A college degree—whether from a community college, a four-year college, or a university—no longer guarantees that student completers will have opportunities for rewarding employment, substantial income, purposeful and interesting work, and long-term career potential. To remedy this problem, institutions of higher education have begun offering certificates, internships, and other trusted credentials that ensure that their graduates will be employable.
However, when students’ postsecondary education includes substantial career preparation in science, engineering, technology, business, or health services, they continue to enter promising careers—with one caveat: these students must also be guided to understand their fields of employment, identify employers in their fields, gain experience in the workplace, and make thoughtful decisions about job opportunities and possible locations where they might live and work. Institutions and their faculty have a responsibility to not only educate and train students for work, but also provide them with information, experiences, job preparation tasks, and contacts with potential employers.
Every year, employers in fields such as photonics demand more new technicians than community and technical colleges are producing. Students who complete these education and training programs receive multiple job offers at very substantial salaries. But for technician students to make the best choices, they must be prepared to evaluate their own interests and needs, and they must be connected to relevant employers. Although most colleges give students some help as they search for jobs, the primary responsibility lies with the faculty. Experienced faculty members have become sensitized to this need and have developed experiences, tools, and strategies that prepare their students for rewarding and successful employment.
We asked college faculty members who have been teaching photonics technician students for periods ranging from eight to thirty years to share with us the strategies, experiences, and resources they use to help their students secure desirable jobs in a timely manner. We also asked photonics employers who have hired many technicians from two-year colleges to share with us the criteria they use to interview and select candidates for employment in their organizations. Here, we draw on the contributions and recommendations of these educators and employers to describe successful strategies, models, and tools for student placement.
Some of the ideas we present may not be useful for all colleges. Their usefulness will depend on your institution’s location, the technical emphases of your coursework, and the support available from your college, former students, and employer advisory committees. We recommend reviewing the various ideas, choosing the ones that are most appropriate for your situation, and developing a suitable Plan for Student Placement.
Author(s): Dan Hull with contributions from Gary Beasley, Ron Darbee, Dorian McIntire, Frank Reed, Fred Seeber, Bill Shiner, and Gordon Snyder.
Category: Monographs and Reports