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STEM collaboration tackles student career readiness

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Jake Croft | The Daily Wildcat

Physiology major Joseph Corona has his resume looked over by a counselor at Career Services at the Student Union Memorial Center on July 16, 2015. A new initiative aims to increase job readiness for STEM majors.

UA’s STEM Learning Center and UA’s Career Services have collaborated with several companies, including Intel and American Express, to bring internships and other opportunities to gain experience in particular fields to students.

The collaboration was inspired by a 2014 study published by the STEM Learning Center that projected the number of science, technology, engineering and mathematics jobs that would be available in Pima County. While the projections were as far out as 2020 and indicated that there would be many jobs, the situation wasn’t looking good for most STEM graduates.

While there are plenty of UA STEM graduates capable of filling the available job positions, many of the potential jobs required “at least two more years of industry experience,” said Martha Ostheimer, the assistant director of the STEM Learning Center. It has been found that some graduates would be lacking in this department when the time came to search for a job. Computer science was the one exception to this rule.

This not only affects the graduating students but could also impact the economy of Pima County, as graduates seek job positions outside of the county and remove their marketable skills from the Tucson area.

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The STEM Learning Center and Career Services wanted to find a solution for this problem and ensure that graduates were able to obtain the needed experience for their future career. Career advisors from several different departments and the Office of Student Engagement were also involved in the creation of an easier to operate system.

In order to fulfill the predicted jobs, the collaboration has made a point of working with companies to make students more aware of available internship positions by using Wildcat JobLink, an online database where students can go to find both on-and-off campus jobs and internships. The database has made it easier to compile information and gives students access to opportunities that will allow them to continue to grow in their preferred career path. It offers a streamlined process that also makes it simpler for companies to post positions and review applications and resumes.

“UA Career Services has offered for many years, and will continue to offer, employers self-posting of internship and job opportunities through an online database [Wildcat JobLink]”,

said Abra McAndrew, the Assistant Vice Provost of Student Engagement. “STEM Learning Center has helped to reinforce the message to employers about this process and the importance of offering opportunities for students to gain experience while still in college.”. “STEM Learning Center has helped to reinforce the message to employers about this process and the importance of offering opportunities for students to gain experience while still in college.”

Support also comes in the form of job fairs and information sessions run by UA Career Services, where students are given the opportunity to meet and speak with potential employers from several different types of companies. Space is also offered for on campus interviews.

While top national companies, such as Microsoft, Raytheon, and Intel, have increased their number of internship postings, McAndrew notes that local companies have also gotten involved in an effort to attract more students to their workforce and have managed to do so to a large degree by using the website.

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“Smaller companies headquartered in Arizona also employ our graduates in significant numbers,” McAndrew said.

Experience isn’t the only benefit that students can gain by using the website and applying for internships. An internship often leads to employment, particularly in the STEM fields, as both parties are permitted the opportunity to decide whether or not the workspace is a good fit.

“Internships are a preferred path to hire for many of these companies, because both the company and the student get to try out the fit before making a commitment to a full-time role,” McAndrew said.

The online database has led to a significant increase in the number of internships postings by companies, according to Ostheimer, an increase as high as 23 percent. This translates to more opportunities for students in majors ranging from geology to mathematics.

Interested students are encouraged to log onto Wildcat JobLink to explore the wide variety of options offered. More information, such as the link to Wildcat JobLink and career coaching services, can be found on the UA Career Services website.


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