“Career Services” Must Die: A Roadmap for Transforming the College-To-Career Experience

Released: 15-May-2013 7:00 AM EDT
Source Newsroom: Wake Forest University
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Katie Neal, 336-758-6141, nealkc@wfu.edu

Newswise — (Winston-Salem, N.C. – May 15, 2013) – The traditional, outdated concept of “career services” must die before higher education can truly transform how it prepares college students for today’s workforce, according to a new report issued by Wake Forest University.

“A Roadmap for Transforming the College-To-Career Experience” outlines a seven-step process to help colleges and universities of all sizes and resources rethink the way they prepare students for the world of work.

This crowdsourced paper, which includes input from 20 innovators in higher education and business, also profiles and shares insights from some of the country’s leading personal and career development models in higher education.

Building upon the ideas of national thought leaders representing the professional world and from 74 premier colleges and universities, the report captures feedback from a 2012 conference hosted by Wake Forest. “Rethinking Success: From the Liberal Arts to Careers in the 21st Century” examined issues related to the value of a liberal arts education and employment today. It also helped catalyze a national movement with a clear takeaway and an urgent call-to-action.

“Career preparedness is not a talking point for graduation season only. Higher education as a whole must do more to prioritize personal and career development as a four-year long, mission-critical component of the college experience,” said Wake Forest’s Vice President for Personal and Career Development Andy Chan, the first-ever cabinet-level career development professional in the country. “If today’s workforce has changed so dramatically, shouldn’t the way we prepare students be transformed as well?”

“To achieve a life of meaning and purpose, students need to be employable for life, not just employable immediately after graduation. We cannot afford to wait any longer to change how we prepare them, and our students cannot afford for us to wait either,” he said.

Rethinking personal and professional success for students

According to the National Association for Colleges and Employers, schools have slashed career office budgets by an average of 16 percent in the past year while students and parents are demanding more career development support by colleges and universities as tuition prices steadily rise.

Though many schools – from large public research universities to traditional liberal arts colleges – face real resource constraint issues, they cannot be an excuse for not providing the necessary career support for every student, said Chan. He outlines seven key steps institutions of all types should take to successfully enable and implement transformational change in the area of personal and career development.

1. Develop a bold vision and mission for Personal and Career Development.
2. Secure backing from institutional leadership.
3. Strategically position the personal and career development leadership role.
4. Strategically transform, build and align personal and career development organization and staff.
5. Gather and report personal and career development outcome data to all constituents.
6. Engage and equip a College-to-Career community of influencers with a focus on faculty and parents.
7. Implement programs so that personal and career development is a mission critical component of a student’s college experience.

“Unless we can demonstrate to current and prospective students and their families that the four years spent at college will result in real employment prospects, there will continue to be those who disparage a college education as a waste of time and money,” Chan said.

Investing in personal and career development pays off

Though efforts to redefine personal and career development are in their relative infancy, the crowdsourced paper highlights several case studies of colleges and universities leading the way, in keeping with the roadmap.

•Hampden-Sydney College – President Chris Howard has taken bold steps to help prepare Hampden-Sydney students, including renaming the office formerly known as “career services” as “Career Education and Vocational Reflection.” Similarly, he re-envisioned and elevated director Rucker Snead’s title and role to Associate Dean. In many ways, Hampden-Sydney has successfully adjusted the question posed to students from “What do you want to do?” to “Who are you and what are your interests?” These efforts reinforce an important shift in how students view their education’s connection to the world of work.

•University of Chicago – Under the direction of Meredith Daw, Assistant Vice President and the Executive Director of the Career Advancement office, the University of Chicago’s holistic approach includes eight pre-professional tracks designed to complement the liberal arts experience in business, law, journalism, health professions, science and technology, the arts, education professions, and public and social service. These tracks are run by program directors who have extensive work experience in those industries. Due to this structure, more than 80 percent of the staff in the Career Advancement office have experience outside of higher education, allowing for increased credibility with students and stronger relationships with employers in those respective fields.

•Wake Forest University – President Nathan Hatch envisioned an undergraduate experience that gave students not only an academic education, but also a career education that teaches them about themselves and their options in the world of work. Since 2009, Chan has built an innovative, resourceful College-to-Career community designed to intentionally prepare students in a comprehensive way, starting with their first days on campus. In three years, Wake Forest has raised more than $10 million to invest in personal and career development, and the results are paying off. Of the Class of 2012, 95 percent reported being employed or graduate school just six months out of college (compared to a 66 percent nationally).

The full report and roadmap are available at http://opcd.wfu.edu.

About Wake Forest University
Wake Forest University combines the best traditions of a small liberal arts college with the resources of a large research university. Founded in 1834, the school is located in Winston-Salem, N.C. The University’s graduate school of arts and sciences, divinity school, and nationally ranked schools of law, medicine and business enrich our intellectual environment. Learn more about Wake Forest University at www.wfu.edu.


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