COVID-19 created a lot of uncertainty in state and regional labor markets as California saw over 190,000 unemployment insurance claims from March 16-18. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics suggest that workers who are younger, working part-time, and with lower educational attainments are less likely to have the option to work from home. These workers, along with the Black and Hispanic population – all demographic groups that make up a high percentage of California community college students – are at a greater risk of not only being laid-off but also a greater difficulty of finding new opportunities. Thus, work-based learning (WBL) and job placement (JP) opportunities is even more critical to ensure students acquire professional skills and experiences needed to succeed in classrooms and the workplace amidst a tighter labor market. Unfortunately, students are often unaware of these opportunities. The role and work of WBL & JP coordinators is crucial in ensuring all students are aware of WBL and JP and positioned for success. Below are some marketing strategies that WBL & JP coordinators are leveraging to increase awareness of WBL and JP opportunities as well as strategies that can be incorporated to engage students and ensure marketing success.
1. Modernize and expand your social media strategy
While most coordinators are already posting work-based learning and job opportunities on their school’s social media accounts, coordinators should expand their social media strategy. For example, instead of simply posting jobs on Instagram and Twitter, some coordinators are reaching out to employers and hosting Instagram live (IG live) sessions with employers and having students submit questions they want to ask employers. Coordinators can complement IG live sessions with twitter chats with students during a specific hour of the day. IG Live Sessions and Twitter Chats are more interactive, engaging, and relatable to students who want deeper social media engagement. It’s also helpful if schools have a few consistent hashtags students can follow or search periodically. Further, some coordinators are also encouraging students to create LinkedIn pages. Coordinators can go further by designing brief workshops to educate students on appropriate LinkedIn etiquette and appropriate networking strategies students can use to seek WBL and JP through LinkedIn. Coordinators can also create LinkedIn groups to sustain engagement with students.
While all of these strategies are great, they will not go far if students are not following your school’s social media page. Thus, one of the most effective strategies coordinators can leverage to expand their social media is collecting students’ social media handles. Instead of simply asking students for emails (that some barely respond to), survey students and identify the social media they use most frequently and request their social media handles. Students are often willing to share their social media handles. You can encourage students to follow your school’s social media page, notify students of relevant events, and ensure that your posts are actually seen by students and not just the same five followers.
2. Elevate student voice
John Kotter, a Professor of Leadership at Harvard, once said “without credible communication, and a lot of it, the hearts and minds of others are never captured.” Authentically elevating student voice is a sure way to build credibility with students about the importance of WBL and JP and get their attention. Instead of simply telling students about the importance of WBL and JP, let them learn, see, and hear about it from their peers. For example, San Diego Mesa College has had students share their experiences in short clips about finding their passion through service learning. Creating short videos with testimonials from students speaking about the impact of WBL and JP on their academic or professional experience is a great way to get students’ attention. Additionally, coordinators can partner with students for their social media engagement when they are hosting IG live sessions, Twitter chats, or LinkedIn groups. Coordinators can also partner with former or current students to host roundtables and facilitate conversations about their experiences or invite students back to classrooms to speak about their job placements. Further, while some colleges are already developing thoughtful marketing campaigns and branded materials with catchy taglines, recognizable logos, and clear captions, it is equally important to elevate student voice in those marketing materials. Ensuring that all of your marketing strategies elevate student voice will facilitate credibility and generate greater interests from students.
3. Engage with students on their turf
Improving student WBL and JP marketing requires coordinators to engage with students on their turf and comfort zone. For example, some coordinators are developing strategies to present and share WBL and JP information at student clubs and organizations. That’s a great way to engage with students on their turf. It is helpful for students to see coordinators at relevant student union meetings, Greek events, STEM clubs, intermural or sports organization and activities.
The Marketing Rule of 7 suggests that individuals need to receive an ad at least seven times to respond, but WBL & JP coordinators already know students have to be nudged at least a half dozen time (or more) before they even consider following through. Meeting students where they are to hear the message will only increase the chance of success. Meeting students on their turf can also be partnering with faculty to conduct classroom presentations; coordinators can also start early during student orientations before students have already packed their schedules and campus noise. Additionally, if a school does not already have a central website, creating a website to use as a hub for WBL and JP opportunities can also help students engage on their own terms (on their iPhones) and explore opportunities. Of course, if a school already has a WBL and JP hub they need to ensure students are aware of it; coordinators need to also ensure the hub incorporates student voice and is user friendly.
This post was written by Manny Lamarre, WestEd