Work-based learning opportunities such as internships are currently one of the most influential ideas in public higher education and workforce development policy around the world. But what do we really know about internships and their impacts on student outcomes such as wages, employment status, and career satisfaction? Do internships – especially those that are unpaid – serve to reproduce inequality by limiting these “high-impact” practices to those with ample and officially sanctioned forms of financial, cultural and social capital?
The College Internship Study aims to document the effects of internship participation and program characteristics on student outcomes such as college completion, employment and earnings, and career adaptability. The Study includes on online survey administered to all students nearing graduation, focus groups with students, and interviews with career services and area employers. Additionally, an “institutional map” documenting the present state of internship opportunities will be compiled for each campus. Within months, the CCWT will prepare a technical report for each institution with actionable recommendations for how each campus can improve its internship programs.
The first round of this study launched in April 2018 at three institutions: a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in South Carolina, a technical college in Wisconsin, and a 4-year comprehensive university in Wisconsin. The second phase of the study will include research at a 4-year comprehensive and 3-year vocational college in North-eastern China, and in the Fall of 2018 CCWT will be administering the online survey component of the study on a national level with interested colleges and universities.
Given the widespread interest in work-based learning programs such as internships and apprenticeships, it is essential that policymakers and educators make decisions that are based on evidence from empirical research and practitioner experience. Yet discussions about internships are notable for their lack of grounding in the small but growing body of literature on the impacts that internship experiences and design features have on student outcomes. Center staff have conducted a preliminary review of the literature and wrote a research report that summarized the state-of-the-art on what we know about best practices in internship programming. Next steps in this project include a more in-depth systematic review of the literature in order to support the design of future research projects.
This research strand focuses on student experiences with career advising programming and how these services influence their career decision-making, self-efficacy, and self-exploration capabilities.
In the spring of 2017 a pilot study on undergraduates’ experiences with career services was launched at UW–Madison. This mixed-methods study included focus groups and an online survey with students, with the aim to document their perspectives on the utility of their college’s career services offices, influential factors shaping their career choices, sources of information for making these career decisions, and their tolerance for ambiguity. One of the primary questions guiding this study was whether or not experiences with particular career services programs impacted students' career adaptability, which encompasses their curiosity, control, confidence and concern regarding careers.
CCWT are currently designing a new study on these topics that will build on the pilot study at UW-Madison, but with a greater focus on the following topics: (1) the effects of career services on students' social capital and career-related networks, (2) experiences with career services of first-generation, low-income, and/or under-represented minority students, and (3) training and workplace experience of college career advisors.
An oft-overlooked aspect of career pathways is the job search and hiring process, especially how well-equipped (or not) students feel as they attempt to enter the workforce. This topic is particularly salient given a growing literature on the sociology of hiring that raises important questions about the subjective nature of applicant screening and subsequent implications for discrimination, as well as the growth of alternative credentials (e.g., badges) that are being rapidly developed and marketed by for-profit and non-profit educational providers. CCWT staff are currently designing a new study in this area, with possible questions being: (1) the relative role of technical, non-technical, and personality attributes plays in employers' assessment of candidates "fit" with corporate cultures, and (2) whether credentials such as digital badges, bootcamp certificates, and other competency-based credentials are valued by employers.
This research strand aims to broaden conversations about the purpose of higher education beyond political debates to include the views of Wisco nsin residents from a variety of regions, backgrounds, and perspectives.
The high costs of higher education and its benefits to students and to society are central issues in the legislative and public debate on the role of higher education in the state. Yet too often debates about higher education, and its ultimate purpose for students and the public, do not include the perspectives and experiences of community members from different walks of life. In order to enrich and inform this debate, CCWT has trained a team of UW students to conduct interviews with Wisconsin residents from throughout the state, to document and identify their views on the aims of higher education and subsequent implications for public policy. Student Project Flyer (PDF)
This research strand aims to critically analyze refugee resettlement policy relating to the college-workforce transition and to document the experiences of refugees as they resettle in in Wisconsin, attempt to access and succeed in higher education, and transition into the workforce.
The goals of this study are to collect and critically analyze refugee resettlement policy and related materials and to ethnographically document the policy and sociocultural contexts of the refugee resettlement and college-workforce transition for two populations in Wisconsin: the Hmong people from Laos and Cambodia, and the Rohingya from Burma. Preliminary research will document how these contexts effect the work of service providers and educators who facilitate refugees’ college access and retention and their transition to work; which will inform an ethnographic study of how Hmong and Rohingya refugees experience the resettlement and college-workforce transition process in Wisconsin.