UNC Charlotte, located in the second largest financial center in the country and the largest city in the Carolinas, is uniquely positioned to help its undergraduate, alumni, and graduate students develop and test out 21st-century UNC Tomorrow skills to incorporate into their career decision-making, planning, internship, and full-time job searches . The mission of UNC Charlotte’s University Career Center (UCC) is to provide a comprehensive approach to career preparation and development with experiential learning as a key component resulting in enhanced and engaged academic and life long career experiences for students. The Center’s staff is committed to helping students connect with careers in all sectors and locations-whether it be corporate, nonprofit, local, international, or government focused. In recent years, the UCC has been recognized by students and colleagues for its service to students through election into the Golden Key National Honor Society and Phi Kappa Phi. Central to student success, over 92% of the 2010 traditional undergraduate population are graduating with university sanctioned career related experience; over 1,500 students participated in the University Career Center Experiential Learning programs and over 560 Experiential Learning Courses were offered at UNC Charlotte (i.e., the Career Center tracks these as a central coordinating unit and provides support to faculty incorporating internships into their courses). The University provides five unique experiential learning programs, two of which are administered by the Center. One of the programs, named appropriately the 49ership after the 49ers, provides flexible transcript notation options to traditional internships for credit. Other real-world learning experiences in the region occur through the Career Prospector individual and career site visit job shadowing program.
To students, the UCC is a “one-stop shop” for work, service, and internships which is ideally located next to the main library. Never have the programs within this academic student service- the UCC’s seven annual career fairs, NinerJobNet job database, experiential learning program, Twitter and Facebook presence, peer career assistant coaching, and online career tools and information – been so important until the current recession rocked the job market for college graduates and affected the way current students view major and career planning. The UCC is also uniquely positioned in Academic Affairs Academic Services unit shared by the Honors College, Athletic Advising, Office of Disability Services, University Center for Academic Excellence, Multicultural Academic Services and in close alliance with academic advising, freshman seminar programs, learning communities, student affairs, and university relations. The director of the center is the university's academic liaison to NC Campus Compact bringing faculty and staff together monthly to discuss initiatives and practices that incorporate service learning as part of the classroom curriculum, better positioning students interested in service careers. Students rated service and corporate related 49er ships as providing them with a better understanding of their career fields and has contributed to their career decision making (4.71 on a 5pt scale). Participants also indicated that they were more motivated to stay in school as result of the experience (4.68 ); thus, the UCC services have a significant impact on retention. According to the postgraduate surveys, more students who participated in Experiential Learning reported: Employment before graduation, working in fields related to their major, higher GPAs, and more satisfied with their full-time career positions. Lastly, almost 90% of employers surveyed indicated that they would hire one of our Co-op or 49ership students for a full-time position if available. Students, earning $10.85 to over $17 an hour report satisfaction with their position (90%). The center works closely with the UCC Employer Advisory Board and top experiential learning employers include NC State Government, Wachovia/ Wells Fargo, Bank of America, TIAA-CREF, Carolinas Healthcare, The Mint Museum, Time Warner Cable, General Electric, Duke Energy Corp., Lowe’s Companies, Inc., FBI, Microsoft, Vanguard, BB & T, Family Dollar Stores, Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, Charlotte Bobcats, Food Lion, and US Marshals.
In response to the current job market, not only has the UCC continued to offer students tools for the job search through individual career advising and ongoing programming, but it has also sought to offer students network connections, hope in the face of negative media, and encouragement to stay engaged in the job search and career development process. A personalized letter regarding the job market was even sent to parents. Other special opportunities led by our graduate students in counseling help students cope in a down economy through our job search groups for seniors stuck in their job search and in need of ideas, encouragement, and accountability. In these groups, students explore what career fits best, develop job search skills, uncover the hidden job market, learn how to manage stress, and become effective communicators. Increasingly more students have also engaged in our self-assessment programs which assist students in focusing in on their 21st-century skills identification which helps in internship site targeting and interviewing for all types of positions. Traditional on-campus recruiting programs and targeted corporate strategic internship partnerships are important vehicles for connecting students with employment opportunities. Career Center staff is integral to supporting these partnerships and serve on the University-wide Corporate Relations Strategic Task Force which looks at ways the community can best work with our varied programs. University Career Center staff has strategic goals to conduct site visits and engage daily with employers as key partners, and have provided active support for the Chamber of Commerce in attracting new companies to the region. External activity to assist students in the job search includes over 36,500 student resumes being directly referred to employers for full-time, post-graduation opportunities, internships and co-ops; 2,500 on-campus interviews being conducted at the center and through Career Expos; as well as 450 in-house employer consultations. 93% of students indicated that as a result of participating in the recruiting program, they are more motivated to take action toward their career plans while 93% of students indicated that the experience increased their knowledge base of careers. 97% of employers indicated planning to offer second interviews to students as result of on-campus interviews.
The “2008 Great Recession” has brought an increase in questions like “what should I be doing right now to help my chances for success?” from students, and as a last example offered, the UCC Career Success Certificate Program is a prescribed recommendation for each student on which services, programs, and events offered by the UCC (and across campus) can help them through specific stages in their career planning. Along with helping students develop the skills they will need for a positive transition from campus to career, the Career Success Certificate helps dispel the myth that career planning is something tied to the senior year. Eventually, the UCC hopes to use the success stories, similar to those which follow, of our first certificate program graduates to inspire future students embarking on job and internship searches.
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