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Graduation caps fly, resumes are prepared, interviews are over, job openings are extended, and new colleagues offer admiration and respect as recent graduates successfully enter careers. Or, at least, that’s the hope of college students as they browse through their classes and dream of their future workplace. A national survey, however, paints a different picture.
According to Gallup data, only 13% of Americans consider college students to be ready for the job. Employers are skeptical of the qualifications and abilities represented by a bachelor’s degree.
When Northwestern University President Joseph L. Castleberry noticed the trend, he acted.
In 2020, Cassette assembled a team to reassess how the Assemblies of God school, based in Kirkland, Wash., taught practical skills that translated directly into the realm of work. He asked faculty members to reconsider how the school guides students to professional success.
Over the course of one semester, Castleberry and a strategic team of university leaders met with local business leaders, departmental leaders, administrators and recruiters from Amazon, Microsoft and other major companies in the region to find out how the titans of the industry could better prepare students. for the workplace. They analyzed the wishes of employers and conducted extensive research to identify solutions. From these conversations were born the innovations of Northwest Career Preparation Initiative (CRI), which launched in the fall semester of 2021.
Levi W. Davenport is the university’s director of career development and corporate relations and has helped lead the development of CRI.
âIn evaluating our course programs, we noticed that while we were teaching students skills that prepared them for the job, we were not doing a great job of documenting everything in a student’s degree,â says Davenport. “Our faculty teaches career-relevant courses, but that didn’t show up anywhere in a student’s diploma.”
James R. Heugel agrees. As Northwest Marshal, he sees the new initiative helping students begin preparing and documenting their professional skills earlier in their academic tenure. The revamped system allows them to start working toward specific career goals right from their first class on campus, according to Heugel.
The IRC is not an extension of Northwest’s curriculum, says Heugel, but rather a foundational component that is now built into the requirements of every student. Through the program, students have the opportunity to obtain certificates and professional skills. A student pursuing a degree in communications, for example, might take courses leading to an accompanying certificate in publishing or social media marketing. A student pursuing a degree in Biblical Studies with the intention of ministering abroad could obtain an additional certificate in Intercultural Competence. A student with business aspirations has the option of earning credits leading to a certificate in computer programming or basic finance. A total of 25 skills certificates are offered to students.
Davenport says the overarching goal of every new course element is to equip students with the tools they need to get a job and start with excellence.
âThis new program is designed to enable North West graduates to be successful from day one of their careers,â Davenport said. âWe get a liberal arts degree and make it quantifiable on a resume. “
In addition to certificates, Northwest’s curriculum is now designed to develop job skills through what the school calls skill groups. Professional skills require approximately six hours of work and additional research outside of the classroom. The skill groups range from interpersonal communication to professionalism to courage. Professional credit preparation courses are sponsored by in-house departments that teach basic business practices such as e-mail writing etiquette or business presentation. Heugel says these courses, along with the required internships and on-the-job shadowing, instill greater confidence in students throughout their studies.
âOften, students are faced with fear as they move from higher education to profession,” says Heugel. “This initiative ensures that graduates can graduate with confidence. They know they have skills. redeemable values ââthat prepare them for success.
Various regional trade leaders expressed support for the effort. This includes Michael Greene, vice president of operations at Highland Private Wealth Management, a financial planning firm based in Bellevue, Washington.
âCompanies like ours are built on trust, and the NU students we hired quickly gained our trust,â Greene writes on the school’s website. âPeople of integrity will always be in high demand, and when you combine character and tangible skills, they’re someone who can add value to any business. ”