In our discussions with university program leadership we have found a great deal of interest in getting more involved in their student’s career development. Career development has traditionally not been a core concern at the program level, however this is changing rapidly as program’s are increasingly recognizing their long term wellbeing and enrolment numbers are effected by how they can better demonstrate how well they prepare students for career success. In an increasingly competitive higher educational marketplace, long term success and relevancy is now determined by how well students are being prepared for professional life. This means that programs should all have a well thought out strategy around student career development at their level, in addition to the University as a whole.

Programs that can better tap into how their graduates actually project themselves as a product of their education and field of study, will be the most successful in the long term. A survey of University candidates choosing a University or college (Source: “How Do Students Use Rankings” found that 33% of how University candidates rank and decide on what school and program to attend is based on the perception of “Employability”, which is made up of Employer Reputation and Employment Rates.

Schools and program have never been more under threat of closing than now, as enrolment numbers are declining as a whole.  Harvard University Professor, Clayton Christensen, estimates that potentially 50% of all colleges in the US are under threat of closing over the next 10-15 years as enrolment declines and candidates are shifting to schools and programs that have better “Employability” rankings.

Grades have long been the gold standard for benchmarking student achievement. While grades are indispensable within the academic environment they do not provide much value in the employment market. In the New York Times, Google’s Laszlo Bock, Senior VP of People Operations stated “GPA’s are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless.”. Grades provide academia a means of assessing how well students understand the course content, but does not necessarily assess how well students understand the value of the content to their professional development. When it comes to career development, students need to understand the value of what they learn so that they can effectively project it to prospective employers.

We believe this is why tracking career development at the program level has been so elusive. Programs are not assessing students in the same way that employers do and more importantly they do not see a viable way to do it in conjunction with established assessment methods.

We started Acadiate as a way to help students better capture and express their skills so they are better positioned to market themselves. Program managers at leading universities have told us that seeing the way students are positioning themselves on Acadiate has given them a great deal of insight into how their programs are impacting their student’s career development. It gives them feedback on how their students are processing what they learn in the classroom and how the student’s may project their education to potential employers as a marketable skill or talent. In other words, Acadiate allows them to see their students in a way they have never been able to before. By seeing students in this way, they can more holistically evaluate from the perspective of the employer whether the learning outcomes they have designed in their curriculum are actually impacting (or not) how their students project their marketability to employers, hence impacting their career success.

When programs can better ideally define how they want students to project themselves to employers, they can better identify impactful interventions and better improve career development at the program level. One of the key breakthroughs in implementing a career development strategy at the program level is an effective assessment methodology. Acadiate working closely with it’s academic partners has developed a meaningful and effective starting point for programs to assess student progress on career development during their school years using its Showcase benchmarking tool.

Over the upcoming months we will continue with a series of blogs on the student benchmarking and how to implement an effective career development strategy at the program level.