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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Superintendent Mike Flanagan’s words of wisdom at the Governor’s Summit – Blurred Lines!

This past Monday and Tuesday Michigan lawmakers, business owners, and educators convened in Detroit for the 2015 Michigan Governors Economic and Educational Summit. The goal, to continue an effort begun two years ago to create collaborative efforts between colleges & universities, K-12 schools, industry, and government to develop out students in to ‘top talent’.  Silos needed to be broken down to create a seamless space with a shared mission.

Collaborations with multiple partners is a challenge. Each must give up old routines and step out of their comfort zones, sacrificing the security of old ways to risk failures to achieve unprecedented rewards. Mohammad Ali once stated “the man who views the world at 50 as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” This message has resonated at each of the Governors past three Summits. Industry is changing with increased automation and technological advances, our students are now digital natives who can access any information with a finger and a smartphone, and how we teach them must change to accommodate for their propensity to learn through hands-on engagement. The world has changed a lot in 30 years and we must change with it.

Michigan School Superintendent Mike Flanagan will be retiring in July, leaving behind a legacy of over 30 years in education. He is the longest serving State Superintendent in Michigan’s history. His ten years of service included serving under both Republican and Democratic governors.

Flanagan reflected on his time in education with some short lessons learned that those at the summit should consider as they craft their next steps towards prosperity: never hire anyone dumber than you are, looking good is not as good as being good, teachers are the #1 force in the world, and give each of our kids hope first. Flanagan went on to add be weary of what people want. He quoted Henry Ford’s famous statement “if I had asked people what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse”, supporting Flanagan’s philosophy.

Flanagan’s final word of advice was that student success is based on the efforts of many including industry, government, communities, educators, parents, and peers. Each of us has had times or trouble where we have gotten off course and stumbled. Success is born from the support networks we offer for our young students and each other.

He went on to share the story of Derek Redmond, an Olympic sprinter in the 1992 Olympics. Derek was the favorite to win the 400m dash. The rest of his story can be viewed through a YouTube video.  Derek was able to achieve victory while experiencing the agony of defeat with the support of his father in this unique and symbolic gesture.

The message from Governor Snyder and retiring Superintendent Flanagan was that the success of Michigan economically is the development and retention of talent through our efforts in education. This effort must be collaborative, where the lines between industry, community, education, and government are blurred. As we move forward we must remember the inspirational words of Winston Churchill, “A pessimist see the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”