Campus leaders tend to view work-study programs as just a component of student financial aid packages. But campus jobs can also serve as career development opportunities.
Work-study programs may even boost retention rates—if colleges redesign them to help students build career-ready skills, find a new report by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NASPA).
The researchers at NASPA examined the current conditions of on-campus employment and identified the components of high-impact work-study programs. They found that successful work-study programs can tackle two issues: student retention and career readiness, writes James Paterson for Education Dive.
Students who see value in on-campus jobs and use them to connect with peers and mentors may have a better college experience and be more likely to persist through graduation, the report notes.
Colleges can help students see value in their work-study jobs by connecting them to their coursework, the researchers recommend. For example, Clemson University offers an on-campus internship program that places students in positions related to their majors, pays them, and offers academic credit.
Campus leaders can also get students career-ready by exposing them to real-life hiring processes, the NASPA researchers recommend. That means requiring a resume and an interview, offering an orientation, and conducting an exit interview. These steps can also help the institution gather data on the student work experience.
Working on campus can also improve students’ employability after graduation, writes Molly O’Connor, a student affairs expert at EAB. It provides students access to roles connected to their career interests, professional experience in an office setting, and opportunities for mentorship.
O’Connor outlines two ways institutions can help work-study students succeed after graduation.
1. Support career exploration: Campus employment offers students an opportunity to assess their strengths and development areas, as well as explore their areas of interest, in a professional environment. Support students in this endeavor by structuring conversations with their supervisors to provide guidance around career exploration, recommends O’Connor.
2. Build transferrable skills: Campus leaders can incorporate transferrable skills into work-study training sessions, student job descriptions, and supervisor check-ins, writes O’Connor. Missouri University of Science & Technology, for instance, piloted an all-encompassing student employee training. It was so successful that they have expanded it and now offer comprehensive training to all student employees on gaining transferrable skills. In 2016, 87 students participated, and 93% reported that the training helped them prepare for their position on campus (Paterson, Education Dive, 3/12).