In December 2015, Governor Rick Scott announced the “Ready, Set, Work” University Challenge, encouraging state-funded universities to reach 100 percent full-time employment of their students within a year of graduation. While Governor Scott asked universities to focus on their two most popular degree programs (criminal justice and business at Florida A&M University), President Elmira Mangum and Provost Marcella David have challenged the FAMU campus to strengthen existing programs and create news ones to further build on campus-wide efforts to ensure students are ready to join the workforce. And the leaders of the University’s colleges and schools are enthusiastically going above and beyond to meet that challenge.
For instance, in the School of Allied Health Sciences all students are required to complete internships in places such as hospitals, clinics, community agencies, nursing homes, extended care facilities, and rehabilitation centers, to ensure they are familiar with the current standards and expectations of their respective fields and are on track to find employment. This mandate has paid off big time for the school’s graduates.
“Our internship sites have become primary employers of our graduates,” said Cynthia Hughes Harris, dean of the School of Allied Health Sciences. “We make certain that the majority of our internship placements are in Florida and as a result, interns are almost always offered an employment opportunity at one of their internship sites. We maintain strong relationships with our internship partners so that they are eager to accept our students for training and subsequently employment.”
In addition to the internship initiative, Hughes Harris says that the School is also adamant about ensuring students are well informed. This includes the development of an active list of employment websites, position titles, and salary ranges for local and state jobs in health sciences, which is routinely distributed to allied health students pursuing the general health science degree.
Ensuring that students participate in internships and remain educated about job opportunities are two underlying themes for deans on FAMU’s campus. And, according to Rodner Wright, dean of the School of Architecture and Engineering Technology, programs and activities are held throughout the year to introduce students to employers.
“We host an industry-specific career fair each spring,” Wright said. “The event brings alumni and industry representatives to the school to interview students and promote their firm or organization. Also, the School uses an online e-portfolio system that lets the firms review the student portfolios before their visit. We also host an Alumni Industry Day each year, bringing representatives to the school to review student capstone projects, which serves as a stepping stone for potential employment opportunities.”
Wright also noted that the School uses a text messaging system and social media to promote employment and internship opportunities to students. Also, internships have been added to the graduate curriculum, such as in the School’s facilities management program, which ensures 100 percent of the students in the program have internships.
According to Dean Victor Ibeanusi, the School of Environment follows a similar strategy.
“We organize internships for our students and provide them with professional development activities such as presenting and networking at conferences, and resume writing support,” he said. “We also have developed relationships with state/city/county agencies to assist in placing students upon graduation and ensure that we notify students of known vacancy announcements and recruitment opportunities in their respective fields.”
In the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication Dean Ann Kimbrough says students are benefiting from the targeted programs that faculty and staff operate to expose students to employment opportunities that offer competitive pay and sustained opportunities.
“Our James L. and John S. Knight Chair for Student Achievement Francine Huff leads seminars and workshops, and provides financial resources to enhance job skill development for journalism and public relations majors,” Kimbrough said. “The SJGC Knight Chair conducted a survey among students completing our senior capstone colloquium course and who graduated from the journalism division in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 academic years. More than 50 percent of the survey respondents listed various locations in Florida for their place of employment.”
According to Kimbrough, the aforementioned capstone colloquium ensures that students have the written, presentation, and critical thinking skills required before going into the workplace. Professionals and faculty review student portfolios to ensure they are ready for the job application process before graduating. Also, sophomore-level and transfers students enroll in a professional development colloquium and internships are offered to every SJGC student at a 90 percent participation rate.
FAMU’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences is on target for hitting the 100 percent mark for student employment within the first year of graduation.
“The College of Pharmacy has an annual career fair for students every October,” said Michael Thompson, pharmacy dean. “Representatives from major corporations and pharmaceutical industry recruiters attend. As a result of events like the career fair, and our preceptor and experiential programs, prior to graduation, 90 percent of our students have firm job offers.”
At the School of Business and Industry, Dean Shawnta Friday-Stroud is using the “Ready, Set, Work” challenge to further underscore the business program’s long-standing goal of equipping its graduates with the technical and behavioral skills necessary to secure lucrative, full-time employment upon graduation.
“SBI’s academic programs require its students to complete internships and a Professional Leadership Development (PLD) Program prior to graduation,” Friday-Stroud said. “In preparation for internship and full-time placement opportunities, SBI’s PLD Program requires its students to acquire and practice oral, written, interpersonal, and electronic communication skills; as well as teamwork, ethical decision-making, leadership, business etiquette, and financial management skills.”
Friday-Stroud added that SBI is enhancing the execution of its job development and placement strategies by strengthening partnerships with its existing career partners and growing new partnerships, especially with career partners within Florida’s footprint.
“The feedback that SBI receives from its stakeholders and integrates into its curricula is integral to ensuring that graduates are ready for the rigors of the workplace,” she said.
Over the past year, the FAMU Career Center Director Kacy Lowe says she and her team have worked closely with the School of Business and Industry and the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice to advertise employment opportunities to students to directly address the Governor’s challenge.
“We continue to develop and build partnerships with Fortune 100 corporations and governmental agencies seeking quality students to fill recent vacancies,” she said.
Melony Washington, who oversees employer relations and scheduling for the Center, expounded on the Center’s progress.
“We’ve successfully placed business and criminal justice students in entry-level positions with Macy’s, Nielsen, CSX Transportation, Brown-Forman Beverages, IBM Watson, International Paper, City Year, Edward Jones, Cardinal Health, GEICO Company, Pepsico, SunTrust Bank, Apple, WellsFargo, Bank of America, and MillerCoors,” Washington said. “Additionally, we hosted several police departments from Orlando, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Winter Garden on campus to meet with our criminal justice majors. There were over 160 students in attendance during these visits.”