UCF has been selected to participate in a national, three-year program called “Bridging the Gap from Education to Employment” that intends to redesign the college-to-career pathway. UCF is one of seven public research institutions participating in the program, which is led by the University Innovation Alliance and funded through a $2.4 million grant from the Strada Education Network.
The initiative will ultimately provide a national playbook for preparing students professionally and supporting students in new jobs after graduation, with a special emphasis on first-generation and low-income populations.
Research suggests that a graduate’s first job can have long-term economic implications. According to a report from Strada Institute for the Future of Work, 43 percent of college graduates are underemployed in their first job out of college. Of those, more than half remain underemployed even 10 years later. By contrast, graduates who land a first job appropriate to their skill level are significantly less likely to slip into underemployment.
“We know how important it is to provide students with an education and support services that effectively equip them to succeed and thrive in the working world.” — UCF interim President Thad Seymour Jr.
“At UCF, we’re helping students obtain a job that’s meaningful — one that leverages their skills, provides opportunities for growth and aligns with their passions,” says UCF interim President Thad Seymour Jr. “That’s because we know how important it is to provide students with an education and support services that effectively equip them to succeed and thrive in the working world.”
More than half of UCF graduates have received job offers or entered the workforce at the time of graduation, and 83 percent of graduates have reported taking jobs related to their field of study. Last year, more than 6,800 students participated in internships, co-ops, paid work experience programs or related experiences to help elevate their readiness for careers.
Approximately one in four UCF students are the first in their family to attend college, and 40 percent of undergraduates are Pell-grant eligible. UCF graduates the third-highest number of minorities in the nation.
Lynn Hansen, executive director of career services and UCF’s project lead is drawing from a team of faculty, academic advisors and staff members from career services and the experiential learning division to support this initiative.
“We’re actively changing the culture to make career readiness and employability competencies part of the fabric of UCF.” — Lynn Hansen, executive director of UCF Career Services
“It is an honor to be leading the way for this important work,” says Hansen. “Our peers participating in the project are amazed at UCF’s campus-wide commitment to preparing student for successful, fulfilling careers. We’re actively changing the culture to make career readiness and employability competencies part of the fabric of UCF.”
During the first phase of the project that took place last year, the UCF team interviewed students about their career expectations and concerns and used the feedback received to identify potential core challenges and obstacles.
During the next phase of the project, up to 50 employers from across the country will interact with the participating institutions through a series of workshops and activities. Together, the teams will examine employer perspectives on student preparedness for the workforce, and will identify employer needs and offer ideas for overcoming deficiencies.
During the final project phase, the University Innovation Alliance plans to engage the group of employers to help create, and ultimately scale, new innovations that support students’ transition from higher education to the workplace.
“Career services are a natural evolution of focus for the student success movement. If we abandon low-income or first-generation students at graduation with a poorly designed handoff between college-to-career, we risk failing to deliver on the full promise of higher education,” says Bridget Burns, executive director of the University Innovation Alliance. “Strada Education Network understands that innovation starts with listening to and understanding the perspective of students. This project is about providing career services professionals with the capacity and time to redesign career readiness in order to better prepare students for an increasingly dynamic future of work.”
Other participating institutions include Arizona State University, Georgia State University, Ohio State University, Oregon State University, Purdue University and the University of California – Riverside. All are members of the University Innovation Alliance, a collaboration of top-tier research institutions committed to increasing the number and diversity of college graduates in the United States.
UCF has been a member of the alliance since its inception in 2014.