College granted $775K for education-to-career training

A signature tenet of our student success initiatives, the college’s education-to-career curricular model has hit its stride. Initial internal data from the coursework redesign shows some wild successes – 90 percent of first-year participants returned to the college for their second year, besting the national average of 78 percent. 85 percent reported job placement at graduation last year.

In short, the College of Business’ education-to-career model is a 12-course series on personal, professional and leadership development that steeps the student learning experience throughout the four-year undergraduate program with career advising, student-employer interaction and work-based learning.

All this in a climate where only a third of college students today believe they will graduate prepared to be successful in the workplace, and just half believe their major will lead to a good job. If it sounds like the College of Business is doing something pretty good, let’s be perfectly clear: it’s exceptional.

Exceptional enough that Strada Education Network, a national nonprofit with a mission focused on education and employment pathways, identified a strategically aligned partner and awarded us a $775,000 grant, recognizing the progress we’ve made and what we’ll do next.

As one of just seven awardees in 2019 (of 296 contenders), the College of Business rose to the top because of significant identifiable impacts on student success for participants in our revamped business and design curriculum. Now recognized as a breakout success and national paradigm for best practices in education-to-career training, the college is poised to share knowledge with other partners.

Here’s how the pieces of this success story come together:

 

Industry partners seek upskilled new grads

 

Professional, personal and leadership skills form the backbone of successful careers. Everyone is recognizing it – not just Strada, but also the many industry advisors that consult with the College of Business on workforce needs.

Eric Nelson ‘84, president and CEO of Mutual of Enumclaw and member of the Dean’s Council of Excellence, has collaborated with the college for years on internship programs and is currently exploring online undergraduate degree programs for employees. As a strong regional employer, Nelson has first-hand experience with the emerging workforce in Oregon and beyond.

“Soft skills are one of the most important competencies for people to be successful in a business career,” Nelson said. “We see students from other colleges that have not had this sort training when they arrive. OSU students have extremely good communication and soft skills that are on par with most of our experienced staff. It makes the OSU business students stand out.”

Nelson says that new hires often come to the job thinking that success is "knowing everything" while leadership at his company are looking for consensus building, an ability to influence others, genuine curiosity and an openness to other points of view.

“These are much harder skills to teach than the technical aspects of running a business,” he said. “This was not in the curriculum when I went to school.”

Why does this matter?

Our Education-to-Career model has been more than three years in the making. We sat down with the dean to hear more about the impact this kind of radical change in business school curriculum can have for our community.

Preparing students to be career ready

“Nationally, about 44 percent of recent college graduates reported that they were underemployed. That’s not the right answer; we need to take action. Our education-to-career curriculum model was designed with industry input to answer their workforce needs and better prepare students for their careers of choice."

Greater access to education

“Only 9 percent of students from families in the lowest income bracket graduate from college. Back in the 70s, it was just 6 percent. By contrast, at the highest income bracket, the degree completion rate has increased from 44 percent to 85 percent. This is a big problem that we have to solve, and this grant shows us the pathways.”

A focus on degree completion

“College graduates, by rough estimates, earn more than one million in lifetime salary than non-college graduates. So we know the value of education. Yet, nationally, student loan debt has reached an all-time high of $1.4 trillion, and the average student loan balance now exceeds $34,000. What we do have to address is getting our students through college in four years or five years, not six or more. This model gets our students on track to degree completion.”

The College of Business’ effort to make the college responsive to workforce needs is fundamental to the education-to-career model.

“Our goal is to make sure that every one of our graduates is ready to make an immediate, meaningful impact for the organizations that employ them and for the communities they call home,” Dean Mitzi Montoya said. “By listening to our partners, we are delivering a better-skilled employee to the workforce and a better-prepared student for their own college-to-career transition.”

The education-to-career model is a direct response to industry calls for greater alignment between education and industry. But it is, in fact, also an important part of our compact with our graduates: According to research from Strada-Gallup, students who view their educational experience as relevant to the work world are far more likely to complete their education and report that their learning was worth the cost.

“Demands for new workforce preparation and the makeup of that workforce are changing rapidly, at a rate that most four-year colleges can’t match,” said Montoya. “We owe it to our students to adapt, and dramatically change, the way we deliver business education so that they graduate on time, with minimal debt, and prepared with the skills that their future employers need.”

 

Expanding the student experience at college

 

Once a student, particularly a first-generation college student, has an experience for themselves on a college campus, their enthusiasm and ability to adapt and pursue a successful path toward their degree significantly increases. The Strada grant expands our abilities to align with key partners to ensure that the pathway to an empowering student experience begins at the high-school level.

Take the case of Emma Zomerman who is rolling down the interstate, heading from Portland to Corvallis with her parents. She’s also fighting with them.

Though almost a high-school junior with an interest in business and a desire to attend Oregon State, she does not want to attend summer camp. Specifically, she’s headed to Young Entrepreneurs Business Week’s week-long intensive entrepreneurship program where students learn about leadership, teamwork, and public speaking in addition to business fundamentals. But still Zomerman’s not into it. She doesn’t know anybody. It’s summer; she doesn’t feel like learning stuff.

“To be completely honest, I had no interest at all,” Zomerman said. “But my parents thought the camp would be a good move for my education and future career. Although I was so reluctant to go, wow, I am so grateful for them pushing.”

Not every student has been pushed outside their comfort zone before college, or is even aware of the benefits of such a mindset.

Zomerman eagerly returned to YEBW for another summer, and then entered the College of Business. As a first-year student in BA 160: B-Engaged, one of the first education-to-career model courses that our students experience, she felt that YEBW summer camp better prepared her for a successful college experience.

“I created a business product during YEBW; I learned how to interview, how to create resumes, how to shake hands at a networking events, and so many other important steps to succeeding in the business world,” Zomerman said. “Since I learned this at YEBW, I definitely had the upper hand when it came to my college assignments.”

YEBW and the College of Business have had a partnership for more than a decade, and it continues to grow. The grant provides scholarships to support low-income students with attending summer camp and earning OSU credit for the experience, as well as $4,000 scholarships for selected YEBW alumni to attend the College of Business as first-year students.

Successful college students will be more successful in the workforce.

 

Mission-aligned partners: Replicate and scale

 

The education-to-career model and the resources established by the grant will expand cooperation among partners to accomplish similar missions – aligning education with employment needs and ensuring that the pathway is accessible. YEBW is just the first.

“YEBW is a mission-aligned partner to the College of Business as we focus on experiential learning that helps high school students explore and pursue business career pathways,” said Jeff Gaus, chairman of the organization’s board. “This partnership provides more low-income students the opportunity to attend YEBW programs, explore professional growth and leadership opportunities, and ultimately work toward degree completion at OSU.”

The college is committed to alliance building and replicating the model for institutions and universities that adhere to the same mission -- and its challenges -- of transforming a successful educational experience into a rewarding and engaging career.

All universities, through varying trends and business conditions, must continue to demonstrate their value to their graduates and the return on the investment into a college degree. OSU, as a member of the University Innovation Alliance, is positioned to share trend data and best practices with that network of 11 public universities in the United States. As well, the college is poised to align practices with other AACSB-accredited business schools. This ability to act as a national model is part of our appeal to a major education grant giver such as Strada.

“No one sector can close skill and equity gaps, alone. All of the awards recipients share our commitment to engaging with an ecosystem of educators, community organizations and employers to help individuals bridge the divide between education and economic opportunity,” said William Hansen, president and CEO of Strada Education Network.