Hora, M.T., Wolfgram, M. & Chen, Z. (2019). Closing the doors of opportunity: How financial, sociocultural and institutional barriers inhibit access to college internships.
Abstract: Internships are widely perceived as experiences that open the doors of opportunity, yet little is known about obstacles to participation. We report findings from surveys (n = 1,549) and focus groups (n= 100) with students at five postsecondary institutions. Results indicate that 64% of non-interns did not pursue one due to intersecting obstacles including the need to work, heavy course loads, and a lack of opportunities in their disciplines. First-generation students were more likely to report needing to work, Arts and Humanities students were more likely to report insufficient pay and heavy course loads, and full-time students were least likely to report insufficient pay. Colleges and universities must work to ensure that internships do not reproduce privilege and exacerbate inequality.
Hora, M.T., Parrott, E. & Her, P. (2019). How do students experience internships? Exploring student perspectives on college internships for more equitable and responsive program design.
Abstract: At a time when colleges and universities are anxious to prove that their graduates are employable, internships are being increasingly touted as valuable “high-impact” practices. However, how students themselves conceptualize internships is poorly understood, which inhibits their inclusion in the employability discourse and their incorporation into program design. In this study we use the freelisting method from cultural anthropology to analyze data from students (n=57) in three U.S. colleges, using saliency analysis, thematic analysis, and social network analysis techniques. Results indicate that the most salient terms in the cultural domain of internships were: “experience,” “learning,” “paid,” and “connections.” Students discussed these words in utilitarian terms (e.g., something to “get” for one’s resume), as important aspects of career- and self-exploration, and to highlight the importance of compensation. Differences in the complexity of student accounts were evident between students who had taken an internship and those who had not. These findings highlight how common definitions of internships reflect a homogenous and aspirational perspective that is inconsistent with student accounts. We conclude that students’ insights about internships are important to consider to re-frame the employability debate to include student interests, to avoid one-size-fits-all approaches to internship design, and to facilitate student self-reflection.
Mun Yuk Chin (2018). Brief Report: Career Advisor Experiences in a 2-year College
Abstract: Technical and community colleges are increasingly scrutinized for their ability to generate positive job outcomes for their students. While some attention has been paid to understanding students’ experiences with their campus career services, there is limited research on career advisors’ experiences in supporting these students in today’s economy. In this brief report, we highlight the main themes identified by five career advisors in a 2-year college that illustrate their role and function, and the organizational and systemic constraints they face in their work.
Scaglione, M.D. (2018). Skilled Non-College Occupations in the U.S. WCER Working Paper No. 2018-7
Abstract: This paper presents a new approach to the identification of relatively skilled occupations that do not typically require a bachelor’s degree for entry. I call this group of occupations Skilled Non-College Occupations (SNCOs). The proposed approach relies heavily on a new skills index based on data from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. In contrast with studies that estimate that employment in so-called middle-skill jobs in the U.S. represents one third to nearly a half of total employment, this study estimates that the combined employment of SNCOs accounted for 16.2% of all jobs in 2016. Exploratory analysis shows that SNCOs (a) represent only one in five jobs that do not require a 4-year college degree for entry; (b) encompass a wide variety of occupations and industries, even though they are highly concentrated in a relatively small number of them; (c) usually pay above-average wages; (d) show a quite low correlation between wages and the skills scores; and (e) include a significant proportion of workers who are potentially underemployed in terms of their level of educational attainment.
Hora, M.T. & Blackburn Cohen, C. (2018). Career services report: Midwestern State. University of Wisconsin-Madison. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions.
Abstract: This study documented the experiences of a group of undergraduate students at Midwestern State, with the aim to provide findings and actionable recommendations to student affairs professionals at this campus. This study sought to document how college students make decisions regarding their careers, whose advice they are most likely to seek, and how adaptable, confident, and proactive they are in regard to career planning. Insights into these issues may illuminate how today’s students are thinking about the world of work, which can help to inform how educators, student affairs professionals, and institutional leaders design and implement academic and career-related programs. In particular, career services professionals and institutional leaders would benefit from insights regarding whether or not their advising services are meeting students’ needs, particularly for first-generation, underrepresented minority and international students whose goals, interests, and concerns may vary from upper-income white students.This report includes findings from an online survey and in-person focus groups conducted with a group of undergraduate student respondents from Midwestern State in the Spring of 2017, and is an example of the type of applied research that CCWT is conducting.
Mun Yuk Chin, Chelsea A. Blackburn Cohen, and Matthew T. Hora (2018). The Role of Career Services Programs and Sociocultural Factors in Student Career Development. WCER Working Paper No. 2018-8.
Abstract: Existing research on the effectiveness of college career services centers (CSCs) has primarily focused on students’ rates of utilization and their satisfaction with the programs and services offered. Based on survey (n = 372) and focus group data (n = 35) from undergraduate business students, we found that participants were most satisfied with the CSC’s provision of practical tools that enhanced employability and were least satisfied with the CSC’s integration of students’ backgrounds and interests during advising. Our qualitative analysis yielded three categories of contributors (i.e., sociocultural factors, independent activities, and institutional factors) to student career outcomes, which were psychological characteristics, career decisions, and social capital. Sociocultural factors were most prominently featured in students’ narratives of their experiences, in that they shaped how students leveraged institutional resources and how they engaged in independent activities as part of their career trajectories. Practical implications and future research directions are discussed.
Hora, M.T., Wolfgram, M. & Thompson, S. (2017). What do we know about the impact of internships on student outcomes? Results from a preliminary review of the scholarly and practitioner literatures. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions Research Brief #2. University of Wisconsin-Madison
Abstract: Internships and other forms of work-based learning are widely viewed as promising programs that can provide college students with valuable skills, knowledge and abilities that can help ease their transition to the workforce. However, while a considerable amount of empirical and practitioner research exists on internships, the literature is limited by terminological imprecision, incomparability across countries and disciplines, and a lack of rigorous field studies on student outcomes. The empirical evidence indicates that internships improve students’ employability, academic outcomes, and career crystallization, but the evidence is mixed regarding the effects of internships on employability over the long-term and little research exists about the effects of internship experiences on wages. The literature also indicates the importance of internship characteristics such as job-site mentoring, autonomy, pay, and meaningful tasks on outcomes such as student satisfaction and job pursuit, yet few studies examine the relationship between these design characteristics and student outcomes. Furthermore, the practitioner or “grey” literature highlights the importance of careful planning, institutional support systems, coordination between academic programs and job-site mentors, a large “stable” of employers willing and able to host interns, and careful attention to legal and ethical issues. States and institutions hoping to scale up internship programs should ensure adequate staff, funding, and willing participants are in place before creating internship programs at scale. The field also needs rigorous mixed methods longitudinal studies that examine the impacts of specific internship characteristics on a variety of student outcomes.
Hora, M.T. & Blackburn-Cohen, C. (2017). Cultural capital at work: How cognitive and non-cognitive skills are taught, trained and rewarded in a Chinese technical college. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions Research Brief #1. University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Abstract: The employability of college students is one of postsecondary education’s most pressing concerns in the United States and China. In response, policymakers are focusing on developing students’ human capital, in the form of credentials and cognitive skills acquired in technical colleges, so that higher education becomes more aligned with workforce needs. In this exploratory study we use a cultural capital framework to examine how a group of technical college educators and employers in a large eastern Chinese city conceptualize skills, cultivate them via teaching and training, and utilize them when making hiring decisions. Findings include a shared view that both cognitive and non-cognitive skills are essential, a cultural predisposition to lecturing but also a growing use of active learning techniques, and the importance of “cultural fit” during the hiring process. The data are used to advance a new cultural framework for conceptualizing college student employability, which indicates that improving students’ prospects in the labor market requires integrating non-cognitive skills development in technical college classrooms, and advising students about the cultural underpinnings of the job search process.