Program that connects students to employers expands to community colleges

Posted at 2:43 PM, Nov 16, 2020

Community colleges have always put career readiness at the forefront of the courses they offer. Now, in the current economic downturn, they're hoping to increase their student to job pipeline.

"We really feel like our role is to identify what jobs are available right now for students that they can apply and be working while going to school. What are the future jobs that we need to be preparing students for?" asked Dr. Shanna Jackson, the President of Nashville State Community College in Tennessee.

Dr. Jackson says students are battling so much right now, including choosing between having to work and going to school.

Dr. Jackson is hoping an $80 million investment in the company Handshake, to help expand job recruitment to community colleges, will help.

"We actually already have 70 community colleges that have already signed on to be early pilot partners with us so we're really learning from them. We’re listening to them. We’ve started an advisory group with this population so that we can continue to ascertain what are the biggest pain points. What are their biggest areas of need for these students," said Christine Cruzvergara, Handshake's VP of Higher Education and Student Success.

Handshake helps connect students with employers through career fairs, job postings and other services, and previously only worked with four-year universities. Cruzvergara says they're working with state systems throughout the country to connect with technical and community colleges.

"It'll be a really similar experience. It’ll all be part of one network and that's actually why it's a huge benefit to community colleges. We know for some of our biggest employers that they want to recruit 2-year talent. They don't see 2-year talent as different from 4-year talent for internships and jobs, they simply have a number of different types of roles and positions that are available to all types of students," said Cruzvergara.

The partnership hopes to bring new recruitment benefits to students.

"The tools that something like this provides really enhances their opportunity to cast a wider net and then they can decide which job offer they want to say yes to instead of maybe taking the first one they hear about," said Dr. Jackson.

Dr. Jackson says more employers are realizing the value of an Associate's Degree and the technical skills it can often provide, especially in today's economy.