Monday, September 1, 2014

Treating student jobs as real jobs

In Computing Services, we have always given our student workers realistic work assignments. Rather than use students as cheap labor, we seek to expand the educational mission of the university by giving "stretch" assignments to our student workers, according to their individual capabilities.

For example: we would often task one student with "Active Directory" assignments- building new computers, binding them to AD, and general AD troubleshooting. These are somewhat mundane tasks for a seasoned IT professional, but good learning opportunities for this student, who had an expressed interest in doing similar computer management after graduation.

In another example: we would usually give "webapp programming" assignments to another student, who aspired to become a professional web programmer. Inventive but small tasks allowed this student to stretch his capabilities, and after graduation he contacted us to comment that his first job was very similar to the programming work we had given him as a student worker.

So it's not surprising (for us, anyway) to see this white paper from Noel-Levitz, about "Enhancing Student Success by Treating Student Jobs as Real Jobs." This brief report (8 pages) describes how institutions may advance student learning: how campus jobs help to prepare students for the post-collegiate working world. From the white paper:
"Ultimately, a positive work-study experience will result in a student having gained valuable job skills nad a high degree of self-confidence, as well as the motivation to continue to perform at the highest level after leaving the institution and entering the world of work. In addition, the network of relationships developed through on-campus employment continues to serve the student as he or she graduates, as supervisors provide references for students applying to graduate schools or full-time jobs, thereby helping students make that critical first step in launching their careers." (pp. 3–4)
The article provides seven suggestions for maximizing the return from your investment in student employees:
  1. Job design and placement
  2. Orientation and training
  3. Effective supervision
  4. Ongoing support and feedback
  5. Rewards and advancement opportunities
  6. Peer-to-peer support
  7. Student employment coordinator
In addition to the above, student workers in Computing Services also get personalized coaching in writing resumes and cover letters, and interviewing. I believe that student jobs should benefit both the university and the student.
photo: Evan Bench

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