Category Archives: Employer

Information for Employers interested in getting involved on Michigan Tech’s campus.

Information Sessions – Know your audience!

What is important to you at age 3 is different than what is important to you at age 30.  Similarly, when students are 20 years old, their priority is to get that first paycheck.  Up until graduation, their largest decision was which college to attend.  Now, after studying for countless hours, they are transitioning from being a student to joining the “real world” that they have longed for since becoming a teen.

I remember my first paycheck after I graduated.  I couldn’t wait to get that check.  In fact, I bought a stereo that was bigger than my car and just financed it because I knew I would have cash in my checkbook soon enough.  (I should have read the details on the financing arrangements, but that is a different story!)

In many Informational Sessions, companies talk about their rank in the Fortune 500, their medical benefits, the matching percentage of the 401(k) program, etc.  These are all important pieces of information.  They are crucial to an employee who has a mortgage, car payments, a wedding to pay for, and family medical deductibles.  But, we are getting ahead of ourselves.

However, at age 20 or 21 – students are more interested in the projects they will be working on.  They can’t quite imagine retirement because they haven’t even started a job yet!  In your information session, don’t forget to focus on what is front-and-center in the kid’s minds “What will I be doing every day?”

As I listen in to different Informational Sessions and talk to students afterwards, they want to know what they are going to “do”.  Michigan Tech students have a reputation for being practical, hands-on, get-it-done employees.  Help them visualize what that looks like by sharing descriptions of projects that your interns are doing, projects the full time employees are working on.  Share projects that were success and failures.  Put all of this in context so students can understand what it is like to work for your company.  You will find that they are much more engaged and find it easier to ask questions.


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.  


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.

 


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.”


Lean Thinking in an Office

In a manufacturing setting, waste is measured in terms of factory efficiency and scored by the accounting measurement system as part of the financial reporting process.  In an office setting, these measurements are harder to define but they “show up” in wasted effort, frustration, frayed nerves, and people staying late to help make the event a success.

Our Career Services group is known for coordinating our bi-annual Career Fairs.  Managing logistics for hundreds of companies, nearly a thousand recruiters, and several thousand students leaves very little room for error.  Most importantly, the future careers of our students are on the line.  With the economy improving and the excellent reputation of Michigan Tech students, the size and expectations for Career Services events have continued to grow.IMG_3605

As our department’s first step in our lean journey, we decided to start a morning huddle.  Initially, the primary focus of the meeting was our event-planning calendar.  This grid is a look ahead for the next few weeks to ensure everyone in the department knows what is coming next.  To make this happen, we re-purposed a dry erase board and moved it to a central area.  A few dry-erase markers later, we had the beginnings of a communication structure!

In an office where everyone is extremely busy, we had reservations about everyone sacrificing 10 minutes of their day.  We also were concerned that we would not know what to talk about!  These concerns turned out to be unfounded!  After a month of using this new process, the information on the dry erase board has changed.  Some things we initially placed on the board aren’t used anymore and we simply erased them.  New items are added as we develop new educational programming.  Using only markers and bad penmanship, the board continues to be dynamic.  We are starting to use rulers and magnets to make the look neater – but we don’t want to lose the flexibility of just getting the information communicated.

Our implementation of Lean Initiatives in our offices continues as time allows.  As we continue to add process improvements, these items will find their way back to the central huddle board.  It will be interesting to see what the board looks like a year from now!

To learn more about Michigan Tech’s efforts toward continuous improvement, check out their web page at: http://www.mtu.edu/improvement/


Tips for Job Postings

While working with our students and alumni, we constantly reinforce the idea of a single-page resume for our students.  The purpose of this exercise is to reflect on experiences, prioritize, and highlight the items that are the most important.  As a company, you want to give this same level of consideration to your job postings.

In many cases, the Human Resources “Performance Appraisal” form lists a variety of attributes used to rate employees to help identify areas for improvement and personnel development.  These lists are often checklists that are shared between multiple job descriptions because “must work well within a team environment” is a requirement for everyone that works at a company.  An enumeration of tasks to be performed on a job are a great way to “score” someone during an annual performance review, but it is a terrible way to help someone your organization’s work culture or even what the job entails.

Most companies will have a well-written “About Us” section on the company website that describes what the company strives to achieve.  The thing that is most often missing in job postings is the part that helps job applicants understand how their role helps advance the larger purpose.  Remember that this job posting is essentially the advertisement about why a choosing a to work for your company will make a difference in the world, the company, and the prospective employee’s career.

Take some time to be creative!  Describe not the job duties but how this function helps advance the depth and breadth of your company’s efforts to build better products and improve the world!  Perhaps the easiest test is to ask yourself, does this job sound exciting and would I understand the higher purpose being served by my participation in this role?  Emphasize your work culture.  Here is an example:

“Our company is building a team who shares the values of xxx, embraces collaborative efforts to develop creative solutions, values the unique skill sets of others, recognizes challenges but focuses on developing solutions, appreciates diversity in thought and background of fellow team members, and strives to be a contributor rather than an observer.”

Just like reviewing resumes, you may only get 60 seconds and can only make a first impression once!