In the time that college work-study employment has been a part of the Career and Transfer Center, we experimented with various approaches for managing the program, which brought us to where we are today: a work program with a career-development focus. Students have the opportunity to participate in career-development through several activities: online soft skills training, developing a resume, attending special events, and individual evaluation.
Online Soft Skills Training
Once students are hired and begin their work-study job, they must complete one module per semester on soft skills via Desire 2 Learn, an online learning platform. (In the past, professional development workshops were done in the form of a mandatory meeting held each semester.) There are five modules from which students can choose. Each module, like a class, is composed of notes or a PowerPoint display, with various articles and/or videos on the topic. At the completion of each module students take a short quiz. To complete their requirement they must score 100 on the quiz and they have unlimited attempts to do so. Assistance is available for any student who needs help navigating the online format. Students who choose to complete all modules will earn a certificate of completion in soft skills training. This new format is still in the pilot stage, but so far it has proven to be a great medium to encourage open, ongoing communication and enhance the career development component of work-study employment.
Students are encouraged to develop a resume during their first semester in the program and are offered support to do so via a resume workshop or individual appointments. This is a great exercise to help prepare for future employment and examine experiences and skills. For many students, this is their first time writing a resume.
We have offered special events targeted towards our work-study student population including Etiquette at Work and an annual Student Worker Celebration in collaboration with our Campus Activities Office. For our celebration, we recruit two or three work-study students to serve on the planning committee for the event. The committee (made up of me, the Director of Campus Activities, 2-3 student leaders and 2-3 work-study students) coordinates the entire event from food, set-up, décor, giveaways, and so forth. We also encourage work-study students to become involved with leadership opportunities such as Peer Mentor, New Student Orientation, and Leadership Retreats/Training. Information about college career events is regularly shared, for example, the Career and Transfer Fair.
Students are evaluated once per semester by their site supervisor to recognize strengths and encourage growth. Additionally, when students leave a work-study job or are terminated from the position, I try to meet with them and have them complete an exit interview. This provides an opportunity to discuss their experience and why they are leaving.
First Experiences and Future
Moving forward, I plan to survey the students involved to obtain their feedback and experiences on the new online training format. I would also like to explore some new special events and strategies to involve undecided work-study students in career exploration.
The work-study employment program is a tremendous learning opportunity for students. For many students this is their first employment experience or their first job after a number of years out of work. In addition to providing them on-the-job experience, we developed this program to provide support and encourage professional and personal growth.
Toni-Anne Nhotsoubanh, MS, is a Counselor/Associate Professor at Suffolk County Community College in the Career and Transfer Center. She provides career counseling, handles internship preparation, work-study placement, academic advisement, and is the Project Director for the Job Search Success Program. Toni-Anne holds a Masters degree in College Student Development from CW Post, Long Island University. She may be contacted at email@example.com.