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Creating Mutually Beneficial Partners Between Colleges and Employers

By Ethan Selinger, Northeastern University, College of Computer and Information Science

In my brief time as a career services professional, I have worked in employer relations at Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, and currently work as a Cooperative Education (Co-op) Advisor at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. A critical component of these positions is employer relations; creating meaningful partnerships between school and employer. After all, the employer/college partnership is the lifeblood of experiential opportunities for students. It is vital that colleges create meaningful partnerships with employers to create internship, co-op, and potential full and part-time time opportunities for students; likewise, connecting with colleges can provide access to a talent pool of newly trained and eager young professionals for employers to both hire for short term (internship/co-op) or full time employment. With work so important to the experiences of students and employers, I oftentimes wonder and reflect on how people and institutions (including myself of course) can continue to improve both the quality and quantity of employer relationships.

Through my short-time as a career services professional, I have found the following practices create the best chance of a successful partnership between colleges and employers, and do my best to implement these in my work.

Research the Company
It is vital that a company’s industry, mission, and opportunities reflect the needs of students, and that the institution’s programs of study match employer needs. Researching a company before reaching out (or if a representative reaches out) is essential in creating a mutually beneficial partnership.

Understand a relationship must be mutually beneficial to both the school and employer
It sounds obvious, but working in college career services (at least in my experience), it’s possible to become so focused on creating opportunities for students and the institution that it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that employer relations is a two-way street- a mutually beneficial relationship between an institution and an employer relies on the needs of both parties being effectively met. One of the greatest aspects of being involved with EACE is the ability to work hand in hand with employer members and gain perspective.

Create a Welcoming Environment
From an initial phone call, to use of database’s, to on-campus events, it is the job of career services professionals to create a welcoming environment for employers. It shouldn’t be difficult for an employer to work with an institution; many companies and talent acquisition specialists work with large numbers of institutions. In my experience, the more difficult it is for an employer to connect with an institution, the better the chance of losing that relationship. The process should be as streamlined as effectively as possible to create talent pipelines; be mindful of recruiting cycles, user friendly technology (i.e. job boards), and time-friendly events.

Network
Studies show that networking is by far the greatest method to finding a job. I make sure to tell my students this all the time in their co-op search. Network network network! I feel the same about creating partnerships with employers. Leaving the confines of the campus is essential. Taking advantage of networking events (such as conferences) as a college representative is vital to meeting new employers. EACE offers events and opportunities throughout the year to connect employers and institutions!

Be Mindful of Employment Trends and Changes
It’s the 21st century, and industry needs constantly shift. Creating mutually beneficial partnerships relies on an institution’s ability to prepare students for the changing needs of employers. Even though career services alone (at least as far as I know) cannot change curriculums throughout an institution, it is still important to understand trends and changes. I’m trying to make it a habit to read up on trends, continually connect with my employer contacts (in and outside of EACE) and take advantage of yearly trends conferences in the Boston area to stay informed.

I want to pose these questions for thought from both college and employer members: What are your best practices for creating mutually beneficial partnerships? What are your thoughts for continued improvement?

Ethan Selinger is currently a Cooperative Education (Co-op) Advisor at Northeastern University’s College of Computer and Information Science.

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