Helping Community College Graduates Find Jobs

In today’s competitive job market, it is imperative that graduates entering the workplace are prepared to tackle the challenges of real-world productivity and the ever-increasing demand for the exchange of vital – and accurate – information in our global village.

The onus of ensuring that graduates meet the “litmus test” for performing competitively in the workplace has fallen upon institutions of higher learning, including community colleges across the nation.

Indeed, it appears that several institutions have taken up the gauntlet and implemented pro-active strategies in marketing students to prospective employers.

According to Del Vaughan, director of Sinclair Community College’s Career Planning and Placement Center in Dayton, Ohio, more than 87 percent of employers responded to the continued effectiveness of the school’s computerized Mini-Resume Book, initially developed during the fall quarter, 1974.

“The book was developed from several discussions with local employers who expressed interest in identifying skills and competencies of graduates available for immediate employment,” Vaughan says. “Over the years, the Career Planning and Placement Center refined the Mini-Resume Book to include an evaluation of employment services. Employers indicated that the Mini-Resume Book was one of the primary strategies they used in their hiring decisions. One of the biggest challenges in marketing graduates through this medium, is getting quick feedback from employers on Sinclair hires, as employers will contact us four to six months after using the Mini-Resume Book. Computer literacy, problem solving, and working in a team environment continue to be the major skills employers are seeking.”

Gary Honnert, director of public information at Sinclair, notes that mini-resumes of more than 200 graduates were mailed to 500 employers in Miami Valley, Ohio and across the nation.

All technology areas are represented in the Mini-Resume Book, as well as practically every Sinclair major. “The 121-page book provides employers quick access to the credentials of qualified graduates who can support their human resource needs,” Honnert says.

According to Dave Abney II, President of Wise Construction in Dayton, the Mini-Resume Book is free to employers, and is just one of many services Sinclair provides. “The book is an excellent recruiting tool,” Abney says. “It is well structured, and includes qualified Sinclair graduates representing more than 50 different career fields. Sinclair’s placement service offers several advantages to its users. First, it provides a quick match of an employer’s job specifications with qualified candidates, and it offers direct and immediate contact with the candidates. Also, it can be developed into a mini-resume, as demonstrated by the book.”

The Mini-Resume Book is organized into six career headings: Allied Health Technologies, Extended Learning & Human Services, Liberal Arts & Sciences, Business Technologies, Fine & Performing Arts, and Engineering & Industrial Technologies.

The six headings are also subdivided into more than 30 career fields and indexed by academic major.

Although the Mini-Resume Book is mailed to a large number of area employers, others may obtain a copy of the book by sending a letter on company or government letterhead to: Mini-Resume Book, Career Planning & Placement Center, Sinclair Community College, 444 W. Third Street, Dayton, OH 45402-1460. You may also call Sinclair at 937-512-2772.

Kirkwood Community College in Iowa has tapped into creative ways to market students to employers, according to Steve Ovel of the institution’s Government Relations Department.

“The most relevant way in which we are marketing our students to potential employers is by developing programs with consortiums of related employers, and involving them in the design and delivery of the programs,” Ovel says. “In many cases, employers are committing to hiring graduates of the programs through formal contractual agreements. Iowa’s community colleges worked with the Iowa Legislature in 1999 to develop a new program called the Accelerated Career Education (ACE) program, which is designed to do exactly that.”

Kirkwood has now implemented 15 new credit diploma or degree ACE programs in which participating employers have committed to interview, provide hiring preferences, and in many cases, offer full-time job positions to successful graduates.

The institution’s ACE programs lead toward a one-year diploma or two-year Associate of Applied Sciences degree.

These new college-credit programs incorporate the successful characteristics of customized job training programs.

Sponsoring employers help formulate the curricula and ensure that the programs are responsive to employers’ and students’ needs. Kirkwood faculty and other industry experts provide instruction.

The state, employer match, and student tuition, fund ACE programs established by Kirkwood. The state contributes by allowing sponsoring employers to divert a portion of their employee state income tax withholding from their aggregate withholding payments.

State grant funds are also available to qualifying ACE program students for use toward tuition, travel, room, board, and childcare.

State funds have also been appropriated to assist in the construction of new facilities to support ACE programs. The ACE programs entail formal partnerships between Kirkwood and area employers. Benefits to sponsoring employer partners include increased skilled labor pool resulting from new or expanded programs and community visibility through inclusion.

Benefits to Kirkwood include increased enrollment in high-demand technical and career education programs and enhanced student success and placement. You may contact Ovel at 319-398-5466.

Capital Community College in Connecticut, which is one of 12 community colleges in the state, has also turned to creative ways to market students to prospective employers.

Capital has the most ethnically and chronologically diverse population of the 12 colleges.

The majority of students are female, and the institution has a large number of single mothers. Most of its students are non-traditional with regard to age as well. There is a high level of poverty in the community and most of the students are first generation students.

“We bring students and employers together largely through our databank,” says Linda Domenitz, Capital’s Director of Career Development & Placement. “We have a databank of employment through a software program known as BrassRing or Econnect and you can find at our web page for Career Development & Placement. Employers call in, e-mail, fax and mail employment opportunities to the college, and they are placed on our web page, and stay current for 30 days. Employers also recruit on campus in the cafeteria during the busy lunch hour during the fall and spring semesters. We hold two career fairs each year with roughly 40 to 50 employers on site.”

The career fairs are sponsored by the department and the Pre-Professional Club, which Domenitz advises. Employers are charged admission and the fees are used to cover career fair expenses, and to develop a fund for the Pre-Professional Club.

The club is able to use the funds for materials, speakers, special events and so forth. Domenitz has to market the web page to students and faculty in order to keep their attention focused on it as a source of employment information.

Students are also able to place their resumes online from home or anywhere with an Internet connection. More career counseling and resume editing is taking place through e-mail than ever before.

It’s especially helpful for single mothers who have multiple tasks to manage on a daily basis, and lack transportation, according to Domenitz.

Domenitz has considered approaching industry about having various businesses contribute to the college for the hiring of a job developer. This would enable the college to be more systematic about placement and follow up and help increase successful placements.

Since businesses spend a lot of money on advertising, Domenitz reasons, they could allocate their advertising budget to a line item that would include contribution toward salary for staff.

She notes that the college is not certain at this point if the concept is feasible. As far as Domenitz knows, this would be an innovative practice in a college setting – private or public. This model would have some of the characteristics of a private placement agency without the fee structure.

“One of the greatest challenges in this setting is making employment information known to students on a regular basis,” Domenitz says. “This community college is much like a revolving door. Students don’t necessarily stay the course for consecutive years. Often, they attend, leave, return, leave, etc. In one case, a student took as much as 20 years to complete his Associates degree. One can never assume that a student body knows where to go for assistance.”

The public relations and marketing processes are on going, according to Domenitz. The usual posters and postings are ineffective in getting attention, because students are overloaded with this kind of information.

Students do not tune in to these forms of advertising. The faculty cannot be relied upon to assist, because their time with students is tight, and they are most concerned about covering their own material in the time they have.

“Accordingly, it is rare that the college can bring students up to speed concerning services through classroom visits or classroom announcements by faculty,” Domenitz says. “It is difficult to keep accurate records of employment placements since most employers and students do not regularly report back to our office. If we had full-time staffing, we could be in touch with employers on a regular basis, to conduct status checks and to connect the dots.”

With the BrassRing software, Domenitz can keep better records of student applicants, employers, and the types of positions that the workforce is seeking to fill.

But actual success at placements remains largely unknown. For more information, you may contact Domenitz at 860-520-7832.

George Furukawa is a freelance writer based in Hawaii. His articles have appeared in numerous publications including U.S. News, Community College Times, Aviation Career, IT Recruiter, and University Business.

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