Proving Students’ Career Readiness: Competency-Based Learning

Today’s student, and their families, frequently view a college education as an investment that should see a return after graduation – through their post-graduation careers. Though everyone in a college or university contributes to career readiness, Career Services professionals lead the effort to help students and employers recognize how students’ college experiences prepare them for their careers. Historically, Career Services helped students with career decision making, developed their job-hunting skills and connected them with opportunities. Though these areas remain important, students need help developing and marketing their career competencies.

It was in this backdrop that I approached building our career readiness programming at Georgian Court University. As a grant we received to support sophomore students in their career development was coming to an end, we recognized that our students, a large number of whom are first generation college students, needed more, not less of a focus on building and providing evidence of their career readiness. Understanding that competency is not merely attending a session or participating in a course – checking boxes, we needed to be able to help students develop true proficiency and provide evidence of that competence.

In 2015, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) released 7 career readiness competencies employers seek across all industries. In 2016 an 8th competency was added. And, in May of 2021 they released 8 revised career competencies. In the new revision, they included behaviors students should be able to exemplify, if they are career competent. We adopted these as the framework for our career readiness efforts.

This summer we began examining these competencies. We consulted with faculty and Student Affairs professionals across the campus to identify the experiences our students can engage in that we believe will help them demonstrate these competencies. We developed reflection exercises to ensure that their understanding and capability extends beyond participation in these activities. Students will then be able to work towards competency in each of the 8 areas and the university will certify this by awarding badges. Those that achieve competence in each of the 8 areas will receive an overall career competency badge. As these badges will take time to earn, we decided to start with our incoming class, the Class of 2025. Over the next year we will determine how to let students transferring into the institution with a 2025 or later graduation year receive credit for work towards these competencies that they have already completed.

Though we have an idea of what we want students to document and the institution to track, we need an infrastructure to manage this process. AEFIS Comprehensive Learner Records (CLR) allows students to assemble their evidence and offers a vehicle for presenting that evidence to employers. The Badging component, we named The Path, will be used to certify/endorse students’ competence. Using these systems will also enable the institution to use the data assembled to measure completion of our Undergraduates Student Learning Goals and other university measures.

Currently, we are working with AEFIS to build the badges and establish the CLR process. The goal is to roll the program out in Fall 2021 to entering first-year students in 3 academic programs – Exercise Science, the School of Business and Digital Media, and Social Work. These programs engage actively in internship programs, demonstrating a focus on career readiness. We will also educate all first-year students about the program, releasing it to all first-year students in Spring 2022. Sophomores, juniors and seniors will not participate in The Path; however, we will educate them on using CLR to document their career readiness and offer career readiness program that they can access. Though an ambitious plan with a tight timeframe, we do not want to wait an additional year to start students on The Path.

I hope you will join myself and number of other leaders and employers who are focused on programs such as these that provide exponential benefit to students at the Skills Week Community Conference August 3-5, 2021. To register for my event and learn more please go to Your CLR Hub—Skills Week Community Conference.

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