Work Ready Program
The Work Ready program was designed as a pilot program in 2015 to address the needs of low SES students to assist them to develop the skills to succeed in graduate employment. Often students from a low SES background lack the family experience in the white collar business world and thus, lack connections to places that could provide work experience, volunteer work, mentors and job opportunities.
The program offers a package of on-line modules, workshops, a simulated graduate recruitment assessment centre, face to face and telephone consults and assistance with finding degree related work experience. It directs students to develop their own career management skills in a safe and supportive environment which also builds self-esteem, resilience and networking skills.
HEPP funding was used for this program, to employ two coordinators and an administrative assistant.
Demonstrated benefit to tertiary students, graduate employers and/or tertiary institutions
The Work Ready program assists students to develop their own job seeking skills and to find ways to become more employable as a graduate. 1638 students targeted by SEIFA by suburb of residence were invited into the program. 180 joined. (students were NOT told that low SES was the criteria)
The disadvantage that comes with low SES is often hidden as students don’t have a physical disability or a language or cultural barrier which is more obvious. These students often don’t know that they are less prepared for the world of work because they don’t have role models, networks or family assistance. This cohort is often disadvantaged when seeking employment because their families are unable to give them the encouragement and support required in the professional graduate employment market.
The program addresses this disadvantage in three phases and interaction is varied across the phases so that students can choose the most relevant activity to suit their needs. It operated from June to November 2015.
Phase 1 – Compulsory – approximately 3hrs comprising of:
a)Resume Review - to identify work experience and work readiness
(180 students had a resume reviewed and provided with feedback)
Resumes were sorted into 3 categories:
- Great resume as it has degree related work experience. May need structural help, but content is good.
- Some work experience (not necessarily degree related, but may have some volunteer work or hobby that relates) and structure needs some work, but OK.
- No work experience at all or very limited and no degree related activity at all. Poorly structured.
b) Individual contact and case management
Those in category 3 were individually contacted, invited for a consultation or given assistance over the phone. Category 2 were followed up when time permitted or resume reviewer suggested it. (approx. 45 had initial case management, and then another 40 given assistance to complete the program and improve job seeking skills)
c) Two compulsory on-line modules and a workshop
Career Planning and Defining Opportunities and a workshop which
explained in a practical way how to find work experience, volunteer work or jobs.
Phase 2 – Two activities from many choices currently provided by careers (min 2 hrs)
- on-line modules on career related activities;
- personal development modules;
- extra education modules;
- personality assessments such as Harrison’s;
- networking events organised for different degree disciplines;
- career expos;
- regular career workshops; and much more.
The idea was that students should attend what they needed. So when we case managed we advised students to attend or complete activities that would address their specific needs.
Phase 3 - Intensive week of activities in mid semester break (6 hrs)
Focus was on face to face experiences including:
- graduate recruitment session simulation;
- branding yourself;
- networking skills;
- building on strengths;
- employer visits;
- alumni mentoring;
- volunteer work;
- work experience; and
- internship or a job.
Benefits to students:
The main benefit we have seen so far (as program still in progress) is an improvement in confidence, motivation and self-esteem. 14 students now have degree related jobs (2 are internships) and many more have secured volunteer work or work experience due to the program motivating them to start looking. The most valuable part of the program was having the time to case manage, refer students to our activities and follow up students to encourage them to keep trying.
These benefits reinforce the high needs of many low SES students as they needed this extra assistance to develop their employability skills.
These students now have more confidence, more knowledge of what the graduate employment market wants and their employability skills and career management skills have been developed. They have clearer directions and thus, they are better prepared to manage their own careers.
Benefits to employers
Graduate employers should see these students better prepared for work and the graduate employment process. Contact with potential employers also allows employers to identify possible future employees and to be able to showcase their organisations as employers of choice through student visits and allowing employees to be mentors.
Potentially or currently benefits the NAGCAS organisation, its members and the career development industry
We have taken a number of learnings from this program:
- Targeting a smaller homogenous group makes it easier to measure and manage the outcomes. By containing numbers and targeting the case management we were able to assist those most in need, and this personal, repeated encouragement resulted in more commitment from the students. We recognised that this is a good way to promote careers services for maximum utilisation.
- Offering a package of activities helps to funnel students into a series of career development activities rather than random one-off services. Students were more likely to avail themselves of more services as they were part of a “package” with a certificate at the end.
- The use of a package allowed us to cross promote our standard offerings such as workshops, expos, networking events, on-line resources so that these services were better utilised.
- This program was labour intensive as it required repeated, individual case management which encouraged completion of the program and participation in career development opportunities.
This program is innovative because it targets a cohort of students who are some of the most in need of career assistance but some of the most difficult to identify. These are the “don’t know what they don’t know” students who don’t readily seek assistance, because they don’t realise what they are not doing.
Many universities seek to recruit low SES students, and support them financially if necessary, but very few address the hidden need for career support once they are at university. This program aimed to fill that gap and address their need to develop employment seeking skills rather than financial needs.