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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Helping People Find Jobs: Part of Our Responsibility as a Bloomsburg Professor

In Pennsylvania, the job situation is rather bleak. More than 591,000 Pennsylvanians are jobless and the jobless rate has risen from 9.2 in June to 9.3 in July (doesn't seem like much unless you are one of the .1 who lost your job.) More Pennsylvanians are out of work than any other time in the last 20 years.

As a faculty member of Bloomsburg University--a stated owned University, I am a Pennsylvania state employee. And I view a large part of my responsibility as helping Pennsylvanians and others find jobs. As do the other faculty in our department and throughout the university. They are all working hard to help students find meaningful and well-paying jobs in this tight economy.

I can't speak for other departments but, here is what we are doing in the Department of Instructional Technology to help our students find jobs.

We teach in a graduate program of instructional technology and, as a result, we prepare students for positions within the field. We do this by introducing them to leading edge concepts so they will have the knowledge needed to compete for jobs. We oversee graduate assistantships where they work with real clients such as the PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence, several local manufacturing companies and other organizations so students can gain practical skills to apply their craft and so the students have working products to show potential employers. We craft curriculum so students can stay current, we teach online courses so students don't have to travel to campus (although we also have on campus courses for those who prefer face-to-face courses.)

We bring employers to campus twice a year to interview students for jobs and internships and to describe the state-of-the-industry to students, once in the fall and once in the spring. This is a wonderful time for student to meet potential employers and to show off their skills. The student teams provide a "sales presentation" defending an e-learning solution they developed in a realistic situation. It is a great venue for the potenial employees to see our students in action.

We hired (over two years ago) a person part-time to specifically manage internships for our department. He does a great job supervising the student's, coordinating employer needs and helping to ensure a good match between employer and student. He helps students have a meaningful and learning focused internship. We have a person from the career counseling office speak to our students about writing resumes and preparing for the job search.

We help create local jobs by assisting local entrepreneurs in a variety of ways, we provide student interns, we provide professional advice, we partner on projects and create joint products together. This helps them be successful and ultimately, many of the entrepreneurial organizations we work with hire our graduates (not to mention that many of those organizations are run by our graduates.) In fact, our department spearheaded academic involvement in the local Bloomsburg Regional Technology Center which houses over six companies started by or employing our graduates.

We help maintain a local workforce by creating training to re-tool employees in local manufacturing companies so they can use new equipment or apply new techniques. This improves productivity and helps ensure the employees remain skilled for their jobs.

In my role as Assistant Director of the Institute for Interactive Technologies (which works hand-in glove with the Department of Instructional Technology), my role is to foster relationships with entrepreneurs, seek opportunities for our students to work on projects as students (grants and contracts) and to seek opportunities for job placement of our graduates.

Currently, I am working on a grant with the National Science Foundation to help middle school kids understand science and math, I am working to help PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence prepare volunteers through training and working with an entrepreneur to create online music education. Additionally, I am teaching two online classes and working to bring in more funding for the department to help more students find job.

Often Pennsylvanians and others overlook the positive economic impact of professors at local state-owned colleges. While it seems that professors just teach one or two hours and then go home, the truth of the matter is that dedicated professors are helping students prepare for and find jobs, they are helping local entrepreneurs create jobs, they are helping incumbent employees stay employed and they are building bridges between business and academia. Each of these roles could be a full-time job in-and-of itself. Local universities are engines of economic growth and professors are the gears that make the engine run.

So, rather than cut funding for state run universities, as seems to be the trend, let's invest in university programs that are creating jobs, assisting students in finding jobs and advancing the local and national economy. Then, the 591,000 unemployed Pennsylvanians and others will have meaningful employment once again.

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