Going Back to School to Retire

In 1971 Marty Knowlton filled a backpack full of clothes and began a 4-year walking tour through Europe. Using the youth hostel system of staying in low cost housing, a cheap railroad pass, and his feet, he experienced the informal education experience of a lifetime. When he returned to the states he meet up with David Bianco, who at that time was the director of residential life at the University of New Hampshire, and shared his experience.

David wanted to find a way to use the campus facilities during the summer and Marty wanted to find a way to create low cost, less formal educational experiences for people. In the summer of 1975 over 220 participants descended upon the University of New Hampshire campus and the Elderhostel was born. By 1980, Elderhostel’s had expanded to all 50 states, with over 20,000 participants. Today this systems of informal learning has expanded to 150 countries. These experiences combine travel with education, creating an educational experience driven by the idea learning by doing, we now call experiential learning.

The value of lifelong learning, both through social and intellectual engagement, can be found in the battle against Alzheimer’s disease. Today, every 67 seconds someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s with over 5.3 million Americans of all ages currently suffering from it. At a cost of $226 billion annually this expense is expected to rise to $1.1 trillion by 2050. Research has shown that a balance of healthy foods, exercise, and living with less stress are key components of preventing the occurrence of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. This same research identifies the high value of consistent brain stimulation through social and intellectual action.

Elderhostel’s were created on a university campus as a way to provide unique hands-on learning experiences for participants of all ages. University campuses, recognizing the needs of our aging baby boomers, are now piloting campus retirement communities. They have set up full functioning villas on campus for retirees. Residents have access to campus facilities such as libraries, fitness facilities, while also getting discounted tickets to sporting events and campus food services. Some campuses are also offering reduced tuition to take courses while others are offering free instruction.

The pioneers of these campus retirement communities are Penn State, University of Florida, and University of Texas at Austin. Others have created unique living experiences adjacent to their campuses such as the University Commons in Ann Arbor, allowing aging adults to have all the services available on campus, yet allowing for a bit more serenity than what you would experience on campus.

Our society places a very high value on knowledge and expertise. Often when individuals retire, they take this acquired knowledge with them, ceasing to share it with others for mutual benefit. Dementia occurs when an individual ceases to stay active intellectually, socially, and physically. Campus retirement communities bring the ideas learned in Elderhostel’s to future generations. Interaction with young students through these adjacent communities is a unique way to pass on this valued acquired knowledge, while still enjoying the activity of the mind and soul in retirement.  

New University-Wide Calendar System

The University campus is a busy place.  When you plan a visit to campus, you want to make maximum use of your time here.  To help you with this, Michigan Technological University implemented a new “university-wide” calendar system this summer.

Check out https://events.mtu.edu/ to see a single source location for a system that combine academic, athletic, and every publicly available calendar on campus into a single source.

With this new system, you can check the date range of possible events to find ways to maximize your time while you are in Houghton.  You will find the ability to search by date range, event types, department, and intended audience.  mtu_event_calendar

Embracing the Unknown

“Strange about learning; the farther I go the more I see that I never knew even existed.” -Daniel Keyes

As I read the current installment of reflection and discussion responses from students who are currently on co-op for the summer, Keyes’ quote is more true than ever, but I am not surprised. Our group of four career advisors here on campus share a lot of sayings, but one of our favorites sounds oddly familiar to Keyes, though far less poetic.

You don’t know what you don’t know.

We are constantly reminding our students of the unknown, because they are struggling to make career-related decisions without really knowing what’s out there. Those on co-ops are learning more about what is out there and some of those things they “never knew even existed.” When these students return to campus, they will come knowing a little more, worrying a little less, and working even harder, because they experienced, they learned, and their path became a little less winding.

If you are on the other side, as a supervisor or co-worker to a co-op student, I will leave you with some of their words. Nearly all of them credited those around them as to why their experiences were so englightening and valuable. While the work was part of their experience, a common theme was their appreciation for how they were treated while on site. Here’s what they said worked:

  • Surround them with people with whom they can trust, especially when asking questions
  • Provide honest feedback, because they want to learn and they want to learn to do it right
  • Make them feel valued – their work, their ideas, and their contributions
  • Take the time to get to know them and their lives outside of the workplace

The students on co-op are very aware of how much they don’t know and use every opportunity to learn something new each and every day, but those of us who have been doing our work for a while may be less observant. As you finish your day, think back and try to identify something new – what did you see that you never knew even existed?  We may be surprised.

Fall Career Fair Detailed Calendar

The weeks leading up to the Fall Career Fair are full of activity on the Michigan Tech campus.

In order to help the companies that recruit our students, Career Services has organized a web page to contain the information.  Please visit: http://www.mtu.edu/career/employers/campus-events/ before your visit to campus to help maximize your recruiting efforts.

You will find detailed brochures and complete registration information for the events that require advanced notification for participation.

Taking the plunge!

Too often, it is easy to make the safe choice. In many cases, this is easier and less work. All change requires additional work and some degree of risk.

Why would we change from our existing system for posting job opportunities and put our faith in a startup company?  Isn’t this a highly critical system designed to help our students find jobs?

Absolutely!

We have been stuck in a classic “chicken or the egg” paradigm with both companies and students frustrated with each other for not being more active participants in the process. This has lead to continuing decline in system utilization as the spiral continued.

After years of listening to our students and employers tell us that our system was difficult to use and impossible to access from mobile devices, we decided to switch to a system designed from the “ground up” for today’s student. With intelligent prompts, suggestions for occasional users, and heavy integration with the social media that students use today, Handshake is much simpler to use.

That is only part of the issue. To make the system fulfill its potential, our launch events in the fall are designed to get students actively participating in the new system and actively thinking about their careers.

When our students return to campus in the Fall, they will have a chance to search for jobs, interact with employers, and chart their career path — all from the palm of their hand!  We are excited to provide our students with the latest in job search technology by converting to Handshake.

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India – the Movement from Skills to Competency

India is a country of roughly 1.2 billion people, 600 million below the age of 25. Its K-12 educational programming is called a 10+2+3 system. The first 10 years is divided into 5 years of primary education, next 3 years is upper primary, and the final 2 years are high school. The “+2” stage is called the higher secondary stage which leads to “+3”, their University system. Today India has over 460+ central and state Universities, 190+ private universities, and 34,000+ colleges, of which 1,800+ serve women only.

The education system in India is now facing the challenge of moving from producing graduates with skills in each field of study to producing young professionals who are competent, or possess the ability to immediately apply those skills in industry. This challenge is coming from industry in India that has been expanding on average between 6% – 10% annually (the U.S. has been 3% or less since 2008). They need talent that can contribute immediately, the day they are hired. Currently, they have training programs lasting 12 to 18 months to get new graduates up to speed and productive.

The Indian education system is one that relies on testing of basic knowledge to advance academically. Like many education systems it focuses on memorizing academic content. Testing measures the level which this base knowledge is attained. The measurement is not on the ability to apply this knowledge to solve real world problems. India’s challenge; alter the system to produce young graduates that not only possess the knowledge (skill) but also ones that can easily and broadly apply that knowledge in a job situation (competence).

How can this be done? The educational system in India believes the approach to addressing this is broad based. First, there must be more interaction between industry and their educational institutions in the areas of research and student based problem solving of industry problems while they are still students. Second, alter the curriculum to include more project-based learning involving immediate application of the skills or knowledge they are acquiring.

Next is more internship experiences in industry as they are fulfilling their course work. Again, allowing students to apply their knowledge in a real world setting. Industry leaders in India such as Honeywell, Thermax, and Tata Consulting Services all continue to advance extensive internship programs to support the development of competent students who they expect to convert to full-time employees when they graduate.

A change that will be slower to transition is altering the established culture of testing which is strictly focused on the skills. There has been much controversy internationally on how to measure acquisition of skills and competencies in a way that can be both time-efficient and cost-effective. Those that find the answer will be closer to the goal of mass production of competent talent.

Intellectual talent is the most valuable renewable resource on earth. Industry sees this value and rewards talent with high salaries, while aggressively recruiting at the educational institutions that can produce competent students. In today’s global marketplace, we must ensure our educational efforts exceed our not-so-distant neighbors, allowing us to produce competent graduates that will attract both industry and valued careers.

Learn From Your Interns

Providing meaningful projects to your Interns and Co-ops is important.  Students can learn a lot about their professional development, your company, and their career development based on the workplace challenges your provide them.

Have you ever taken the time to consider the things you can learn from your interns?

Interns are an excellent source of information about themselves and their peers.  Once the orientation is over and they are starting to settle into the routine of your office – take some time out of your busy schedule to ask them some questions:

  • What kinds of recruiting activities have you seen other companies do that have impressed you?
  • What is the most off-putting thing you have seen a recruiter do?
  • How much did you know about our industry before you started working here?
  • Do you have any friends that you could recommend that I meet?
  • What did you think of your orientation?  Did it prepare you for the challenges of working here?
  • Is there too much hands-on?  Too much desk work?
  • Do you have a good understanding of our office culture?

By acknowledging this student as an expert about their life experiences, you will gain  business intelligence for yourself, but also gain the confidence, trust, and respect of a young student by simply listening.

 

Summer Hours

Starting Monday, May 4, the University shifts to its summer schedule. The general hours of operation will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Regular office hours resume on Monday, August 17.

The Value of Summer Jobs for Youth

The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the labor participation rate, defined as those seeking employment or employed, is 17 percentage points below its peak in 1989. According to a J.P. Morgan Chase study, only 46% of teenagers that apply for a job this summer will actually become employed. A survey of official in 14 major cities estimates that tens of thousands of youths from economically disadvantaged families will not be able to find employment this summer in their urban centers. So what is the value of a summer job to teenagers in the short and long term?

My first summer job was at Arby’s restaurant in my hometown of Midland. My parents let me know it was time to begin earning money for college and spending on my social experiences. Up to that time I had done odd jobs here and there, but was never obligated to show up for work for scheduled shifts for a longer period of time. My friends made me aware of the job at Arby’s and I applied using them as a reference. After a 20 minute interview I was awarded the job, a uniform, a paper hat, and my first schedule including training sessions. I tuned up my bike for the 12 block ride to work 4 to 6 days a week. So what was the value of that job to me?

Working at Arby’s paid me minimum wage which was around $3.45 per hour. It didn’t make me rich. But that jobs value was more than the wage. It taught me time management. I learned how to step out of my comfort zone and learn new skills. It taught me that with consistent and creative effort comes more responsibility, respect, and increased compensation. I found that doing more than what was expected increased my value in the eyes of my employer, while seeing those around me that did less than expected were rewarded with termination of employment.

At Arby’s each employee was part of a team whose mission was great customer service. My manager, Dave, didn’t play favorites but reward those that exceeded his expectations. The rewards may have been in the form of a free meal but often was just a moment of conversation and praise for specific actions we took that he appreciated. These conversations always concluded with statements of how it benefited others on the team and the customer.

So why are summer jobs so important to teenagers? Teenagers are in what experts call formative years. They are looking for purpose and direction that allow them to establish and endorse core values which will stick with them for the rest of their lives. Numerous studies have shown the value of employment. Success as an employee is like a self-confidence drug, once you get a taste of it you yearn for more. Lessons learned by a teenager during a summer job can help establish a strong work ethic, develop an understanding of how to contribute in a team environment, help prioritize tasks and much more. And the hidden take-away from a summer job? The never-ending yearning of each student to pursue a job where they can be successful in attaining the self-confidence drug is where the true value lies.

Putting the “Experience” into Experiential Education

Michigan Tech students were able to experience the inner workings of the Nucor factory in Crawfordsville, IN a few weeks ago.  This experience was made possible due to the hard work of AIST, Nucor, and Michigan Tech.

Because a bus full of 50 students were traveling, the trip logistics were carefully planned and accommodations for a group this size were considered.  The planned portion of the trip included a factory tour, dinners, and classroom training about leadership.

There are many adages about the “best laid plans” and Murphy’s law.  All of them apply here!

While the bus was en-route on this 12 hour journey, a combination of weather patterns forced the electrical utility to schedule the Electric Arc Furnace to be shut down during the tour.  Quick thinking at the factory resulted in a re-adjustment of both dinner and tour plans.  The Nucor team was able to rally to provide tours late in the evening and everyone ended up staying up later than planned.

Our students learned even more lessons than we had originally planned!  They got an excellent lesson in planning, resilience, and adjusting to changing conditions.  The key part of “Experiential Education” is that the experience will always be unique.

You can view photos of the event on our flickr page

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