Will this degree get me a job? Cleveland State’s Career Pathways Orientation

Photo Credit: University of Minnesota
Photo Credit: University of Minnesota

“Will this degree get me a job?”

To help students, their families, faculty and employers see the connection between academic pursuits and career aspirations, and to motivate students to complete their degrees, Cleveland State University (CSU) introduced its Career Pathways Orientation to translate between majors and occupations more effectively. Rather than focusing on specific majors as the essential paths to get to specific jobs, career pathways – or Career Lines, as CSU calls them – identify broad but definable categories of career clusters. Each category connects to a diverse set of academic majors and leads to an array of existing and emerging occupations.

Byron White, Vice President for Engagement at CSU, pitched this program at the Innovation Pitch Challenge sponsored by Lumina Foundation at the APLU annual conference and was selected as one of the three winning pitches. Now, almost one year later, we are taking a look at how one of the winning ideas evolved.

What’s been achieved to date?

Combining funding from Lumina Foundation with the Cleveland Foundation’s Fenn Education Fund, and the Ohio Board of Regents, Cleveland State University was able to enlist researchers from its Levin College of Urban Affairs to examine U.S. Department of Labor data and national best practices to define 15 pathways or “Career Lines.” The Division of University Engagement then surveyed and interviewed department chairs to identify learning outcomes that matched the “knowledge descriptors” associated with each Career Line.

Based on the results, CSU is launching this fall an interactive web portal developed with funding from Lumina and others to allow students, faculty and employers to manipulate these data to explore different Career Lines and to identify the majors and occupations to which the pathways are aligned. Majors are identified as strongly aligned or moderately aligned to each Career Line. Occupations considered to be in “high-demand” by Ohio Means Jobs also are highlighted. The portal also will include online tools that students can use to identify which pathways best match their interests and strengths.

Finally, to create a climate that encourages faculty to embrace this approach, the Division of University Engagement arranged for a series of faculty development activities to introduce faculty to the importance of incorporating experiential learning, such as internships and co-ops, to the academic experience, and to help them reconcile such objectives with academic learning goals.

Next Steps

Going forward, the project will advance along three parallel sets of activity:

  • Introducing students to Career Lines. The first set is to design and implement processes to orient students to these Career Lines during the 2015-16 academic year. This will involve training academic advisers to use the new Career Lines portal to assist students in selecting majors, choosing electives and minors, and adjusting academic goals.
  • Incorporating career orientation into the curriculum. The second set will be to develop a curriculum that assists students in identifying Career Lines early in their academic careers and assisting faculty in incorporating this orientation into their teaching as their students’ progress. The Division of University Engagement has convened a working group of faculty and administrators to identify opportunities to insert career exploration into the first-year curriculum and select courses that are required for certain majors.
  • Aligning career pathways into experiential learning opportunities. The third set of work calls for creating opportunities for students to complement their academic course work with internships, co-ops and other workplace placements that allows them to progress toward their career aspirations in accordance with their chosen pathways. CSU’s Career Services office is actively engaged in this effort.

Value of the Pitch

Cleveland State’s selection as a winner of the APLU/USU Innovation Pitch Challenge greatly elevated the stature of the Career Pathways Orientation initiative both within the institution and externally. Both the public nature of the selection and the grant from Lumina served to affirm this work as important not only to CSU, but to higher education overall.

Congratulations CSU for your hard work on and providing a model for other universities.

So, what are you doing to help make the link between academic pursuits and career aspirations? What other great ideas are out there that need to be shared?

The next pitch is scheduled for Tuesday, November 17 at the APLU Annual in Indianapolis on Student Success 3.0. We hope you will join us for that.

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