Mike Kuehnl, Manager - Student Employment Services, Milwaukee Area Technical College, describes the many ways technical colleges help students connect with employers.
Interview with Mike Kuehnl
Student Employment Services Manager
Milwaukee Area Technical College (8:51)
Announcer: This is Making Futures; helping individuals discover their passion and fulfill their potential.
Interviewer: Today I'm speaking with Michael Kuehnl, Manager of Student Employment Services - Milwaukee Area Technical College, and we're talking about how tech colleges help students find jobs. Wisconsin Technical College graduates are very successful at finding employment. 88% report they are employed six months after graduation.
Interviewer: Can you talk about the connections between technical college and employers and how this relates to that high employment achievement rate?
Michael: Yeah, there are a number of ways that connections are being made between the tech college’s students and the employers. They're done, a lot, through organizations like the one we have here - student employment services. And you know, we're not the only ones that are actually helping students make or bridge that gap. The instructors, they're also a very good resource in connecting with companies and getting students connected with employers. Advisory committees; a great opportunity for employers to get into the tech colleges, get more information on the curriculum, and actually help drive the curriculum to better fit their needs, their graduates - making sure the graduate's coming out with the skills and the training that they're looking for. Those are some of the main ways that people can, companies and employers, can get connected with, not just MATC students, but tech college students in general. Another area is student projects, that we've had a lot of success with students going out and doing projects for companies, as class projects. We've had a tremendous success with that through a number of our media classes, our design classes, and even some of our photography classes.
Interviewer: Most technical colleges have a student employment services as you mentioned, can you talk about the services provided in those offices?
Michael: Yes, what we generally do is we help the students prepare for the job search. We also reach out and connect with companies to, ya know, help bridge that gap between the students and the employers. We find, we do assistance in filling out employment applications, writing resumes, we do mock interviews; you know, help them practice for their interviewing skills. We also have something called the "TechConnect Job System" and this is a great opportunity for employers and students to get connected, because not only does it connect the individual student and the employer and the college together, but if an employer does put a position out on the TechConnect system, he is actually putting it out on all 16 colleges across the state of Wisconsin, which is a great resource for employers. There are very few job database systems that will allow them to do that. We also have resume banks. TechConnect is now actually providing resume services for the employer so that they can actually go in and search them. Those are the main ones we do, but some of the other things that we do provide are current employment trends, salary information, employment events, job fairs, things like that. So we do offer a myriad of different avenues for the student and employers to get better connected.
Interviewer: What should students do to access these services?
Michael: Well the first thing that they want to do, is they want to get connected with their student employment services at their tech college. They need to reach out to them, they need to locate them on the campus and make that connection.
Interviewer: Are there specific classes for job hunting skills?
Michael: Well, there are a lot of classes that are generally given by colleges to help students prepare for their resumes, job search and things like that, so some actual schools we refer to them as schools here, like Technology and Applied Science and the Business Schools, actually have portions of their courses that are dedicated to finding jobs and dealing with the job search within their individual industry.
Interviewer: What about job related clubs for students? Do those help students find jobs as well?
Michael: Yes, they do, and getting connected with student clubs is a great step in getting connected to the community, the hiring community, because many of the student organizations will sponsor tours to companies. They may have companies come in and speak to the clubs. Plus it's an opportunity for, a lot of times, Student Employment Services will get connected to these clubs, which will allow another avenue for the student to get connected to their Student Employment Services office.
Interviewer: I know that many tech college programs offer or require internships; can you describe some of these and how they help students to future employment?
Michael: Yes, internships are very important to a lot of our programs here. For instance, the health care programs do require clinics. Some of the other schools do require that student perform internships within the community with employers, and it is probably one of the best ways to get connected to an employer because it gives you a great opportunity to get into a job situation where the employer can evaluate you and you can actually evaluate the employer. So it, it's kind of a two-way street. You can take a look at 'Well, is this profession what I really want to do?' or 'What part of this profession do I really like the most so when I do go out and start looking for a job I can understand what I'm looking for.' which will help the individual, the student, narrow down what they're looking for in a particular employer position. And again, as I mentioned, it's great for the employer because it gives them a great opportunity to evaluate the students, and take a look at them as potential employees.
Interviewer: I'm hearing some stories about students who get hired even before they finish their programs. Are employers willing to work with students on that? To keep them in their program until they finish and also allow them to work at the same time?
Michael: Many employers do look for students before they graduate and bring 'em in and what they will actually do is help them pay for some of the college or some of the classes that they will be taking in the future. And this is a great opportunity for students to help get their college paid for plus gain invaluable experience within their industries. I mean, that's a win-win situation for everybody! If a student or an employer can get into that situation, it is a very good, very ideal situation. The student should be looking for a situation where the employer will also, like I said, help them pay for their college. One thing they don't want to do, and they should concerned about, is what we refer to as "jobbing out". I know many students feel that 'I'll get into a tech college, get started, get a job and just move on.' but they're kind of cutting themselves a little bit short if they don't continue the programs, because if they don't get that degree, diploma or certificate, if something should happen that they were laid-off, then they got some experience but they don't have that valued certificate, diploma or degree.
Interviewer: That's a good point to make. So it sounds like students could begin their looking for jobs and careers even earlier than many might think? It's like, don't wait until you're almost finished with your program. When would you advise students to start their job search.
Michael: Well, actually students, they don't realize it, but every time they meet somebody that is a potential employer or working in the industry, they're kind of being interviewed to a certain point, but students shouldn't wait - they're graduating in May - shouldn't wait until May to start looking for a job. If they're graduating in May, they should be spending most of that semester helping do, prepare their job search: resume, cover letter and things like that. Getting out and meeting employers and so on and so forth. Because, the job search process generally can take three to four months, maybe even longer. So if they graduate in May and they start in May, they may not be hired until July or August, and that's not why they went to school. They went to school to find a job, so the earlier they start preparing and getting themselves ready to get into the job search process, the better off they'll be.
Interviewer: Yeah, you make a really good point, that any connection throughout their education could be the one! I've been speaking with Mike Kennel, Manager of Student Employment Services at Milwaukee Area Technical College and thanks again for speaking with me Mike.
Michael: Thank you Susan, I do appreciate the opportunity.
Announcer: Making Futures is a presentation of Wisconsin's 16 Technical Colleges. Thanks for listening.