In its proposal to form the RITA Consortium, the four participating colleges included a key focus on developing an innovative model of services to help ensure their success as they pursue the new and expanded degree programs and certifications.
From the time that students enter the program through the job search, they will benefit from this innovative model.
From the beginning
At PTCC, many students enter degree programs well after completing high school, says Emily Clifton, PTCC education and employment advisor, who is helping design the RITA Consortium student support services. They come with work experiences, but may be years away from their last educational experience.
The student service model starts early for students in the RITA Consortium programs: Prospective students meet with advisors to talk to them about career options and degree programs that help meet those career options. And that is just the beginning.
“We are calling it wrap-around services,” says Clifton. “I really like that name because it reflects the comprehensive nature of the services.”
Those early conversations are important in finding the right fit for the students. “With so many information technology options, there is much to discuss,” she says. “Do they know the difference between networking and cyber security? And what does that mean down the road? What does that mean for job possibilities.”
In addition to their faculty advisor, students continue their conversations with their point of contact in student services. “It’s like having a guide on the side,” says Clifton. That staff member works with the student to identify individual needs and then suggests ways to address those individual needs.
“Student support is important because every single student struggles with different issues,” says Clifton. Students come to colleges with different backgrounds, different learning styles, and different circumstances that all impact their ability to do well in their degree programs.
“We look at whether a student might benefit from disability services,” says Clifton, “or whether they might benefit from help with a certain subject area. Then we arrange the services or a tutor.”
Services will help keep students in college by connecting them to the kind of resources that make a difference in their lives. They also take into account other aspects of student’s lives. “We can help them when something unexpected happens, like a death, impacting their education.”
The wrap-around student service concept includes career guidance and career services, which can range from assessments of strengths and weaknesses, assistance with resumes, interviews, and job services, and collaborations with employers to promote job opportunities for students.
Colleges in the RITA Consortium will work closely with local workforce centers to help candidates prepare for new jobs and to help graduates find employment. In addition, the colleges and consortium will work with local business and organizations to increase internship and career possibilities for students.
“In our conversations with local industry representatives, we can see they recognize these programs as a source for potential employees,” says Olesen. “We look forward to nurturing the connections that result in great opportunities for our students.”
In addition, the RITA Consortium will collect data that helps evaluate student success in job placement.
The RITA Consortium helps make available degree opportunities that appeal to a wide variety of students – from single parents to workers in transition to those with a few years of experience who now want a degree. The options are even more appealing as colleges in the consortium are shaping support that addresses that diversity.
For example, Archer sees much potential in the information technology careers for women. “It’s such a multifaceted area,” she says. It’s also an area that can offer flexibility for women, who may be able to work from home and work less hours but still do well financially.
“I had two women in my group this semester and both of them plan to get associate degrees,” says Archer. “More and more companies are looking for women to come into the field. They want that variety. I think the doors for women are extremely open.”
Clifton believes wholeheartedly in creating a student-friendly environment and tailoring services to student needs.
“Every student is unique in what they need,” she says. “It’s kind of like a puzzle sometimes – what do you need and how can I help with that. I really believe it’s important to inform them of what their options are and then let them make the choice.”
Archer views the new student support model as a tremendous asset to her students.
“I am really appreciative of the individual attention my students will get,” she says. “I love to give them more attention. We want them to be successful.”