Employability Factors, Continued

In my last column, I mentioned our new funding formula and how it will be based upon graduate outcomes instead of contact hours or “seat time.” Our campus president spoke at our advisory committee meeting this past week, and several committee members voiced concern over the new funding proposal. Their most pressing overall concern is that our campus is open-enrollment, meaning other than academic readiness standards put into place by individual programs, everyone with a high school diploma or GED is accepted. For many programs, ours included, if they need developmental math, writing or reading, they must complete those courses before being accepted into a full associate’s degree program. But there is no entrance exam or interview exclusively for our program, and this is a concern, at least for me, especially if we will be paid only on the success of our graduates.

In addition to our curricula, many things are discussed during these advisory committee meetings, including trends in the field, new technologies, and their satisfaction with the graduates they have hired from our program. Although overall, the majority of our grads are very successful, I still cringe when I hear about one or two that “didn’t work out.” Here lately, these one or two that didn’t work out are due to maturity issues, appearance or grooming issues, or lack of urgency or initiative on their part – employability factors, in other words.

This new funding formula has led me to research employability factors in greater detail and consider some sort of interview up front. Because we are a state school, I’m not sure about the legality of selective admission based upon such an interview. However, it is still something I want to explore.

Just searching around the Internet using Google for “employability factors” and what that means, I stumbled upon several interesting readings and an “Employability Skills Checklist.” This checklist included such items as Attitude (ranging on a scale from “is cheerful, even tempered and eager to work, rarely complains” to “is easily moody or complains”), Social Interactions (“frequently initiates social interactions” to “rarely interacts with others or interacts inappropriately”), Initiation (“seeks out work as needed without being asked” to “needs prompts to move to next assignment”), Ability to Follow Verbal Directions (“can follow multistep directions without reminders” to “needs routine -1-step instructions”), and Attention to Task (“can stay on task without constant supervision” to “easily distracted”). Other categories on the checklist included: Work Speed, Adapting to Change, Reinforcement Needs, Response to Stress, Appearance and Quality of Work.

Granted, the employability checklist to which I’m referring belongs to an organization that places special needs adults into the workforce, and all of the categories would not be appropriate for many adults. But it did hit home more than I wanted, and not only at school (those of you with not terribly-recent high school grads living at home might appreciate this). Of course, we as instructors can only legally (according to HR) give out extremely limited information about students to potential employers, especially without their permission. But several employers thought such a checklist filled out by instructors and internship employers (with the student’s permission) would be very beneficial to them (the employers of course). I think it might also be beneficial to introduce this checklist to students in their first semester to give them an idea of some of the most basic employability skills needed to succeed in the workplace.

After mentioning this checklist and basic employability skills, I should clarify that the majority of our students are mature, motivated, hard-working individuals that want nothing more than to succeed and become an asset to a future employer. There are only a few select students that concern me, and most of those are not placed anyway due to various reasons, not the least of which is the interview process. However, moving from a contact-hour funding basis to being paid strictly upon the success of my graduates makes me want to be a bit more selective on which students are admitted into the program – if that is even possible.

On a side note, I do appreciate the feedback I received from employers about my last article. Several emailed me mentioning their requirements, which included: drug screening, background checks, credit checks, and even bans on any use of nicotine (a new one that I still have mixed feelings about since I’ve seen excellent candidates turned away. Hopefully it doesn’t start a chain of events like measuring cholesterol, refusing to employ people who ride motorcycles, etc. But we’ll leave that for future discussions). Several even check potential candidates’ Facebook pages (none mentioned asking for passwords). I don’t think this selectivity is a bad thing. To me, it shows the progression of our profession, at least over the past 21 or so years since I’ve been a part of it. Several professions have had such restrictions in place for many years (FAA related professions, etc.).

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