Hidden Gems: The Diamond SIS Blog
Hidden Gems is the blog page for all things Diamond.
We cover topics relevant to Higher Education, Career and Proprietary Schools.
In this final part of my 3-part Blog series Parallels: Provide Guidance, Engagement and Resources to Increase Enrollment, Retention and Referrals, I outline ways to highlight the end result – the career. As a way to recruit and to improve engagement. I also point out that you serve more than one master – the student, and the Employer.
Mind you, great care must be given never to exceed the truth. The Gainful Employment rules are stricter than ever, for good cause as many know only too well. The way they are implemented and tracked may have a lot (OK, a WHOLE LOT) of flaws, but the reasons for stricter enforcement are based in fraud and avarice that left all Career Schools tainted and the prospective students (and their parents and families) exceptionally wary.
The prospective student is selecting their Career School based on who they believe will help them be the most successful upon graduation. If you want long-term success, your school must excel in placement even more than you excel in recruitment.
For the student, the career at the end of school is the target, or at least it should be. So be sure to promote your Placement success rates, as well as what you do to help them get the job.
EVERY SCHOOL CLAIMS GREAT PLACEMENT RATES. PROVE IT.
The proverb goes “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”. From a prospective students’ perspective, this correlates to the quality of your Placements. Your Career School is only as good as the long-term, high-value career that they achieve upon graduation.
From the Employers perspective, this means that your Career School is only as good as the graduates you send them. If these graduates don’t have the skills, attitudes, and work ethics they require, your value to them diminishes.
During recruitment, include success stories. Communicate the depth of your commitment to making their learning experience relevant, and make certain that they understand that you’re there to go above and beyond when it comes to helping them secure a career.
You know that the ROI for Gainful Employment affects your long-term success; that’s an administrative business reality for you. In your marketing and Recruitment, clearly promote the things you do to help them secure a great career upon graduation.
Here are some useful ideas for your Career Services Department:
- Career Services should take an in-classroom role in preparing students for these experiences
- Ensure that students are receiving CURRENT and relevant training
- Ensure your faculty members spend 2-10 days every year working with industry partners (employers possibly!) to stay current in their fields;
This serves 2 purposes:
Your faculty stays current on trends in their industry and,
Your employers are regularly connected with your school!
Actively Recruit New Employers
- With email campaigns
- When meeting with prospective Employers for your Graduates, prepare a fact sheet about your school. Highlight the skills and certifications that your graduates have upon completion
- Promote Externships and Internships to build a strong reputation for turning out top-notch graduates
- Send regular updates to your employers about your School and its graduates. Keep them connected and informed
- Continually Review Placement programs:
- What do the Employers REALLY need from your graduates?
- Follow up on your graduates
- Willingly and openly accept criticism
- Bring Grads back for short refresher / knowledge / protocol revision training
- Watch out for Employer “Short-Hire”/”revolving-door” scams
- They hire your Grads on probationary low-wage 6-month trials … then let them go and hire your next batch of Graduates on probationary low-wage 6-month trials … that’s not a good employer relationship for your Graduates and its horrible for your Gainful Employment ratios.
- Instead, try adjusting your program to 1000 hours (example only) + externship, and they jointly work at the employer while going through your program. At the end, the employer can hire your certified assistant and possible receive a reduction in malpractice insurance rates.
- Be Creative
Actively help students develop skills that are critical for job placement
- In addition to being a formal part of classroom instruction, your Career Services staff members should help with:
- resume creation, job search skills, and dress-for-success days;
- hold mock interviews with actual employers
- Provide a clothing closet to provide proper attire for interviews
- Train and Guide Students about proper work ethics
- Build your own list of common complaints from your current Employers, but here are some typical challenges currently facing employers (3 seconds of Google provides this info and more):
- Poor Communication Skills: Poor grammar, bad language, inappropriate humor
- Not in my job description: Unwillingness to do anything beyond the absolute minimum
- Un-un-un: (Unreliable, untrustworthy, unprofessional) Getting to work on time, reliability, etc.
- Not a team player: Unwillingness to pitch in and work with others
- Phone, Facebook, etc.: Personal TXTing, phones and Social Media are not acceptable things to do during the workday
- Provide regular Job fairs
- If students leave without jobs, Career Services staff members continue to work with them and communicate with them regularly.
- Email questionnaires
- Keep in touch with Graduates
- Great for Gainful Employment measurement
- Offer lifetime Job Placement assistance
By bolstering your Career Services department, students can be encouraged that their future success is important to you. Confidence in your ability, and desire, to help them upon graduation and beyond, is key to securing their initial interest in your school.
In this 2nd part of my 3-part Blog series: Parallels: Provide Guidance, Engagement and Resources to Increase Enrollment, Retention and Referrals, I identify how basic reward systems can help with engagement and retention. While these are strategies used to improve student achievement, Recruiters need to include this information in their recruiting strategy. The older demographic of the Career school student, needs additional resources and encouragements that may not have been available during their K12 experience. Communicating what you have to offer -by example, will go a long way to improving your recruiting. And as you’ll see by the end of this article, will generate referrals to build your recruiting pipeline.
Recognition and rewards strengthen student resolve and build motivation. But please be cautious not to over-simplify this process. Too often you see the word “Success” used, when “Accomplishment” is more accurate and better defines the actual circumstances. Don’t diminish your students’ achievements with over-hyped praise. Adult learners are often best supported with balanced, legitimate recognition. Understand, adult learners, are probably used to, even fed up with, the current practices of over-praise and "awards for participation” for children, they’ll know when you’re doing it to them. To keep adults encouraged and engaged, recognize actual achievements.
Communicating your “Culture of Achievement” during the Recruiting process can bolster student confidence in the ability of your school to support and engage them. Communicating that you know the difference between success and accomplishment can make you believable.
In this competitive Career Schools market, the ability to communicate that you provide ongoing encouragement, with real-world & grounded solutions, can go a long way to earning someone as a new student. This functionality is also core to student engagement and can dramatically improve retention rates, depth of knowledge, and very importantly, referrals.
Some Quick Suggestions to Enhance Your Learning Environment:
Provide Motivational award sessions every month
- Honors list
Successful externships Lists,
- Passing certifications,
- and getting a job
- Give out Lapel Pins as well as paper certificates as the Awards
- The ability to publicly present their success, and your schools pride in their abilities, is a powerful motivator
- On your internal student Website, create a Recognition Page to showcase the award winners
- Photos are appreciated by all, remember if this is viewable by family, it can be a powerful motivator
- Keep this page updated and timely
- If you don’t have a student recognition web section, add it!
- Create and encourage Student-lead organizations
- Provide Industry Specific Peer Advisors & Tutors
- Hold Regular Student Appreciation Days
- Spring or Summer picnics where students can bring their family for fun in the sun
- Bowling nights / Leagues
- Running / exercise clubs
- Robot Wars teams
- Schedule Volunteer activities that can build bonds
- Blood drives
- Campus clubs
- Tutoring- possibly for extra credit
- Industry specific activities
- Spring Break volunteer opportunities
- Hold Student contests that can build camaraderie through friendly competition Contests should focus on the outcomes that are most important to your students’ success:
- Attendance goals,
- Passing certification exams,
- Raising money for charities.
- If you don’t already, add formal graduation ceremonies
- These build a sense of accomplishment for the student and their support structures (parents, family, colleagues, etc.)
Career school courses and programs vary greatly in length, so some of the above ideas may not be ideal for your specific situation, but use the list to spark your imagination and create your own programs.
Search for ways to provide methods to encourage growth and to help students succeed and fully engage in the learning process. The more you can promote a sense of belonging and of achievement, the better you can reinforce the material and graduate top-notch professionals who represent the type of employee that your market wants to hire. And that is your true measure of success. This, of course, is both their goal, and very importantly, yours.
There’s no better time than now to expand your “Culture of Achievement” strategies to build confidence in your students, helping them to engage and feel a sense of belonging and community with your school.
In my final part of the 3-part Blog series Parallels: Provide Guidance, Engagement and Resources to Increase Enrollment, Retention and Referrals, I outline ways to highlight the end result – the career, as a way to recruit and to improve engagement. I also point out how to serve more than one master: the Student, and the Employer.
This week I launch a 3-part Blog series about Increasing Enrollment, improving Retention through engagement and earning Referrals at Career Schools. Over the last few years, certain activities and issues in the Proprietary School market dramatically changed the marketplace. Because of this, recruiting, and then successfully retaining students, has become radically more challenging.
While some of this can be addressed with technology, and I will certainly point out our options along the way, much of the solution lies in your approach to each student and in changing what you offer and how you communicate.
The Sheer Genius of Great Student Services:
Prospective students have a LOT to consider when looking into Career Schools. Addressing these concerns, then providing clear solutions, can greatly increase your enrollment. The better you can connect, serve, and support the student, the more success you’ll have with initial enrollment, increased retention, and VERY IMPORTANTLY ongoing referrals to draw even more students.
In this 3-part Blog series I provide specific ideas on how you might address all these activities. From Recruiting, to Retention, to Referral. Of course, not all these ideas will fit your particular school, but hopefully they will spark ideas that will apply to your unique circumstances!
A Very Brief Overview of this Blog Series:
• Demonstrate that your Curriculum is matched with the needs of the industry and is current with industry expectations
• Provide Student Services that assist with practical life issues, as well as academics
• Provide early intervention: Both academic and financial
• Offer a good mix of programs,
• Provide Exceptional Career Services, and
• Demonstrate great value than your competition
Student Services that Can Increase Recruiting Success and Maintain Enrollment:
Knowing that you provide a support network can be a huge selling point to prospective students, especially to career-switching adults who have been away from school for a number of years. Recruiters should include your support services and other offerings on your website, in their follow-up correspondence AND in all conversations.
Do more than just list these as a bullet points, provide REAL WORLD examples: include a video (or two) with a REAL student and share written student testimonials on why your school is an excellent choice. In an earlier Blog I mentioned that your potential students get their information from the internet – thus they are reasonably well able to discern if what you’re saying is genuine or not. Don’t just say that you provide the service, provide samples, let them know you REALLY DO, and that you REALLY CARE.
Providing these services throughout the student life-cycle promotes goodwill and engagement – powerful and important factors for improving retention and referrals.
Actual Things To Do that are Effective and Appreciated:
- Key Offices should be open and staffed whenever students are present, AND, offer early morning/evening hours.
- Yes, ALL necessary offices: Advising, Career Placement, Student Financial Aid, Bursar
- If you can’t provide ALL days to have extended hours, do it 1 or 2 days a week.
FIND & CREATE Solutions
- Provide help finding, subsidizing, or providing adequate day care,
- Some schools even pay students to do day care on site for other students’ children,
- Check local and state laws regarding anything to do with day care and children
- Provide assistance with transportation to school,
- Provide bus passes and schedules
- Organize student car pools
- Provide gas cards to students who agree to assist with transporting others to class
- Organize Uber or Lyft car pools (Uber-pools)
- Provide help with reducing conflicts with job schedules
- Hand students an Employer Copy of their Schedule to PROACTIVELY assist
- Allow make-up classes if possible whenever work conflicts cause challenges
- Provide full-time tutoring and academic support
- Available on days when classes are not held, or
- During non-class time
- Assist with locating housing
- Offer an off-campus housing search feature on your website
- Provide a list of landlords or properties that previous or current students have rented from
- Proactively contact nearby apartment properties to negotiate better rates for students – typically the student could be a “safer & more stable” tenant.
- Provide a list of reputable apartment search websites for students
- Help with Personal Finance Management
- Help applying for health insurance
- Help locate medical clinics and low-cost medical referrals,
- Help qualifying for food stamps;
- Provide Foreclosure assistance and other debt-related issues.
By helping your students overcome the hurdles they face while pursuing their career degree, you build a positive environment. By demonstrating how they should be proactive in their own lives and exhibiting positive role model behaviors you establish a higher standard of excellence.
When associated with higher standards that are implemented as a means to assist and support them, people tend to rise to those standards. And this is the beginning of your “Culture of Achievement”, which just happens to be the topic of my next Hidden Gems Blog!
Increasing enrollment requires you to overcome objections, and many potential students are “just looking” or “aren’t ready” to move forward with a decision.
One of the most popular reasons they aren’t ready to commit to you: Fear of going back to school.
The average age of a career college student is 27. And over 30 per cent are over the age of 35. This means that they’ve been away from formal schooling for a LONG TIME!
So, knowing this, be proactive! As part of your recruiting process, right on your website, address how your school will help the returning student succeed.
By greatly alleviating this fear, you stand out from competing schools, and can accelerate the recruiting process.
Specifically: What you can do to be different:
- Promote your student support services, or, if you don’t have a strong student support services program, create one!
- The better you support your students:
- The Higher your Retention rate
- You'll increase student-student referrals
- Student engagement increases which often leads to instructor satisfaction and lower turnover/burnout.
Whether students have just graduated from high school, or are returning to school after being in the workforce, Student Success Programs help them learn how to be a successful student, learn how and where to access the resources they need to be successful, and provide fail-safes to keep them from feeling isolated, or falling behind.
Elements of Student Success Programs:
- Study Skills, Note-Taking, Test-Taking & Time-management Training:
- Many students – young and old may never have mastered good study skills. Instruction into how to study and how to optimize their time is paramount to their success. Their motivation is quite different now, and whatever tools and help you provide now will greatly affect their ability to succeed
- Identification of their Learning styles:
- Help students identify their learning styles
- Based on these learning styles and the study skills, help them develop critical thinking skills to encourage their success
- School & Campus Resources:
- Clearly provide and demonstrate the range of resources available at your campus or on-line.
- From counselors and coaches, to books, and on-line training, and anything else.
- Encourage instructors to actively demonstrate use of these resources in their courses.
- Computer Skills Training
- Often a basic course in the use of computers and MS-Office will greatly improve a students’ ability to succeed
- Test incoming students in critical computer skills and, if appropriate, provide instruction that will help them maximize both their school experience and their career.
- Academic Coaching:
- Provide each student with an official Academic Coach to help them learn how to “do college.” Of course, this person may be the assigned counselor, the core issue is to make this a pro-active role with regular check-ins and interaction with each student.
- Job Description Reviews
- Review as part of the early student experience, what the requirements for their various careers.
- Review basic Requirements for post-graduation jobs
Review Requirements for jobs 3-5 years after graduation and how they might shorten that timeline – if appropriate to their course of study.
Help them plan for the correct experiences and classes, based on their post-graduation goals
- Retention program:
- Provide students with early alerts on grades, attendance, etc.
- Use On-line alerts and private emails or SMS to connect with students in a timely manner
- Include regular Positive feedback for each student.
And Most Important of All:
Whatever Services and Support that you offer, be sure to communicate this up front to your prospective students. You’ll reduce one of the most common fears about going back to school, and reduce the barriers to Registration.