December 07, 2016 | By NACE Staff
TAGS: internships, nace insights
Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
The University of Arizona is a land-grant institution dedicated to serving the needs of the state. However, with nearly 29 percent of the students hailing from out-of-state and many graduates seeking employment in larger cities, the challenge of keeping talent local is daunting, according to Eileen McGarry.
McGarry, executive director of employer and community relations at the University of Arizona, adds that maintaining strong employment pipelines has also been difficult given the economic downturn, which has limited both experiential learning and long-term employment opportunities for students.
“Developing the professional skills and experiences needed to be successful in this competitive economic climate is imperative for underclassmen who now must bring additional skills to the entry-level work force,” she says.
Through a partnership with the State of Arizona through the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development, the University of Arizona’s Institute for Career Readiness and Engagement (ICRE) takes an innovative approach to solving this imposing challenge.
“Our aim is to increase internship opportunities within the state while simultaneously preparing underclassmen to fill these roles,” McGarry explains. “Using a three-pronged approach, ICRE has developed and executed effective programming.”
This approach includes:
“The overarching goal of the Institute’s three programming components is to better equip students with the skills they need to successfully find and complete professional internships,” McGarry says.
McGarry reports that overall program outcomes have been very promising and have generated an institutional commitment to maintaining student programming beyond the current funding provided by the Governor’s Workforce Grant and increased internship opportunities by 35 percent.
In the Edge Program, 100 percent of students self-reported an increase in their confidence related to all skills measured, with the top five largest gains related to:
On average, gains in confidence went from a “3.0” to “4.0” on a 5-point Likert scale with “5” representing the most confidence.
“While a review of expectations indicated students participated in Edge for a variety of reasons, 89 percent of students indicated interest in applying for internships, compared to 28 percent in the initial pre-assessment,” associate director Mary Frances Kuper says, adding that Employer Treks garnered similarly positive outcomes when analyzing post-event surveys.
Employer Treks serve students from 55 majors, with 94 percent of students indicating that they gained more knowledge about careers in the highlighted field. In terms of satisfaction, 95 percent of students would recommend attending an employer trek to a friend. Once again, 100 percent of students reported an increase across each area with the exception of motivation to pursue a career in the field or with a specific company.
“This outcome isn’t surprising given the exploratory nature of these tours,” McGarry notes.
Outcomes for the Peer Internship program indicated that peer interns saw more than 650 students during walk-in hours, fielding questions and providing early career guidance related to resumes, job searching, and graduate school exploration.
In the first two years of the grant, employer outreach efforts helped grow internship postings in the Wildcat JobLink site by 35 percent. The majority of that growth was from companies in Arizona.
“Building internship capacity for our students in Arizona is a challenging and ongoing process as internships take an investment on the part of small businesses and mid-size companies with limited capacity,” McGarry explains. “A majority of companies in Tucson and many in Phoenix fit these categories. Yet, as we all know, small business is where the largest job growth is nationally.”
That said, the institute has helped the university create more exposure to Arizona businesses and has helped it align with community leaders who are passionate about talent acquisition issues in the state and want to lend their support to its efforts. Two recent examples include:
“This all came to us because we were well aligned with the university’s strategic plan and a major institutional initiative promoting that every student can gain real-world, hands-on experience in their chosen field before they graduate,” McGarry says.
With that in mind, she offers several tips for career centers looking to offer a program similar to the ICRE’s three-pronged approach:
“The Institute of Career Readiness and Engagement has become a valuable conduit of the university’s unique 100 percent engagement initiative to fulfill a commitment to applied learning and career readiness while building the talent pipelines to keep more talent in Arizona,” McGarry says.
“Through its strategic outreach to Arizona employers to develop internship capacity, its community partnership efforts to expose UA students to ‘best in class’ Arizona workplaces, and expanded career readiness programming, the institute has paved the way to fuel the growth of our local economy while enhancing student career success.”
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