Christine Smith Olsey, Community College of Denver
“And that’s about when Mrs. Krupp said, ‘Now Billy. Please make up your mind, this is getting quite silly! Which one of those things are you going to choose?’ I shuffled around and looked at my shoes. [And] Finally I said, ‘My great-grandfather Bob’s been a whole lot of things, had a whole bunch of jobs. A butcher, a barber, a bellman, a bouncer, a telephone psychic, and a bingo announcer; you know what he just turned a 103 and he’s still not quite sure what he wants to be. See I am only eight now, so frankly I am hoping that you cut me some slack if I leave my options open” (Yankovic, 2011).
Many Career and Technical Education (CTE) students are like Billy’s great-grandfather, Bob. They have prior work experience, possibly college credits from a college or two, or are interested in taking the credit for prior learning route. Just like Bob, they are still searching for the one career that will make them happy (either financially or emotionally), or maybe they just want to expand their resume. Either way they are coming to our offices for assistance.
As advisors, how do we assist our “Bob students” better? CTE students tend to focus on earning a certificate or degree to improve their current employment status. These students often return to community colleges seeking new job skills; they inquire about their career goals and their plans to achieve those goals.
Not everyone can be a fabrication welder or a nurse; there are certain skills required to work in career technical industries, and students need to know the industry expectations before deciding on a degree track. Advisors should meet with department heads and advisory board members – who keep CTE programs current and serve as our direct link to the industry – to discuss what the industry will expect of students when they enter the work force. We should also ask about the industry outlook: where the industry is going and what students need to know to be job ready when they walk across the stage at graduation.
With the information gained from these meetings, advisors can create reference sheets for each degree track to utilize during advising appointments. Reference sheets are a useful tool for advising the right student for the right program. We should be ready to share this essential information with our students; the better students are prepared, the better for the students and for the industry and our economy.
During initial advising appointments, advisors can help students begin to map out their academic and career goals. During this process, the advisor should ascertain that the student is in the correct program and give the student a chance to confirm that his career and educational goals correlate. The student should leave this first appointment with at least the foundation of a plan for achieving his educational and career goals.
Advisors should encourage students to schedule follow-up appointments to verify that their degree program is a good fit. During these appointments, we can discuss the student’s academic progress, career planning, and general well-being. How does the student feel about their program? Is there still a desire or interest? How is the student juggling life off campus?
Classes for future semesters should be discussed to ensure that students make selections that will meet program requirements. Providing the rationale behind course requirements gives our students insight into the higher education process. This is an excellent teaching opportunity for the student, and we can reiterate that program chairs work with industry members to meet their needs.
Some students come to us after taking classes without knowing their program or meeting with an advisor. Others have taken classes believing that when they decide on a direction – or decide to change direction – they can then discuss how their credits will transfer to the new program. It is important that students know what will happen to their credits when they enter a new program. Advisors can discuss career goals, career path, and job growth potential with these students, then share a reference sheet for their new program. Once again, the students need to know their options; the more information they have, the better-informed decision they will make.
Students will always do what they feel is best for them; sometimes it may be completing an entire degree program, and other times it may be just taking classes to improve their skills in a particular area. The important thing is that we do what is best for our students; preparing our students for their career with industry expectations, and advising (or referring) students accordingly, are all best for our students. In the words of Billy, “Let’s just wait and find out what my future brings. Hey, I might have time to do all of those things” (Yankovic, 2011).
Christine Smith Olsey
Center for Career & Technical Education
Community College of Denver
Yankovic, A. (2011). When I Grow Up. NY: HarperCollins.
Cite this article using APA style as: Smith Olsey, C. (2014, March). Advising Bob. Academic Advising Today, 37(1). Retrieved from [insert url here]