December 14, 2017 by Luke Mason
Lynn Kavcsak knows too well the daunting, tedious task of tracking down career information to help students set their goals. As dean of career and employment resources at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, North Carolina, Kavcsak deals with a perpetual challenge: Students, whether fresh out of high school or fresh out of a job, don’t often know what career to pursue or what major to choose. And the major they end up picking probably won’t be their last.
“Planning for the right job and education is time-consuming for students,” said Kavcsak. “Students considered it a hassle to visit multiple sites and platforms to view education and employment statistics.”
To simplify the process, Wake Tech invested in Emsi’s Career Coach to help its 65,000 curriculum and workforce continuing education students access up-to-date, user-friendly information about careers and education. The success has been noticeable.
Both new and prospective students use Career Coach’s career assessment that matches them with careers and provides information on job wages, growth, required education, and more. In addition, it shows students the relevant programs available at Wake Tech.
Wake Tech also recently revamped its website and placed Career Coach in a prime spot on the homepage so that students can immediately connect. As a result, Wake Tech has had more traffic on Career Coach than any other college that Emsi serves—over 11,000 students visit Career Coach in a single month.
“Career Coach puts all the data in one place; that’s why it makes so much sense,” said Kavcsak. “I know of no other platform that connects our programs with careers—which is key.”
Wake Tech strengthens retention by encouraging students to set strong, realistic goals and accomplish them. Considering over 80 percent of America’s college students change their college majors at least once, “career exploration—identifying and affirming appropriate pathways—becomes vital,” noted Laura Bethea, manager of career development. “Career Coach is the clear must-have resource.”
“Career Coach is the place to go back to when students are in an undecided mode and are floundering or dropping classes and not completing what they have started,” Kavcsak added. “It is also a useful tool for students to reaffirm a major or program area of study. Many students want a validation of their dream job and to hear that their choice will lead to probable career happiness.”
According to William Holloway, a student success coach at the college, Career Coach can sometimes dash students’ dreams—but in a way that prompts gratitude. After all, it’s better to get a dose of reality while there’s still time to modify plans.
“In some instances, students realize that in order to earn the income they aspire to, a much higher level of education is required than they expected,” Holloway explained. “Or they realize that while some careers or industries are strong presently, they are not trending well and will not be strong by the time the students graduate.” This kind of information, perhaps disappointing at first, ends up giving students greater confidence and clarity.
Wake Tech also uses Career Coach to connect students to job opportunities. This means cultivating a job-savvy mindset on day one. “A lot of students arrive not even considering the employment world, so we set the tone early,” Kavcsak explained. “We tell them, ‘You have to be intentional. Don’t wait to consider your résumé the week before graduation. If you start thinking about your career goals from the start, then we can discuss other activities that you should be involved in so you have valuable content for your résumé.’ ”
In line with this approach, Wake Tech offers industry road trips during their college breaks. These opportunities provide more accessibility for students to participate in interactive, experiential experiences, connect with local hiring employers early in their college careers, and build upon their career awareness and development.
This past semester, 50-plus students engaged with professionals at Cisco and HQ in Raleigh. Additionally, job-shadowing experiences conducted with local industries (such as Sepi Engineering, LORD Corporation, and Eaton Corporation) align students’ programs of study and career interest with real world experiences. Through the college’s proactive programming, students understand precisely what they can do with their major after graduation.
At Wake Tech, Career Coach has made a special impact on students—including students needing validation of a major or career path and students in times of critical transition or at risk of not completing. Whether they are first-time college-goers or jobseekers returning to school for additional training, Wake Tech’s students use Career Coach to turn abstract interests and desires into concrete career paths. After all, as Kavcsak put it, “A lot of them just need second chances and a little direction.”
See more about Career Coach, Emsi’s web-based tool that uses labor market information to connect students to careers and education. Questions? Contact Rob Sentz at [email protected]. Follow us @desktopecon.