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Colorado schools are heeding the call for rapid ROI

High placement rates and other statistics can help schools compete


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Everyone wants to spend their money wisely, and that includes college students and their parents. Schools are facing increased pressure to show they are not only preparing students for careers, but making sure they start these careers soon.

High placement rates and other statistics can help schools compete. The U.S. Department of Education recently launched the College Scorecard (www.collegescorecard.ed.gov/), an online resource that lists U.S. colleges’ average annual costs, graduation rates and salaries after attending.

“Schools want their graduates to be employed, and I think there is probably a greater lens on it now than there has been in the past,” says Sue Wyman, director, Business Career Connections at the University of Colorado Denver Business School. “Students and their parents are more aware of picking schools that have some results in this area.”

Business Career Connections offers Job Search Boot Camps and Interview Prep Workshops several times throughout the year. CU Denver also offers a Business Fundamentals minor, five courses for non-business students. Those who enroll in the minor program get access to Business School career coaching, internships and other career services.

ROI on EDU

People expect the high cost of tuition to lead to a job post-graduation.  

“Students and their parents are looking for a return on investment,” says Pat Perella, executive director of Career Services for Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. He says 97 percent of undergraduates are employed or in graduate school six months post-graduation from Daniels. “Our goal is aligned with our students. We want them to be successful in their chosen careers, and they in turn become great job contacts and leads for future Pioneers.”

Perella says the process of applying for jobs has changed. Some employers accept video cover letters, and resumes no longer require home addresses. Remote interviews have increased, and recruiters are using LinkedIn and other social sites for initial discovery. Daniels College works with students to make sure they align their LinkedIn profiles and other social presences with their career goals.

VA Hayman Barber, director of Experiential Education & Career Services for Johnson & Wales, says internships can help. For the 2014-2015 school year, the Denver campus had 405 students in internships. On the Denver campus, for all class levels, 73 percent of students who completed paid internships received employment offers.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), in its 2015 student survey, found that 56.5 percent of students who participated in an internship received at least one job offer, while only 36.5 percent of those with no internship received a job offer. Paid interns with private, for-profit companies enjoyed the highest offer rate, 72.2 percent.

Internships also help graduates earn better starting salaries, says Lindsey Day, career advisor for the University of Denver. “Students who had internships were on average making $10,000 a year more than those who didn’t.”

Day says 96.4 percent of graduates of the 2013-2014 year were employed or in graduate school six months after graduation. Alumni get a few career advice appointments for free, then pay $25 a session, which is lower than what private services charge. “We care about you over your whole career,” Day says.

PLACEMENT RECORDS

Hitting 90 percent post-grad employment rates is an important benchmark for some educational institutions. Last year the University of Colorado Boulder, Leeds School of Business began an initiative to have 90 percent of graduates in jobs, launching an entrepreneurial endeavor, or continuing their education. The first year was a success, with a total rate of 93.9 percent. “It was very much an initiative rooted in collaboration, not just a function of the career center,” says John Helmers, associate director of MBA career management.

In addition to the usual coaching and skills development, the Leeds School of Business offers treks, trips to New York, San Francisco, and other cities where students can observe a day-in-the-life for specific careers. Leeds also participated in the Colorado Business School Career Fair, an event at Sports Authority Field that included several area colleges and universities.

No matter how high tech the career search becomes, career fairs remain important. Kevin Glavin, PhD., research program manager, career services for the CU Boulder, says the school brought in 100 employers for a career fair recently. “It’s a benefit not just to students,” he says. “We are bringing a rich pool of talent to these employers.”

At Ecotech Institute in Denver, the career services staff and instructors have to keep up with the latest in renewable energy, the school’s focus. “As we work with employers, we are always making sure that our current curriculum is lining up with their needs,” says Chris Oberle, student career development specialist. “A lot of our graduates end up with some type of energy company, so this is always evolving.” The goal is to have 80 percent of graduates in jobs within 90 days of graduation, and Oberle says Ecotech is currently at 86 percent.

21st CENTURY ACADEMIA

Nontraditional schools and boot camps also want to make sure their students get jobs. Skill Distillery, based in Greenwood Village, offers a 19-week coding boot camp for people who want to begin careers in software development. Cole Frock, co-founder and school director, says Skill Distillery offers education and services such as interviewing, networking, and developing an online presence. The school also reaches out to the startup community, because these businesses can really use the skills of junior programmers. “We provide someone who is super excited and who is trainable,” Frock says.

Skill Distillery’s first class graduated this July. The school also works to get corporate sponsorships, where companies pay the tuition of current employees.

Denver-based Galvanize offers training in Full-stack Web development, data science, and more. The Full-stack program has an average of 98 percent of graduates placed into positions in the industry within six months. In the data science program, 93 percent of graduates get positions within six months. The six-campus Galvanize offers Hiring Days, where students present their individual class projects to the community and hiring partners. “About 30 percent of students get hired from this alone,” says Shauna Causey, vice president at Galvanize. Also, the school includes business skills such as marketing, sales, and negotiation as part of the overall curriculum. 

Galvanize also has a business incubator. “We’ve had startups working within Galvanize hire Galvanize students,” Causey says. “It’s one of the benefits of having students, startups and big companies all working side-by-side on a campus.”

At Denver’s Turing School of Software & Design, the focus is on substance. “The best way to help graduates get jobs is to recruit amazing students and give them an unsurpassed education that builds relevant skills,” says Daisha Versaw, manager of marketing and communications. “The primary purpose of our career center is to help our graduates get to the technical interview stage. Once a technical manager sees what they can do, their chances of a job offer are very high.” cb

Moving up in the world

Some students are already working, and going back to school to get ahead. “If our students are already in a job, a very high percentage do get promoted within a year or two of them graduating,” says Liz Thomas Hensley, Ph.D., director of the MBA program at Adams State University in Alamosa. “They move up in the industry or do a career change.” The MBA program at Adams is online, which makes the school appealing to people who are working.

Colorado State University Global Campus, which is 100 percent online, measures other outcomes besides getting hired. CSU-Global  President Becky Takeda-Tinker notes that the spring 2015 alumni survey of students who graduated one year prior indicated that 89 percent of CSU-Global graduates report working for pay, 29 percent report that they have secured a better job, 27 percent report that they have received a promotion, and 15 percent report they have secured a job in a new field. CSU-Global graduates also report that they have received an average increase of 17 percent in their salaries one year after graduation.

Webster University, which has classes in Denver and online, started offering a Career Management Course last year. The course includes self-assessments, social networking and personal branding. “It doesn’t matter if the student is in a job, making a transition, or moving up in the organization; they do have a lifetime of job possibilities,” says Dana Rocha, director of Webster’s Denver Campus. “It helps the company long- term because you are a better employee and you are committed.” 

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Nora Caley

Nora Caley is a freelance writer specializing in business and food topics.

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