The Educational Model towards Career Direction in the Marketplace

The Educational Model towards Career Direction in the Marketplace

College graduates often leave university with the hope of securing a well-paying job in their chosen discipline, following graduation. However, research shows that many new graduates, particularly those with Bachelor’s degrees, struggle to find suitable employment.[1] Studies have also shown that prior to graduation, students have challenges in making informed career choices, mainly due to the lack of information on career paths and opportunities in various industries.[2] Without access to real world work experience, college students, as new graduates, face unemployment or underemployment, and must tackle the barriers which hinder them from securing long-term, paid employment.

What are employers looking for? 
Soft skills which enable the student to adapt and flourish in industry, are viewed to be as equally valuable as technical skills. [3,4] Therefore employability is more than having the necessary academic qualifications and much more than transferability of skills, from the employer perspective.[5] The new graduate that will stand out during the job application process and interviews, must be able to demonstrate how they have integrated their qualifications and transferable skills successfully. For the busy college student, the only avenue to apply their knowledge and develop soft skills is through paid or voluntary work experience [6].  

How can we improve the employability of new graduates?
Studies show that some of the barriers faced by new graduates [7] in identifying and securing appropriate employment opportunities can be addressed through increasing participation in career development services, and ensuring access to career counseling. Providing internships and workplace attachments during the course of their studies, [8] and enhancing students’ networking capabilities, also affords exposure to unconventional work opportunities. These experiences increasingly improve their likelihood of succeeding in a competitive job search environment. Further, not all college degree holders are headed for the employment marketplace. Some graduates aspire to work independently and earn a living as entrepreneurs. However, students undertaking non-business degrees find themselves at a disadvantage, where entrepreneurship is concerned. Many struggle with the process of incubating their ideas, finding funding to start up and sustain the business, and the process of creating new work [9].   To this end, Southeastern University at Celebration Church (SEU-SCC) is focused on creating opportunities for students to succeed in the marketplace as prospective employees and entrepreneurs.  

What is the strategy to ensure the employability of students at Southeastern University at Celebration Church?
In supporting the career objectives of college graduates, SEU-CC will provide students with tools, resources and opportunities to develop employable skills and prepare them for informational and formal job interviews. Strategies for advancement of SEU-CC students to the marketplace will include: 

  1. SEU-CC faculty providing seminars relating to strategic planning and organization, self-management, personal responsibility, communication and problem solving. [10]
  2. A dedicated practicum coordinator and career counselor who will oversee the development of individual career plans, skills assessments, interview preparations, hosting of job fairs and planning of recruitment drives in collaboration with local employers.
  3. Developing a database of employment and internship opportunities in the Austin-Round Rock metroplex.
  4. Surveys of local employers and industry experts on new employee training needs and case studies that can be used for problem based learning, which SEU-CC can integrate into its practicum programs for related disciplines.
  5. Annual evaluation of internships, short-term work placement opportunities and student experience, to understand how these can evolve into a longer term employment contract, or an entrepreneurship opportunity.
  6. Building relationships with industry experts and providing a platform for them to present their work, and views on what it takes to be successful in the field and their company.
  7. Each student completing an internship will be required to keep an internship log. They will prepare reports describing their internship experience, the attitudes, values, talents or skills which they found to be most crucial to their internship roles. The reports will be publicized in video, case study, or article format on the website and social media pages.
  8. Creating and maintaining a database of alumni in the workforce to facilitate networking opportunities for students as part of an alumni relations program.
  9. Providing support and training resources for graduate students that already have industry experience, who are planning to start their businesses.

How SEU-CC’s education model for employability in the marketplace will be implemented.
Five key levels of occupational development will be considered to enhance the capacity of SEU-CC students to gain employment in industry, or become self-employed. At each level, students will be required to develop an individual career plan and undertake a skills assessment. Every internship and work placement agreed with the school, will credits that can be applied towards coursework at SEU.

Level 1 - New students without prior work experience (paid or unpaid)
Objective: To develop students’ sense of personal responsibility and work ethic From the first semester, new students will be invited to apply for onsite internships at the university, at Celebration Church and other vetted volunteering opportunities.  

Level 2 - Students with some work experience including volunteering
Objective: To build on the level 1 objective, with a focus on career guidance, improved personal management, relationship management and problem solving skills. [11] Students will be invited to apply for offsite internship opportunities with partner charities and small businesses in the Georgetown area. Students without a clear career direction will also fall under this category.

Level 3 - Students with significant work experience but no prior leadership responsibilities
Objective: To develop the integrity and excellence of aspiring leaders Students will be invited to apply for onsite internships and shadowing opportunities at the university and Celebration Church.  They will work with Directors in various areas of ministry at Celebration Church and learn to cultivate the talents and effectively manage their volunteers. For example, they may be assigned to work with the Volunteer Director at the church, to manage people, inventory, and finances of the church store. Students will be provided with details of other work placement opportunities that could enhance their personal management development, planning and decision making skills.

Level 4 - Students in the final year with a clear career direction, but no offers of employment
Objective: To assist students in identifying alternative career pathways and interim work opportunities on graduation Students will receive intensive career coaching, guidance and resources. They will be provided with details of offsite internship and work placement opportunities, with partner businesses in the Austin-Round rock metroplex. Students will be encouraged to apply for available opportunities, taught how to align their resume to the job they are seeking, taking into consideration their interests and abilities. Where possible, students will be matched against employers’ needs.  

Level 5 - Matured working students and aspiring entrepreneurs; employed alumni without leadership responsibilities, seeking continuing professional development opportunities
Objective: To create opportunities for networking and develop Christ centered entrepreneurs and leaders. Most graduate applicants will have some level of work experience and would already be employed, but are unable to progress further in their careers. Graduate students in this category will be invited to SEU-CC hosted events where alumni with leadership responsibilities in their organizations, or with businesses, will give presentations or seminars on employment, business and management skills.  

Dr. Tolu Osoba