July 15, 2024
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Tri-county colleges offer career readiness classes


CSU Channel Islands photographer Whitney Howard (right) helps senior Gabriel Perez pose for a head shot as part of the university’s career readiness class. (Mike Harris / PCBT Staff)

California Gov. Gavin Newson has ordered the development of a statewide career education plan to help students at public learning institutions enter the workforce.

One of the goals of the plan, announced Aug. 31, will be to build connections between schools and employers to enable graduates to transition more seamlessly into careers.

Several universities and colleges in the Tri-County region have already been doing that.

The business schools at CSU Channel Islands and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo teach mandatory career readiness courses designed to prepare their students to land their first jobs.

Santa Barbara City College offers a more concise class.

The classes are distinct from the standard career counseling offered at virtually every university and college. CSUCI, Cal Poly SLO and SBCC also offer the standard counseling in additon to their classes.

Jessica Muth, who teaches the CSUCI course, told the Business Times Sept. 13 that the goal of the 16-week class “is to give business students the confidence and skills and the ability to launch into the careers of their choice when they graduate.”

Launched in spring 2023, the no-cost course at the Martin V. Smith School of Business & Economics teaches students how to search for, apply for, and get entry-level jobs after graduation. 

Skills they learn include preparing for the transition from college to a professional job, identifying jobs matching their interests and qualifications and creating professional resumes and cover letters. 

They practice in-class mock interviews, go to career fairs, pitch themselves to prospective employers and learn how to talk about themselves and their interests, Muth said.

Career preparation is students’ No. 1 priority, she said.

“But what we’re finding is that students are under-prepared to enter the workforce,” she said. “So, this class is really embedding career readiness into the curriculum.” 

As part of the course, the students on Sept. 13 had professional head shots taken for their resumes and LinkedIn bios.

One of them, senior Eliana Gonzales, said that through the program, she had landed an accounting internship at the Port of Hueneme.

“All thanks to Jessica,” Gonzales, 25, said. “She helped me build my resume, do a LinkedIn bio and how to network.

“And she was the one who introduced me to my current employer,” Gonzales said. “So, this is a great experience.” 

Senior Gabriel Perez, 25, said he’s considering a career in marketing or accounting.

“Later on in the semester, we’re going to have a career fair, so I’ll have the opportunity to meet employers, local businesses,” he said.

“And kind of just see where I want to apply, where I want to go,” he said. “So, I feel this class is really going to help me.”

Other students who have taken the course have been hired at Premier America Credit Union and Haas Automation, both in Oxnard, Muth said.

Muth said she supports Newsom’s “freedom to suceed” Master Plan on Career Education.

“I think it’s needed to educate Californians to be career ready,” she said.

The plan will be developed in the next year or so by state leaders in education, workforce development and economic development working collaboratively with employers and others.

Up the coast, Cal Poly SLO’s Career Readiness Center at the university’s Orfalea College of Business offers business students various services to help them enter the workforce.

They include a mandatory 10-week course, Business Professionalism and Career Readiness, that has been taught since 2016.

It teaches students many of the same skills as CSUCI’s class.

“We cover topics from career exploration and career decision making to networking, resumes, cover letters, interviewing and everything in between,” said Mallory Stoffel, the center’s coordinator.

“After completing the course, students feel more prepared for the college-to-career transition,” she said.

The center’s various services, which also include one-on-one career advising with Stoffel and career peer advising, pay dividends, she said.

About 81% of the business school’s graduates are working full-time, she said.

Stoffel said career readiness is part of the business school’s mission.

“And so, our leadership has made an investment to really provide these services for our students,” she said.

Santa Barbara City College offers a Strategic Job Search class though its School of Extended Learning Career Skills Institute.

Started about six years ago, it’s a free eight-hour, non-mandatory course that is taught on Saturdays.

“We cover in depth how to find a job in a strategic, most efficient way,” said instructor Janna Mori. “So, I just give the students a lot of tools for how to do a job search.”

The topics covered are similar to those taught at CSUCI and Cal Poly SLO.

They include occupational research, how to find jobs online, networking, resumes, cover letters, so-called brief “elevator pitches,” and interviewing, Mori said.

A related course, Personalized Career Planning, is also offered on Saturdays.

email: mharris@pacbiztimes.com