University of Central Florida’s Experiential Learning helps students get hired, even during recession

In a downturned economy, University of Central Florida students may find it harder to get hired than perhaps originally thought.

Florida’s Agency For Workforce Innovation stated 984,000 Floridians were searching for jobs in August. That’s enough people to fill Orlando’s Citrus Bowl more than 13 times.

However, there is one tool students can use that many of those workforce veterans can’t obtain: UCF’s Experiential Learning Services.

According to Jackie Herold, faculty coordinator at Experiential Learning, “Our whole purpose is to help these students gain experience while they are undergrads to make them marketable and competitive when it comes time to graduate.” webstorygraphic

UCF’s  location offers strategic advantage, multiple opportunities

Experiential Learning reaches out to employers nationwide, but during the regular academic semester recruiting spans from Daytona to Lakeland. This allows students to work and study concurrently.

Herold notes that the campus’ location has an optimal, strategic advantage: Private companies along Research Park, government facilities like NAVAIR and even businesses on International Drive are eager to recruit students. “I’ve had employers move closer to the campus just for that reason,” she said.

Shara Lee, faculty coordinator of Experiential Learning at the Rosen campus, stated in an e-mail interview, “The physical proximity to the nexus of the industry is great… It puts some qualifying internships within walking distance. Jobs can come from anywhere in the world, but most students take the internship course concurrently to other coursework.”

Hospitality majors are required to complete three semesters of paid internships in order to graduate. According to Lee, 852 Rosen students are enrolled in an internship this semester.

She stated that despite the economic downturn, “Students are still able to find positions, they just might have to start the search a bit earlier.”

Even during recession, business is booming

“When the economy starts to level out or go south, our student participation picks up,” said Herold of the Experiential Learning program.

In addition to being a tool for students, Experiential Learning is also an inexpensive, effective recruiting tool for employers.

Orlando-based Air-Transport IT Services, Inc. serves the air transportation and seaport industries. The company regularly recruits students through UCF’s Experiential Learning for their co-op program. According to Lisa Samuels, AirIT’s human resources manager, co-op students are paid from $12 to $15 per hour, and are given access to a company discount program.

Samuels stated in an e-mail interview that “We have many employees today that began as co-ops and they have grown in the company to become very talented individuals… Furthermore, hiring the co-ops are cost effective for AirIT. Since the students are employed on a part-time basis, AirIT can determine if the co-op is a fit for the company.”

However, the sour economy has limited the number of paying co-ops available this semester with AirIT. “Overall, AirIT has performed well despite of the down-turn,” Samuels stated, “but we had to re-structure some areas.” According to Samuels, one such re-structure included the hiring of one student in a department where there once were three students.

Experiential Learning aids non-profit sector

Orlando Health, a non-profit healthcare network of approximately 1,800 beds among seven hospitals, recruits students for three different opportunities including internships, clinical rotations (where groups of students follow one instructor) and job shadowing.

“In healthcare, it’s very hard to find money to pay students outside of medical research,” said Quentin Ireland, student coordinator of Orlando Health. “We’re a non-profit corporation so we don’t necessarily have some of the resources financially that some of our for-profit competitors do.”

Despite that these opportunities are largely unpaid, Ireland says interest and participation in the programs are on the incline.

“In the 2007-2008 academic year, we had approximately 4,000 students here,” he said, noting that the number includes students from across the nation, but a bulk of positions go to UCF students due to the campus’ proximity. “This year, we have a little over 5,000 students.”

If at first you don’t succeed…

Herold cautions students that working with Experiential Learning for the first time may not result in an interview the first two weeks.

“It is an ongoing process,” she said. “If you’re not successful the first month, then just like any job hunt you don’t just give up.”

She encourages students to have flexible search parameters, including driving distance, wages or even the type of work.

“Those who stick around will benefit when the market begins to turn around and more positions open,” she said.

For more information:

Click here to visit UCF Experiential Learning online.

Click here to visit the Rosen Campus’ Experiential Learning program.

Click here to read job searching advice on About.com

Media ideas: Add audio of Jackie Herold speaking, interview students about their jobs with photos/video/audio


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