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  • Required Career Development Program Targets Skills Gaps

    May 03, 2017 | By NACE Staff

    Organizational Structure
    College students think about their career paths.

    TAGS: best practices, operations, program development, nace insights, students

    Spotlight for Career Services Professionals

    During the strategic planning process for Kennesaw State University’s (KSU) Coles College of Business in 2011-12, data collected on current students and alumni revealed some areas of concern.

    Just 39 percent of the college’s undergraduates reported attaining positions in their career of choice, and alumni cited a lack of career preparation and professional polish. Although all undergraduate business students are required to register with the career services office, only 10 percent had used its programs and services. In addition, fewer than 20 percent of students had an internship, and most students were completing three to five courses beyond what was needed for graduation because of changes in their major and uncertainty about their career direction.

    In response to these data, new dean Kathy Schwaig identified career development as an area of concentration in the strategic plan. The resulting aggressive approach led the Coles College of Business to build and launch the Hughes Leadership and Career Program in 2014.

    The Hughes Leadership and Career Program is committed to guiding students through the career development process in a student-centric approach. A dedicated team of industry professionals provide career coaching embedded in a career development curriculum series of three non-credit courses.

    “One of the aspects that makes our program unique is that it spans multiple semesters across multiple years,” Linda Malgeri, executive director of the Hughes Leadership and Career Program. “We view this development experience as a continuum.”

    The program—a requirement for all Coles College of Business students—addresses also areas where employers indicated students’ skills are lacking, such as written and verbal communication skills, initiative, and research/analytical skills. The vision for the program is that every graduate of the Coles College undergraduate professional program will be successful in his or her career of choice.

    “Even though this program is run through the Coles College of Business, the courses actually start before students are accepted into the college,” Malgeri says. “We wanted students to think about what they want to study and pursue as a career, and pick their majors based on that. Many had previously reported that they picked their majors based on anecdotal information from friends or parents, and couldn’t articulate what to do with it. This whole process makes them start researching majors before committing to a course of study.”

    The Hughes Leadership and Career Program’s courses include:

    • Developing My Major and Career—This course is the starting point during students’ sophomore year. Students have not yet been admitted to the Coles College of Business, and must conduct research and articulate why they want a degree in a specific business discipline. In this course, students are exploring and expressing their findings, while enhancing their oral and written communication skills.
    • Developing My Career Essentials—Taken after students have been admitted to the college of business in their junior year, students complete the Gallup StrengthsFinder Assessment. Students start thinking about their talents, and how they can use and build on these talents in their careers. They complete resumes directed to specific positions and build on their own skills. This is timely as students are encouraged to attend career fairs and apply for internships. They also select electives in their course work.
    • Driving My Success—The final course is typically taken two semesters before graduation. During this course, students develop their tactical career plans and a process for attaining their career of choice. This course is important for students to prepare for on-campus recruiting.

    Through the program, there are no standard class meetings. Students work in a self-paced environment and submit assignments to their career coach via an online delivery platform.

    “Students must be focused, and stay abreast of requirements and due dates,” says Priscilla Hollman, assistant director and management career coach, Hughes Leadership and Career Program.

    An important component of the program is the relationship that develops between the student and the career coach. Despite participation in the program escalating to 1,037 students this spring, there are 11 career coaches. But these coaches—who must apply for the position—are well-seasoned professionals who have an average of 20 years of “real world” industry experience.

    “Students select their career coach based on their expected major, and from sophomore to senior years, they work with that one coach,” Hollman points out.

    In each of the three courses, students complete written and oral assessments. The program also has a writing coach who reviews each written assignment before the career coach reviews it. In addition, students complete multiple oral presentations, during which they use a webcam to record a presentation. Students then grade their own work based on a rubric, and are given the opportunity to re-record before submitting to their career coaches.

    “Each course in the program requires students to develop individual content,” Malgeri explains. “There are no exact answers or textbooks to reference. Students must research current trends in the job market, and align their skills and goals with a direction they want to pursue.”

    Because the Hughes Leadership and Career Program started in fall 2014 and KSU’s Coles College of Business is just starting to have students who completed the entire program graduate, data about the program’s true impact are not yet available.

    However, Malgeri and Hollman say faculty have indicated to them that students who are participating in the program are more aware of the importance of written and oral communication skills in upper-level courses.

    “In addition, our internship enrollment is up 10 percent as our students continue to be represented in many of the major global corporations in Atlanta,” Malgeri adds.

    Malgeri has spoken about the Hughes Leadership and Career Program at faculty meetings and conferences, and there has been interest in modeling it for other KSU colleges.

    For their colleagues considering a similar career development program, Malgeri and Hollman offer the following tips:  

    • Develop a program that can be tailored for each college and/or major.
    • Be sure to gain administrative support.
    • Involve faculty as much as possible to gain their support and have them work with students as career coaches.
    • Be proactive in the business community for support as companies will financially support this program.
    • Determine at the beginning if it is possible to make this a graduation requirement at your institution. There are usually regulations surrounding this.
    • Know the resources you have on your campus that can assist in the development of this program.
    • Be sure you have the resources for a successful launch and to make the program sustainable.
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