Staffing Management

College Career Centers Adapt to Tough Times

By Bridget Testa

Sep. 23, 2010

Since the recession and stock market crash of 2008, college career centers have struggled to meet increased demand with reduced financial resources. Although staffing at the centers did not decrease, average operating budgets dropped by 2.5 percent, according to a survey of 557 four-year institutions by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Fewer employers showed up on campus, meaning participation fees for events such as job fairs also declined.

Yet, demand for services increased. Some career centers responded quickly to the challenges, finding creative ways to serve students and alumni.

     “In the last year, we’ve seen an increase of 15 percent to 20 percent in the number of alumni using our services,” says David Small, associate vice president for student services at the University of Houston.

Most UH alumni remain in the area, “so when there is a downturn in the economy, they come in for services,” he adds. “For those who live too far away, we have created distance services where we help them by phone and Internet.”

DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana, offers workshops and individual counseling sessions to alumni, both on and off campus. “This year we have been in Chicago, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and New York City, with upcoming events and counseling in St. Louis, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Minneapolis and throughout Indiana,” says Steve Langerud, director of career development. “The service focuses on transitions and performance coaching.” As with the University of Houston, alumni from DePauw can attend via phone and online services.

Career centers also have tapped social networking tools to help students and alumni find work. The University of Houston offers workshops on using Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter for job searches. During the 2009-2010 academic year, the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta experimented with Skype for online audio and video interviews. “We see this as something we can use without needing to spend much money,” says Ralph Mobley, director of career services at Georgia Tech. “It’s cheap, low-cost and good. For the fall, we see it being used to help employers who don’t have a recruitment budget, but have hiring needs.”

Career centers are also experimenting with new approaches to job fairs. Georgia Tech, the University of Houston and the University of California, San Diego, hosted post-graduation fairs this summer.

“We often find that graduates in their last semester focus on their studies,” says Andy Ceperley, director of the career services center at UC San Diego. “They are ready for the job search after graduation.”

The University of South Carolina in Columbia was scheduled to host its second part-time job fair in August.

“We started the part-time job fair last August for students who need to work while they’re in school,” says Thomas Halasz, director of the university’s career center. “Last fall, about 40 employers and 800 students attended. We’re getting a great deal of interest from employers and students this year. It isn’t clear if we’re just marketing well or if there are more jobs. I’m OK with it either way.”

Workforce Management, August 2010, p. 5Subscribe Now!

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