January 10, 2022 | By Kevin Gray
TAGS: best practices, diversity and inclusion, career readiness, nace insights, career development
Spotlight for Career Services Professionals
Spotlight for Recruiting Professionals
The UNCF® Career Pathways Initiative (CPI) is a unique program designed to help select historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and predominantly Black institutions (PBIs) enhance the career readiness of their enrolled students. This competitive grant was made possible through funding from the Lilly Endowment Inc.
Among the 24 institutions selected, the UNCF awarded a $6 million grant to the Carolina Cluster, a consortium of three South Carolina HBCUs: Claflin University ($3.3 million), Benedict College ($1.5 million), and Voorhees College ($1.2 million). A portion of the Claflin University grant ($1.8 million) operates a jointly established state coordinating office (State Office) to support and monitor the cluster-related activities of the awarded institutions.
The Carolina Cluster’s grant proposal reflects a commitment to:
“As part of CPI, the selected institutions developed a range of academic programs, student internships, industry partnerships, specialty certifications, and faculty development as they forged a new model for career readiness and designed and implemented programs to improve employment outcomes for graduates,” says Cathy Scarborough Franklin, executive director of the Carolina Cluster CPI Program.
“The Carolina Cluster is geographically situated to take advantage of statewide, regional, and national economic growth, such that Cluster’s students are job-ready upon graduation in this exceptionally competitive job market.”
Valeria Green, experiential learning director, says the member institutions’ similar missions, student populations, and proximity allows the Carolina Cluster to more efficiently and effectively leverage the resources of each institution to ensure that students are positioned to take advantage of the economic opportunities in South Carolina.
“Our ongoing charge is to integrate sustainable practices that improve how our academic departments and educational support units provide intentional and sustainable pathways to build 21st-century competencies, and how our graduates find and engage in meaningful employment in their desired career fields,” she says.
The Carolina Cluster uses the UNCF CPI’s three-pronged approach, which is designed to develop new and innovative methods to help students achieve success. This facilitates an increased number of students graduating in four years or less, with a reduced number of excess credits, and with 21st-century workforce skills employers in high-growth, high-paying industries in the Carolinas seek.
The three-pronged approach involves:
A consultant from Eduvators LLC, Marcy Drummond, worked with Carolina Cluster members’ faculty to establish pathways for their programs of study during a two-year period. In turn, faculty members partnered with Drummond to begin the process of:
To engage employers, the Carolina Cluster established an executive advisory council (EAC) of more than 40 senior leaders from both the private and public sectors.
“The purpose of the council is to promote engagement between Carolina Cluster institutions and senior-level business and industry leaders of national, regional, and local employers,” Franklin says.
“These strategic relationships provide the Carolina Cluster members with a sounding board and with insights into employers’ workforce needs.”
The goals of the EAC are to deepen relationships between employers and Carolina Cluster member institutions, enhance members’ student preparation to help them enter into and succeed in the workforce, and have members’ students become the “obvious choice” for its employer partners.
“Our employer partners’ insights are used to direct future curricular decisions, with the goal to improve the professional readiness of Cluster members’ students,” Green adds.
Specifically, the EAC’s mandate is to support curriculum and program development by:
The Carolina Cluster also engages faculty and staff through its collaborative professional development programs, which are designed to invest in the Carolina Cluster’s faculty and staff capacity and capabilities to allow for more effective implementation of the CPI programs. Several of the professional development programs the Carolina Cluster has held are also available to partnering institutions.
In addition, the Carolina Cluster hosts collaborative student professional development, recruiting, and interviewing programs.
Green says the goal stated by the Carolina Cluster in its UNCF grant application was that, “The Cluster’s Regional Career Fair is a trailblazing initiative that to date has been the largest regional diversity recruiting event in the State of South Carolina sponsored jointly by HBCUs.”
The Carolina HBCU Career Talent Showcase includes students and alumni from the Cluster and invited students and faculty from other HBCUs in South Carolina, North Carolina, and East Central Georgia.
“By offering this joint career fair,” Green notes, “we have continued to experience a 15-20% increase in the number of participating employers and graduate and professional schools with a larger population of undergraduate students. The Cluster’s State Office works with the career development center at each site to advertise the Showcase, prepare and engage participating institutions, and recruit employers to the Showcase.”
Additionally, the State Office hosts the Carolina HBCU Professional Development Conference, which occurs at least 30 days before the Carolina HBCU Career Talent Showcase.
“This [conference] provides leadership panel discussions, professional development training, graduate and professional school admissions readiness, and resources inclusive of students and recent graduates of their programs,” Franklin notes.
Green adds that, “In addition, one-on-one support is provided for resume reviews, mock interviews, LinkedIn profile reviews, and effective networking techniques. Sessions are led by senior leaders of participating organizations and sponsors of the Carolina HBCU Career Talent Showcase, inclusive of the Cluster’s Executive Advisory Council.”
More than 450 organizations have participated in the Annual Carolina HBCU Career Talent Showcase during the past three years, with more than 3,500 students, alumni, faculty, and leaders from represented institutions. This regional diversity recruiting event provides students at and recent graduates of HBCUs with opportunities to partner with organizations seeking talent for their internships, co-ops, full-time and part-time positions, undergraduate research programs, graduate programs, and professional schools. These events also include opportunities for students, alumni, faculty, and administrators with a venue to network with recruiters that host information sessions and conduct interviews.
There are several key reasons for the Carolina Cluster’s effectiveness.
“The structure of the Carolina Cluster is very important,” Franklin explains.
“All members have an equal voice. We make decisions together. We also have a forum to discuss everyone’s concerns. The State Office pulls everything together and has separate funding to achieve combined goals. We have quarterly Steering Committee meetings, and the provost of each institution is required to come because we want decision-makers to be in the room.”
The Carolina Cluster also realizes economies of scale by not repeating professional development and career-related events.
Franklin and Green offer suggestions for other professionals looking to create a collaborative effort like the Carolina Cluster, such as:
“We also share the wins,” Franklin adds.
“Success earned is directed to each Cluster member institution’s team. In essence, collaborative successes are counted as a win by each institution.”
Learn more about NACE’s HBCU Summit and the Carolina Cluster.
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