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  • Case Study: A Question of Equitable Access to Internship/Employment Opportunities

    Organizational Structure
    A young man takes an assessment on his laptop.

    TAGS: diversity and inclusion, case study, ethics, principles

    Summary

    This case study illustrates key issues that career centers often face: 1) providing students with equitable access to services: Students may have obligations that hamper their ability to use career center services during “normal” hours; 2) working with employers to break down barriers to access opportunities: This includes discussion of student schedules and obligations as well as technology-related issues.

    The Case

    Scenario: Jamere is a first-generation commuter student who identifies as Black and is attending a predominantly white institution (PWI). His major is computer science, and he is currently in his junior year. Jamere works a 20-hour-per-week part-time job. As a rising senior, he is looking forward to applying for a summer internship with a leading technology company in hopes that it will well-position him to secure a full-time position in the highly competitive industry upon graduation.

    There is excitement on campus among the students as well as the career center staff. After being sought after by the career center director (CCD) for the past three recruiting cycles, Premier Technology Company is finally recruiting on campus. To kick off the process, the company is holding an information session for students. The session will be held virtually but in real time and is scheduled for an evening during the week. The session will provide interested students insight and details on the application process.

    Jamere flagged the company on his career services management (CSM) system profile. He purposely flagged the company so that he would receive immediate notifications and updates. As soon as Jamere received the announcement of the information session, he sent an email to the CCD informing him that he could not attend the information session due to a work conflict. Because of his school and work schedules as well as family responsibilities, Jamere asks to meet with a career counselor, outside of normal business hours, for assistance with navigating the application process. Jamere also mentions in the email that it is essential for him to work because his family depends on his income for financial support. He further specifies that his income pays for the internet access that he and his younger siblings need for remote learning. Jamere additionally notes his family can only afford a low-quality internet package.

    Upon receiving Jamere’s email, the CCD checks the schedule of the career counselors and ascertains that all of them are booked until after Premier Technology Company’s application deadline. Considering the level of interest expressed by students in this company and the volume of appointment requests received, the CCD is reluctant to take special measures, such as meeting with Jamere himself during non-business hours, to accommodate Jamere’s request. In his response to Jamere, the CCD suggests that Jamere contact the company representative directly. After advising Jamere to contact the company representative, the CCD moved on to assist other students. The CCD did not encourage Jamere to get back in touch if he encountered problems with connecting with the company representative or any other difficulties in completing the application process; rather, the CCD assumed that Jamere’s issue was resolved.

    Although Jamere made attempts to follow through with the company representative, he was unable to connect due to school, work, and family obligations. Their schedules never meshed. In order not to miss the application deadline, Jamere decided to take the AI-powered coding assessment, which is the first step in the application process, on his own. While taking the assessment at home, the spotty internet service caused lag time and delays in his responses and, in some instances, timed out, generating an incomplete assessment. This resulted in Jamere not moving on to the interview round and therefore missing out the opportunity to acquire a critical internship the summer before graduation.

    Questions:

    • What steps should the CCD be taking to proactively address the unique needs of diverse populations, especially during situations like the pandemic of 2020-2021?
    • What steps should the CCD be taking in response to individual situations and unique challenges that arise due to expected or unexpected circumstances?
    • What is the responsibility of the CCD to be in touch with company representatives should unique challenges arise? How and when can those expectations be reasonably set?
    • What is the responsibility of the student to navigate their individual situations and unique challenges? How should the CCD counsel students on making tough decisions when necessary?
    • What are reasonable expectations of the CCD, company representatives, and the student in this particular narrative? How and where could clearer communication have been helpful?
    • What were reasonable and unreasonable assumptions made by the CCD, the student, and the tech company?
    • What was the underlying concern for the CCD’s reluctance to accommodate the student’s request and were there alternative options considered? Does the Career Center have existing alternative scheduling and support available for students?

    Principles That Apply:

    • Principle 1: Practice reasonable, responsible, and transparent behavior that guarantees equitable services to all constituencies.
    • Principle 2: Act without bias when advising, servicing, interviewing, or making employment decisions.
    • Principle 3: Ensure equitable access without stipulation or exception relative to contributions of financial support, gifts, affiliation, or in-kind services, and by proactively addressing inclusivity and diversity.

    Options for Resolution:

    • Work to prevent future occurrences of access-related problems by developing a plan for addressing technical issues, scheduling conflicts, and other concerns that arise for students.
    • Create a playbook or FAQ for employers to support their recruiting efforts on campus. FAQs should address issues of equity and access. This may include discussion of technology-related barriers, such as inadequate internet access that can inhibit a student’s ability to complete an AI-based assessment, as well as other barriers, such as scheduling conflicts.
    • Develop an FAQ for students on additional tools for connecting with the career center and employers.
    • Have career center staff review or work collaboratively with the employer to plan the technology steps required as part of the application process; this can better position career center staff advise to students on the application process, requirements, and expectations.
    • Alert the company to the barriers and suggest simple accommodations, such as distributing a recording of the session and taking questions by email from students who cannot attend the session. The CCD can also work with the company to identify means for removing the barriers created through the AI-based assessment. The tech company may well have its own DEI goals and may not recognize the barriers that its hiring process creates.
    • Brainstorm other resources to offer the student, if additional staff time is not available. For instance, perhaps a campus computer lab could be open for longer hours even if the career center is closed.
    • Make a plan for preemptively addressing issues related to access to relevant technology. For example, stipulate that students check their home internet speed any time a visiting company is using an online assessment. If a student identifies a technology issue, the CCD should offer the student options to access and take the assessment.

    Other Considerations:

    • Preemptively account for barriers with attendance at the information session, consultation with the advisers, completion of the assessment, and ability to interview—and discuss what options may or may not be available.
    • Frame student challenges as potential barriers for diversity, equity, and inclusion to employers—provide insight and perspectives that may help them focus on dismantling those barriers.
    • Consider other situations that potentially privilege students who do not have life challenges that impact their chance to access opportunities.
    • Implement a system to track student requests; this will help to identify gaps in services offered, prevent students from “falling through the cracks,” and help ensure all students receive timely responses.
    • How does the career center embody NACE’s Principles for Ethical Professional Practice and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement in the way it provides services to students and employers? Is the career center on top of and knowledgeable about NACE’s Career Readiness Competencies and laying the groundwork necessary for students to build and enhance their competencies? Are students aware of these and empowered to use these in conversation with the center?

    Created by the 2020-21 Principles for Ethical Professional Practice Committee. Posted September 2021.

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