Connecting Students to Careers

Through a strange coincidence, I will be delivering several keynotes, sessions, and even a panel over the next two weeks, attending two unique events in Canada. On completely opposite sides of the country, I will be speaking at the ACE conference in British Columbia, followed by the Pearson Digital Learning Summit in Ontario.

But as so many coincidences seem to come in threes, another Canadian story caught my attention this week, providing some nice examples for my talks. Ryerson University (Ontario) has launched a platform by which to connect students with employers. By connecting more than 100 different campus-based centres, they are creating a net to provide (and collect) apprenticeships, co-ops, internships, entrepreneurship, service learning, applied research, work terms in academic programs, mandatory professional practicum/clinical placements, field placements, summer and part-time jobs.

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While it is frustrating that in 2019 these kinds of examples might be considered “lighthouse” concepts, they are a welcome story amidst headlines of higher education’s struggles. As this blog (and many more articles suggest), higher education does indeed struggle with teaching and learning. But likewise, higher education struggles with job placement. So, this is the kind of innovative initiative that may start to change all that.

It reminds me of Northeastern’s exceptional career development department, which the Princeton Review regularly names as a top 3, if not #1 outright. With over 250 programs available to guide students through developing their “VIPS” (values, interests, personality, and skills), more than 3,000 employers are constantly searching Northeastern networking sites for strong employees. Back in 2014 alone, the department listed around 1,800 new job openings. Seeing regular internships for students (both domestic and abroad), the school does an incredible job getting potential employees in front of employers not only for real-world experience, but for networking.

I think back to my eCollege days when working with North Dakota State College of Science for yet another great example of blending education and career. NDSCS has educated and trained a strong workforce of students and alumni, reporting an employment placement rate of 98%! Most students take two career courses, educating them on life in the job market, and work (for pay) part-time, or full-time, giving them experience in their field, the potential for full-time employment after graduation, and about as strong an education as one can muster.

There are a handful of others doing great placement work as well. From Syracuse’s near 100% placement rate to Dickinson (also in North Dakota) using Hawk4Hire to see a similar number of graduates employed within 6 months, there are some truly great programs helping students realize the potential of a higher education degree.

And with the enrollment scandals helping shine a light on the unnecessary focus on “bumper sticker” universities, many of these schools with amazing career placement are not only attainable, but much cheaper. Ignoring Stanford or Yale or Harvard, yet seeing the same amount of pay (and even higher) when attending schools that don’t just tell the world they are great, but back it up through career connection practices, is what every student should be after. From Colorado School of Mines to Paul Quinn College to the mighty MSU, there are some fantastic, (relatively) inexpensive choices out there that can yield a tremendous career out of the gate.

So, as summer is upon us and graduates are walking the aisles, I hope you can use this summer to catch up on some reading, get re-invigorated, but also consider ways to bolster that post-college experience for your students. At the end of the day, that is all many of them really care about.

Good luck and good learning.