Every year we meet with our programs (both Biomedical Equipment Technology and Medical Imaging Systems Technology) advisory committees to get guidance on the curricula and to receive feedback on how our graduates are doing. We also give them updates about the number of students we have, the number of graduates, projections, and current legislation that might affect us in various ways (funding, number of semester hours, etc.). This year, we received excellent feedback as usual with some particularly interesting and good news. It seems that there are more positions open than the number of graduates available. That will help us in recruiting.
One of our key employers, who also hires from several other schools, gave us some feedback about all of the graduates they have hired recently, nationwide. They (the employer) would like to see new graduates display more motivation and time management skills. They point out that some of the younger folks have issues with showing up on time and they struggle with basic paperwork. Older grads seem to have a better handle on communication skills and customer relations.
So what can we do about it? Plenty. We need to do more of treating the students like employees while they are in school by enforcing being on time to class and demonstrating the behaviors we expect from them. One way I do that is by always being 10 minutes early to the classes I teach and then penalizing for tardiness. I expect the same from all faculty in our department. You would think being on time would not be a problem for something the students are paying for … and for most students it isn’t. But there are always a couple that are habitually late. Unfortunately, many behaviors exhibited at school are carried over to the workplace.
Since we have gone to an outcomes based funding formula, we only get paid for those graduates who are successful in the workplace upon graduation. This means we have to be more selective on who we admit to the program. In the past, since we are a state-funded institution, we have had an “open-door” policy and basically admitted anyone who met certain incoming test scores. But we have slowly started changing that policy. First, if a student shows up to register and he or she has no intention of actually completing the program (just taking a few classes or wanting to take our classes because the ones they want are full), then we no longer have to accept them. Also, if they have a criminal background that will inhibit their chances of gaining employment as a Biomedical Equipment Technician (felonies, drug related charges, etc.), we do not have to accept them and we encourage them to work with a counselor to find something more suitable.
We have had several companies approach us this year to set up interview dates and give us expectations. Common themes include seeing the students’ motivation and “hunger” (perhaps that isn’t the exact right word since most students are indeed looking for a paycheck but you get the idea) toward making a difference and adding value to their company/organization. Being on time, dressed for success, and knowing something about the organization is an imperative first start, but the interviewees also need to show how they are committed to the career field. Typical questions employers ask are, “ How else, besides school, have you prepared yourself for this career field?” “What publications do you read?” “Do you belong to any career related associations?” “What value will you add to our company?”
Being selective about incoming students seems to be counter intuitive at a time when our overall enrollment is down and recruiting is a real challenge, especially with high school age students. However, by raising the bar, I believe we will ultimately “draw a better crowd,” so to speak, of incoming students. Reading this might lead some readers to believe that we want the easy street and do not want to do any work teaching the basics. Not necessarily. I believe we can motivate those who may not know much about the career field but are willing to learn and adapt … if we as faculty are motivated and inspired … and if we demonstrate those characteristics we expect of the students.
I was lucky enough early in my career to have supervisors who inspired but who were also sticklers on punctuality, attention to detail, and expectations of high performance. I try to do the same for my students and hope it pays off for them in the future.
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