or part-time work and family responsibilities. Because of this, meeting students where they are becomes essential.

    “Having leadership and faculty on board for these types of initiatives allows for programs to be embedded into curriculum, and for work force training to take place right in the classroom,” Tanner says. “This ensures a consistent student audience, and as we move forward in the development of this training program, it allows the program to find innovative solutions to work force demands and employer requests for career preparedness from students and graduates.”

    The career readiness components Miami Dade College embedded into the supply chain curriculum include:

    • Strengths Quest—Students discussed their strengths and values, and how they align with their career goals. Participants also set long- and short-term goals.
    • Career Knowledge—Participants created a budget for the life they envisioned, then conducted labor market research to find trends in salary for their chosen field, in addition to the professional and educational requirements for them to reach their goals.
    • Winning Resume—Students were paired in groups, given the same job description, and asked to design a resume that focused on their collective skill set and fit for the role. Teams presented their pitches to a panel of students, who then hired the winning group.
    • LinkedIn Lab—Taking place in a computer lab, all students left this session with not only a LinkedIn profile, but the ability to network, make connections, research Miami Dade College alumni, and search for internships and jobs via the LinkedIn platform. A professional photographer was on hand to take and share profile pictures.
    • Nail the Interview—Participants went through speed mock interviews with various Miami Dade College staff members, followed by group reflection and discussion on preparing for and succeeding in a professional interview. This final session also featured a graduation ceremony with certificates of completion.

    During the fall 2015 semester, a cohort of 20 upper-division students was selected to participate in a pilot program. Pre- and post-surveys were administered during the first and final classes to measure program impact on their overall level of career preparedness. The results—listed below—show the strong advances these students made:

    Survey Question September 2015 December 2015
    Have you completed or secured an internship? 17% Yes 32% Yes
    Have you created a LinkedIn profile? 39% Yes 83% Yes
    Do you know what occupation you want to work in when you graduate? 59% Yes 74% Yes
    Are you confident that your resume will land you your dream job? 19% Yes 68% Yes
    Do you have an Optimal Resume profile? 13% Yes 63% Yes
    Have you found a mentor in your career field? 25% Yes 47% Yes

    “We were certainly pleased with the success and tremendous gains that we saw students make through the pilot program assessments,” Tanner says. “One way we act upon this positive momentum is by sharing the results. This is a program that we would like to adapt to the needs of multiple programs here at the college, so sharing the success of the program to begin next-level conversations is vital.”

    He adds that in the college’s continued engagement with employers, documenting an embedded career development program helps Miami Dade College secure partnerships, open up more internship opportunities, and market the quality and readiness of Miami Dade College students for current and future work force needs.

    “As the program adapts and expands, so too does the need to ensure that we are correctly and accurately assessing the program,” Tanner notes. “Incorporating employer, student, and faculty feedback, and working closely with our Office of Institutional Research will help us do so.”

    Aligning career development topics that are directly sourced from employer and industry needs enables the program to then, in turn, design all coursework to have embedded career development components, Tanner says.

    “This helps us ensure that students are graduating from the program with a diverse skill set, and the confidence and competence to enter and succeed in a competitive job market,” he continues.

    As more institutions of higher education across the country are being assessed and evaluated on their ability to prepare their students and graduates for the work force—in combination with increasing employer demand for colleges and universities to close the skills gap—collaboration becomes even more essential, Tanner says.

    “The traditional career services workshop calendar and co-curricular training alone are not moving the needle enough, especially at a college the size of Miami Dade College,” he notes. “Innovation, collaboration, embedded programming, and training that aligns directly with employer needs are the focus of our Workforce Education & Partnerships department.”

    For those considering developing a similar career readiness program, Tanner stresses the importance of bringing data and relevance to the conversation when seeking collaboration from program leadership and faculty.

    “Local, state and national labor market information is readily available, and NACE’s Career Readiness Competencies provide a wonderful framework on which to build the foundation of your program,” he says.

    Tanner also recommends:

    • Serving the career development program in bite-sized sessions—This makes it easier to adapt and embed when spread out across an entire semester.
    • Incorporating the faculty voice and buy-in—Don’t simply request permission for class time, but involve faculty from the beginning planning stages on how best to sequence training, select topics, and identify areas of need based on their interactions with students.

    For more information about Miami Dade College’s efforts to implement career readiness components into its new supply chain baccalaureate program, click here.