Note: This case study presents the myAlamoCareer project in its original form. Over time, the project’s status and web links may have changed.
What is Career Coach for? First and foremost, Emsi’s online career exploration tool provides a way for those considering higher education to find out about the future jobs that college programs can guide them toward. But as the Alamo Colleges, in San Antonio, Texas, have discovered, Career Coach can also do a lot more.
We recently talked to Patricia Parma, the Alamo Colleges’ District Director of Student Success Initiatives, about the ways Career Coach is serving Alamo’s mission. First and foremost, she says Career Coach helps the five community colleges in the Alamo network communicate about the real-world benefits of higher education. But the Alamo Colleges don’t just put Career Coach in front of prospective students or high school graduates. Instead they’ve diversified its impact by partnering with other players in the economy to get as many people using Career Coach as possible. This includes putting Career Coach in MyAlamoCareer.org, a virtual career center website that the Alamo Colleges launched last year with Workforce Solutions Alamo.
“Success for our students is more than just completing their degree or certification. It also includes being well prepared for good paying jobs in fields with plenty of openings and potential for growth,” the Alamo Colleges Chancellor Dr. Bruce Leslie said. “At the Alamo Colleges, we are constantly seeking new ways to maximize technology for student success. By making use of technology, Career Coach created a fun, interactive way for our students to access critical information from their mobile phones, tablets or desktop computers.”
Spreading the Word about Career Coach
The Alamo Colleges have established partnerships with middle schools and high schools, area universities, and a number of State workforce centers to get as many people as possible exposed to the data Career Coach offers. For wide-ranging work like this, Career Coach offers the huge benefit of providing a streamlined curriculum and language, so that it’s easy for career counselors and others to describe the options available.
Alamo is integrating Career Coach into its efforts to recruit students in person, too. The school has created a “Mobile Go Center” – a 42-foot-long computer lab on wheels that travels around the region visiting schools, community events, and job fairs. Inside, the Mobile Go Center is set up to help potential students consider their future by showing them Career Coach as well familiarizing them with what Alamo offers, demonstrating how the Alamo programs align with the local job market, and even helping them with financial aid applications.
A Student Development Tool
Of course, Career Coach is also proving enormously helpful for existing students at Alamo. Alamo introduces students to Career Coach even before they register (what they call a “pre-zero” touch point) and then at a number of other times in each student’s time at the college. Used in this way, Career Coach serves as a student development tool that helps both students and advisors keep track of where they are in their studies. Coupled with mandated student advisement sessions at certain points in each program track, Career Coach makes sure students don’t just get on track. It also makes sure they stay there for as long as necessary.
Looking to the future, Career Coach also serves a role in Alamo’s plans for developing their advising model. According to Parma, one thing that Alamo has been focusing on with students has been getting them to think in terms of earning a bachelor’s degree after graduating from Alamo. Going forward, Career Coach will fill an important role in that by showing not only Alamo degrees but also the pathway to degrees available at local universities. One of Alamo’s long-term goals is to integrate their transfer plans into Career Coach, to show those degree tracks to students.
Partnering with Local Employers
Career Coach’s impact on Alamo Colleges isn’t limited to students. As Alamo develops its position as part of the economy, Career Coach has also helped the school’s efforts to partner with major local employers like Toyota and Rackspace. With Texas’s economy growing rapidly, especially in the resurgent manufacturing sector, employers are coming to Alamo looking for skilled workers to hire. Career Coach makes it simple to connect prospective and existing students with the openings those employers are looking to fill. As those partnerships develop, Parma sees the possibility for fantastic partnerships where Career Coach makes it possible for students to know that jobs with specific employers are waiting for them when they graduate.
One thing that’s become clear lately is that community colleges need to make a point of partnering with local governments and employers. Doing so makes them a crucial part of a united effort to get more people into better jobs. At Alamo Community Colleges, Career Coach has proven to be an important part of establishing those relationships, and then turning that large-scale success into personal achievements for individual students.
To learn more about Alamo Colleges and their website, MyAlamoCareer.org, check out this video.