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A sticker on the door to an office is in the foreground, with two people talking around a desk in the background. The sticker is white, with a yellow crest and the words "Career Champion" printed in black

Staff and faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University can complete a Career Champion training program to learn more about incorporating career readiness into curricula and co-curricular activities.

Virginia Commonwealth University

In a winter 2023 Student Voice survey by Inside Higher Ed and College Pulse, 69 percent of students say they’ve received support from at least one professor in exploring potential careers or developing specific skills for their careers.

A new initiative at Virginia Commonwealth University trains faculty and staff members to better support students in their career development, experiential learning and job search processes. The program, VCU Career Champions, provides participants with tools, theories and resources and credentials them with a certification sticker.

Since its pilot in 2021, 50 campus stakeholders have completed the training, representing a wide range of roles and departments, to create a career-centered vision across the university.

What’s the need: The career services unit at VCU recognized that students were having conversations with faculty, advisers, coaches and others about their professional goals, “so we wanted to provide the tools to empower those individuals to promote student success beyond only referring students to our office,” says Samara Reynolds, executive director of career services.

The Student Voice survey found almost all (94 percent) respondents want their faculty members to be involved in their career development beyond promoting the career center. This could include translating academic skills into workplace skills; offering career navigation support, networking assistance or internship preparation; writing recommendations; or requiring experiential learning.

Similarly, students want their academic advisers to be involved in career preparation and exploration, with 98 percent saying advisers should be involved in some capacity.

How it works: VCU Career Champion training takes approximately three hours, a half-day format, and covers three units: career decision-making, experiential learning and workforce preparation.

Participants get exposed to the different services and resources available at the career center, key career-development theories, career-readiness competencies from the National Association of Colleges and Employers, how to engage ethically and equitably with employers and outside organizations, and how to support students looking for guidance, among other topics.

The sessions are offered in person to promote maximum engagement and impact, and the greatest resource in hosting the training is staff time to coordinate logistics and delivery of training, Reynolds explains.

Upon completion, participants earn a Career Champion certification sticker to display in their office, which is in line with other credentials staff receive for working with students, including Safe Zone, Green Zone and Rams in Recovery.

A white sticker with a yellow crest is in the foreground of an office with VCU on the back wall. The sticker reads "Career Champion, Virginia Commonwealth University"

VCU offers stickers to faculty and staff who complete trainings that support students, including for the Career Champions program.

Virginia Commonwealth University

The impact: The training was initially piloted in 2021 but relaunched in fall 2023. A dozen faculty and 38 staff members have completed it, with postsurveys showing 100 percent of those who took it would recommend or strongly recommend the experience to their colleagues.

Anecdotal feedback from staff and faculty indicates that the training empowered them to offer clear and relevant information to students, as well as creative ways to implement practices into their daily work.

“Responses included more intentional infusion of career content in the classroom and department-specific programming efforts, referrals to specific resources and opportunities through our office, and approaches to one-on-one student and alumni coaching conversations when career and internship topics arise,” Reynolds says.

What’s next: Moving forward, the office intends to offer trainings each semester and in the summer, primarily in person (with a virtual format being considered).

“Right now, our goal is to get this training content out to as many campus partners as possible, knowing the impact it will have on students throughout their college experience,” Reynolds says. The center’s next goal is to hit 100 Career Champions trained, with plans to engage other departments outside the Monroe Park campus.

Do you have a career prep tip that might help others encourage student success? Tell us about it.

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