Which comes first: The experience or the job?
The chicken-or-egg conundrum has faced graduating students since the beginning of time: You need experience to get a job, but you need a job to get experience. Teachers and students at DeVry University in Seattle are tackling this problem head-on – and “hands-on” – through a new work experience program called TEDG.
“This DeVry program adds a critical dimension of experiential learning,” explains DeVry Associate Professor Bob Bunge. “There is a powerful consensus that experience trumps everything else in a job interview. Some of our ‘home run’ senior projects have paved the way for excellent career outcomes for this reason.”
As an extension of DeVry University’s focus on practical, hands-on education, the Technology, Entrepreneurship and Development Group (TEDG) at DeVry University’s Federal Way campus develops professional-grade internships, volunteer opportunities and portfolio projects for students that interrupt this cycle of frustration and can prepare them for tomorrow’s most in-demand jobs.
Win-win relationship with local businesses
A few years ago, DeVry teamed up with the William Factory Small Business Incubator, a non-profit organization in Tacoma, WA. Started by William Factory in the 1980s as a way to grow small businesses in an economically challenged area, the Incubator developed strong ties with the local Chamber of Commerce and other community and business groups. Those ties help DeVry students get the inside scoop on internships and jobs in the area.
These connections are an added benefit for many of TEDG’s leaders and students who are transplants to the Seattle area. Many are veterans from local military bases; often they don’t have deep community roots in the area to help them network. TEDG and the Incubator projects give them a great way to connect to business people in the local economy.
TEDG/Incubator projects offer experience and results
“The relationship with DeVry started because the Incubator was growing and needed their IT network upgraded,” says Bunge. “The Incubator was able to get grant money to install a Cisco network for phones, Internet, the whole thing. Developing and installing this network became the senior project for several of our DeVry students. And in the end, the Incubator had a top of the line network system and those students had real job experience they could point to when they graduated.” Other DVU TEDG/Incubator collaborations have included:
- Installing a network at the University of Washington, one of the country’s top tech schools. DeVry students were brought in, says Bunge, because they had more hands-on, real world experience to be able to do the job right in the time allotted.
- Developing and staffing a television studio to produce a web show for a local business celebrity. Students, alumni and even Professor Bunge himself interned on the project to learn video production skills which he uses for his distance learning classes.
- Designing the Combat Box, a peer-to-peer cyber security training game that allowed DeVry students to practice attacking and defending each other’s test servers. This project was such a good addition to his portfolio that the developer of the game model is now a Microsoft employee.
The partnership fills an important gap between education and work, says Bunge. “No curriculum on Earth can take a student right up to the doorway of a company and deliver them with the exact background they need; businesses know that. What they are looking for are teachable students who, along with their technical skills, have the qualities of a good employee: discipline, accountability, structure, communication skills, and strong business values. They want people who have proven that they can work in a team, communicate clearly and present themselves well. Our students get the added advantage of being able to point to their portfolio and say, ‘Here’s the project I did, the network I upgraded, the software I wrote, or the server I upgraded.’”
“The HR person from a local company called me the other day to ask for a reference on a student from a recent class,” Bunge recalls. “She started out by saying, ‘I know you can’t really speak to his work experience –‘ and I said, ‘Oh yes, I can! I watched him in an 8-week project to upgrade a complete network at this company in town, and I can tell you exactly what he’s like in a work environment.’ The student got the job. So it proves it: Real world experience makes a difference when looking for a real job.”
To learn more about DeVry University’s hands-on education, visit devry.edu