Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Since 1907
Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

Calvin University's official student newspaper since 1907

Calvin University Chimes

New program pays students to prepare for careers
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A new cross-curricular program will pay Calvin students to prepare for careers and life after college. Calvin LifeWork, which will launch next year, offers “modules” in four major categories: vocation, career readiness, leadership development and financial literacy.

Modules will be offered both in person and online, and they will progress throughout a student’s four years at Calvin. Each year will have a different focus depending on students’ needs during that stage of their education. From first year to senior year, these themes are “discover,” “equip,” “experience” and “launch.”

The LifeWork program begins as soon as students arrive on campus or even before. Students can take the Jobzology career assessment once they’re admitted. First Year Seminar will act as one of the modules.

“We want people to think about vocation from the moment they arrive at Calvin, and we want them to think about it broadly,” said Sarah Visser, vice president of student life.

Upon completing all of the modules, students will earn a $3,000 dollar scholarship during their senior year.

“We really believe that this program is a game-changer,” said TaRita Johnson, director of the career center. “It’s going to set Calvin apart from other colleges and universities. It’s paying students to prepare them.”

The task force that developed the program was led by Johnson and included faculty members as well as staff from advancement, financial aid and other college divisions. The project was chartered in September of 2015 and presented to the board of trustees in October of 2016.

In part, Calvin LifeWork is a response to demographic trends in the both the local and nationwide workforces. As baby boomers age and retire, many jobs will open up that will need to be filled by recent college graduates.

“We have to be prepared, because there’s going to be a mass exodus [in the workforce],” Johnson said. “This is a concern for colleges and universities across the country, and employers as well. It really is a war for talent right now.”

Both a nationwide survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers and Calvin’s own research found that the skills most desired by employers include critical thinking, teamwork, communication and work ethic.

Calvin’s graduates are typically strong in these “soft skills,” but students are often trained in them “haphazardly,” Visser said. Calvin LifeWork will provide ways for students to build these strengths more systematically.

“A lot of employers say that Calvin students are too humble,” said Johnson. “They don’t necessarily know how to articulate their strengths.”

Typically, Calvin students are stronger at actual jobs than during the interview process. Calvin LifeWork will incentivize students to better develop job search and interview skills during their time at Calvin.

“We’re hopeful that after practicing these kinds of things for four years [students] feel equipped to go out and do them,” said Visser.

Surveys of Calvin students and especially parents led to the inclusion of financial literacy training alongside the other modules.

While the $3,000 scholarship is only available beginning with next year’s incoming class, current students will also be able to learn from the modules. Many of the program’s components are things the career center has already provided, but currently students don’t take advantage of them until their junior or senior years.

“We’re hoping that the increased visibility of a program like this will also attract our current students and encourage them to engage the resources found in the career center throughout their time at Calvin,” said Visser.

Calvin has focused recently on increasing recruitment and retention, and Calvin LifeWork aims to help reach both of those goals. Since few other schools have anything like this, it offers Calvin a competitive advantage in the fight for new students. And tuition support and a path to success after graduating will hopefully give students more reason to remain at Calvin.

Since one of the modules is an internship, Calvin LifeWork will rely on connections between Calvin and area businesses. Almost 60 percent of 2015 Calvin graduates are currently living in Michigan, with 40 percent in Grand Rapids. But Calvin LifeWork is designed to prepare students for whatever they choose to do after college, be it in Grand Rapids or across the world.

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