Getting a part-time student job on a college campus is nothing new, but Albion College is changing the way their jobs work so that students will come out after graduation with a resume that is already full of professional-level jobs and skills.
Troy Kase, the director of career and internship services explained that since the summer of 2020, the Career and Internship Center has been developing a new plan that includes tiered job levels, increased responsibilities and real-world experience. This has required every employer on campus to think about what their jobs have to offer students and what skills those students will develop while working. Employers then have to put this information down on paper.
“Starting last summer, what we started to do is have all student employers write up a professional job description,” said Kase. “So, this is thinking beyond whatever things that you just need done in the office, but it’s thinking bigger and saying, ‘First of all, what needs do we have in the office and then what skills can we help students develop?’”
Part of the goal is for every job on campus to have room for growth and more responsibilities the longer a student works there and the more experience they get. A good example of how this policy is being implemented is the Whitehouse Nature Center. Nature Center Director Jason Raddatz has been proactive in making jobs in the nature center a valuable experience for students.
Students start at the nature center as nature center assistants. They learn to do equipment maintenance and charting for the animals using technical healthcare terminology; get to know the animals; and treat the animals if they have any problems. Raddatz’s hope is to set up a system that tracks the skills students are learning.
“What we are looking at doing at the nature center is tracking skill points,” said Raddatz. “Let’s say every time you pick up a snake without getting bit, you get a skill point.”
Opportunities at the nature center don’t end there. The next tier, once someone has mastered a variety of skills, is to become a mentor.
Once employees become mentors, there are five different career pathways to follow where they will be getting more specialized skills with regard to the particular path they are on. For example, in the habitat rehabilitation program, students have the chance to get licensed as a drone pilot, which is a highly valuable skill in the job market.
“We will teach you and get you licensed as a drone pilot using orthomosaic software. That combination of certification and a drone pilots license is a 60,000 dollar per year part time job,” said Raddatz.
After being mentors, students might advance further and become project managers, which will give them the opportunity to come up with and manage projects at the nature center. This results in valuable skills such as leadership, budgeting, salesmanship and time management.
The final tier at the nature center is career path leader. In that position, students work alongside Raddatz basically as assistant nature center directors. The end result of this is that students will have years of great experience in a variety of skills that will transfer easily to professional jobs.
“The crème de la crème of this is not only do you come out with your really high powerful Albion College degree, but you also come out with a resume that has increasing responsibilities in a progressive manner,” said Raddatz. “If I can show you that during my four years I not only had academic success, I also had community outreach and I had the ability to mentor other people, your conversation has gone from you’re like every other liberal art person that I’ve seen, who can critically think, but you have demonstrated that you have the skill set to work within an organization and that is valuable. That puts you into the top third to top 10% of applicants.”
This is the type of thing that Kase is developing all over campus. He is aiming for every job to give students skills that will help them get jobs after college.
“They could say, ‘I have these skills, I have been doing this, I have been managing these, I have project management skills, organization skills, communication skills, technology skills, and I can do this,’” said Kase. “All employers need those skills.”
Some students may see this change as a bad thing because Kase also wants to make sure there are no jobs where they are just sitting at desks working on homework. Though it seems harder in the short term, Kase is hoping it will help students in the long run.
“Every job should have professional activities. We should not have any job where a student is sitting there doing homework. Our goal is to not have that exist. Every single student is doing some professional activities and they’re building skills. We owe it to students to educate them while they’re in these student positions,” said Kase. “We’ve got to have a culture where students are expecting to build skills.”
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