Turenne-Akram, T., Wolfgram, M., Collet-Klingenberg, L., & Yu, H. (2022). What can we learn from research about internships for students with disabilities? Preliminary results from the survey of the College Internship Study. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (Research Brief #19). University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Abstract: Internships in higher education provide academic and career development opportunities during college and post-graduation. There have been many studies that focus on the benefits of participating in an internship. However, there are significant barriers to accessing internships that can arise as a result of the students’ socio-economic status, their limited time, family obligations, academic commitments (Hora, et al., 2019), as well as raced, classed, gendered and other intersectional identity-factors (Wolfgram et al., 2021). This brief uses the findings of the College Internship Study to understand internship participation for students with disabilities and discusses the lack of research on how disability-stigma impacts students’ access to internships.
Schalewski, L. (2021). The Role of Socioeconomic Status and Internships on Early Career Earnings: Evidence for Widening and Rerouting Pathways to Social Mobility. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (Research Brief #18). University of Wisconsin–Madison, Wisconsin Center for Education Research.
Abstract: The research brief first summarizes findings on internships, a university structure, pulled from a study that more broadly examined how student engagement and high-impact practices relate to post-graduation outcomes among students from different SES backgrounds (Schalewski, 2020). First, results suggest internships have a mediating role between a student’s (SES) and early career earnings. Next, results show students from middle-SES backgrounds or those within quartiles two and three experience a significant effect from internship participation on early career earnings with non-significant findings for the lowest and highest quartiles. The brief concludes with implications for practice that aim to widen and reroute pathways to internships for lower- SES students to increase opportunities that lead to higher early career salaries and set trajectories for social mobility.
Bañuelos, N. (2021). Community Cultural Wealth Goes to College: A Review of the Literature for Career Services Professionals and Researchers. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (Research Brief #17). University of Wisconsin–Madison, Wisconsin Center for Education Research.
Abstract: Created by LatCrit scholars in the mid-2000s, Community Cultural Wealth (CCW) is an anti-deficit framework for understanding educational inequality. Since its publication, Yosso’s (2005) seminal paper on the topic has been cited thousands of times by scholars in fields as distinct as engineering, K12 education, and public health. This report reviews the recent scholarship on college students’ experiences and outcomes that uses CCW as a guiding framework. Although the intended audience for this review is career services professionals in colleges and universities, my hope is it can also be helpful for scholars of career development who want to brush up on the CCW literature and consider future research questions the framework presents. The existing literature offers insights on the college-to-career transition: it reveals the centrality of familial capital in shaping students’ career pathways, the function of resistant capital in forming students’ career interests, the utility of students’ existing social capital in the job search process, and the role of counterspaces in activating CCW for career success. However, CCW scholarship typically focuses on college students’ matriculation, persistence, sources of support, and well-being, not on their career development—including the psychological, spiritual, sociocultural, political and economic factors influencing students’ career interests and the knowledge, relationships, and environmental contexts shaping their career choices (Duffy & Dik, 2009). This gap presents opportunities for researchers and career services professionals to partner in creating and evaluating programming with CCW in mind. There are also opportunities to increase the methodological diversity of CCW scholarship, to consider the ways in which students mix CCW with “dominant” forms of capital for career success, to collect data from employers, faculty, and other gatekeepers, and to account for the role of institutional context.
Hora, M.T., Huerta, A., Gopal, A., & Wolfgram, M. (2021). A review of the literature on internships for Latinx students at Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Toward a Latinx-serving internship experience. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (Research Brief #16). University of Wisconsin–Madison, Wisconsin Center for Education Research.
Abstract: Internships are a widely promoted “high-impact practice” (HIP) across the postsecondary landscape, particularly among minority-serving institutions (MSIs) where they are seen as potentially transformative vehicles for students’ career success and social mobility. However, little research exists on if and how the design, implementation, and ultimate effects of college internships may (or should) vary according to the unique institutional contexts of MSIs such as Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) and students’ racial identities and cultural backgrounds. This idea is based on research demonstrating that a “one-size-fits-all” approach to classroom teaching, student advising, and broader approaches to student engagement ignores both historic and structural inequalities while also overlooking the unique needs, circumstances and potentials of a diverse student body. Consequently, our main goal in this paper is to review the literature on internships in HSIs and with Latinx college students to determine if internship program design, implementation and student experience varies based on the unique institutional contexts of HSIs and/or the racial and cultural attributes of Latinx college students.
To address this issue we conducted an integrative review of the literature on HIPs in general and internships in particular as they relate to Latinx students and HSIs. Our results indicate a small but growing body of empirical research on these topics, some that highlight how specific features of HSIs (e.g., institutional missions, “servingness”) and Latinx students (e.g., family capital, cultural perspectives on work) influence how HIPs and internships are designed and experienced. These insights underscore the importance of accounting for cultural, structural and historic factors when studying and designing internship programs. We conclude the paper with a review of existing theoretical frameworks for studying HSIs and a proposal for a new research agenda that pays close attention to the role of culture at individual, group, institutional and societal levels. Ultimately, we contend that while certain universal principles of internship design and implementation are likely to be applicable for HSIs and Latinx students, there are critical differences and opportunities for internships in these institutions and for these students that should be acknowledged and incorporated into HIPs-related policymaking and practice.
Lee, L., Xiong, P., Xiong, Y., Yang, L., Smolarek, B., Vang, M., Wolfgram, M., Moua, P., Thao, A. & Xiong, O. (2020). The Necessity of Ethnic Studies: Prioritizing Ethnic Studies During COVID 19 and Beyond. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (Research Brief #16). University of Wisconsin–Madison, Wisconsin Center for Education Research.
Abstract: The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a devastating ripple effect on educational institutions—from budget cuts to health and safety concerns to changes in learning environments. In higher education specifically, Covid-19 is disrupting student lives by interrupting in-person learning, forcing students out of their living spaces, and causing students to suffer financially. The consequences of the pandemic have also led to financial crises for universities, causing administrators to make challenging budgetary decisions. Unfortunately, during times of budget scarcity, colleges and universities have historically opted—and continue to opt—for cuts that impact students of color profoundly, including deep cuts to diversity and inclusion efforts and ethnic studies programs, suspensions of ethnic studies faculty hiring, and even resulting in the termination of tenure-track faculty positions in ethnic studies (Bikales & Chen, 2020; Meyerhofer, 2020; Myers, 2014; Wang, 2016).
University administrators are currently having to make hard financial decisions which will have lasting impacts on students, staff, and their communities. Within this looming financial crisis, with multiple competing priorities and far less resources than in the past, in this report, we argue that ethnic studies programs must be prioritized for continued investment. Continued.
Fetter, A & Thompson, M. (2020). Understanding the Impacts of COVID-19 Pandemic for Undergraduate Students attending an HBCU: Insights from Student Voices. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (Research Brief #14). University of Wisconsin–Madison, Wisconsin Center for Education Research.
Executive Summary: Limited attention has been paid to the impact of COVID-19 on college students who are attending minority-serving institutions, despite the disproportionate toll COVID-19 has on minoritized communities and the worsening of pre-existing inequity brought about by the pandemic (Kantamneni, 2020; Kimbrough, 2020; Strada, 2020). It is vital to understand experiences with COVID-19 among college students who are attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), which serve as primary educational pathways for Black students in the U.S. Themes from our interviews with 41 students attending an HBCU highlight that students are experiencing significant work-related, academic, financial, and socio-emotional challenges related to COVID-19. Stressors and concerns were viewed by students as interrelated and cumulative. In addition, themes from the interviews suggested that student stressors must be viewed within the contexts of the higher education institution, student life experiences and circumstances, and their positionality within large structural systems. Given the far-ranging and ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on higher education, this Research Brief concludes with recommendations to advocate for and support students.
Hora, M., Forbes, J., & Preston, D. (2020). What do we know about internships at HBCUs? A review of the literature and agenda for future research. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions (Research Brief #13). University of Wisconsin–Madison, Wisconsin Center for Education Research.
Abstract: Internships and other high-impact practices (HIPs) that feature experiential learning are being increasingly promoted at Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCUs) as a way to support students’ career and academic success. In this paper we review the literature on what is known about HIPs and internships at HBCUs and how students’ racial identities have influenced interns’ experiences and outcomes. Our analysis finds little empirical research on internships at HBCUs and a general lack of in-depth and critical analysis on the ways that racial identity and the unique institutional cultures of HBCUs impact internships and Black student experiences. We then review contextual forces salient to Black interns’ experiences such as pervasive workplace discrimination, and theoretical frameworks that could inform future research on the ways that race, culture, institutional features and local “field effects” interact to shape student experiences and professional development. We conclude by outlining a research agenda for studying internships that foregrounds issues of racial justice, adopts elements of Bourdieu’s relational sociology, and investigates how the unique cultures of HBCUs influence how internships are designed, implemented and experienced.
Zhang, J., Chen, Z., Wu, Z., & Hora, M. (2020). An Introduction to Technical and Vocational Education in China: Implications for Comparative Research and Practice on Internships. Research Brief #12. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. UW-Madison.
Abstract: Internship plays an important role in students’ career preparation and college-to-workforce transition. Although there are a large body of studies on college student internships, there were relatively fewer on that of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) students. Such a critical topic worth more attention and exploration. This report focuses on TVET system in China considering that China has the largest but under-developed TVET system in the world which prioritizes economic development and social mobility as its main missions. The aim of this report is to systematically introduce the TVET and its internship policies in China. The report presents the unique structure, the history, and development of China’s secondary and higher TVET. Notably, along with a downward trend of the secondary TVET since 2010, there had been an upward trend of the higher TVET since the late 1990s’ in contrast. Overall, issued policies largely influence the direction of Chinese TVET development, especially in regard to regulating internship activities in aspects of internship organization, management, assessment. Implications for research and policymaking for internships in China and the U.S. were discussed. This report provides insights to international scholars who are interested in conducting comparative studies on internship in TVET systems.
Moua, P., Thao, A., Xiong, O., Lee, L., Smolarek, B., Vang, M. N., Wolfgram, M., Xiong, P. K., Xiong, Y. Y., & Yang, L. (2020). Weaving the Paj Ntaub for future HMoob Students: A compiled collection of advice. Wisconsin Center for Education Research. University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Abstract: This report intends to share the knowledge and advice of current and former HMoob students who attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison. With their responses, the Paj Ntaub research team gleaned advice that these participants wished to pass along to current and future HMoob students. Through many of our interviews, participants shared advice on subjects that they themselves wished they had received during their time at UW-Madison.These responses came from 36 current students 31 former students with a total of 71 individuals and encompassed ideas around lack of familiarity with campus, making career decisions, experiences tied specifically to multidimensional identities, and stereotypes associated with attending UW-Madison. Students come to college with different experiences, goals, and expectations and this may lead to contradicting advice. In this report, we understand and want to shed light on these experiences by giving the space for each and every type of advice.
Hora, M.T., Wolfgram, M., Chen, Z., Zhang, J. & Fischer, J. (2020). A sociocultural analysis of internship supervision: Insights from a mixed-methods study at five postsecondary institutions. WCER Working Paper 2020-8. Wisconsin Center for Education Research. University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Abstract: Internships are widely promoted extra-curricular experiences that can have positive impacts on student outcomes, yet how specific elements of internships contribute to these outcomes and facilitate learning is understudied. In this sequential mixed-methods study, we use sociocultural learning theory to interpret data from surveys (n = 435) and focus groups (n = 52) with students at five postsecondary institutions. After stepwise linear regression analyses indicated that supervisor behaviors were significantly associated with intern satisfaction and career development, analyses of qualitative data revealed features of positive (clear communication, availability, feedback) and negative (unavailability, inattention to learning) aspects of supervision. These results highlight the value of legitimate peripheral participation in internships, and the need for colleges and employers to carefully design and monitor these pedagogic spaces.
Hora, M.T., Wolfgram, M., Brown, R., Colston, J., Zhang, J., Chen, Z., & Chen, Z. (2020). The Internship Scorecard: A new framework for evaluating college internships on the basis of purpose, quality and equitable access. Research Brief #11. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Executive Summary: While internships are widely praised and promoted as a “door opener” to opportunity, the impact of these work-based learning programs on students is complicated by the variability in how they are designed, implemented and experienced. Consequently, instead of assuming that participation unequivocally results in positive academic and labor market outcomes, the field needs conceptual tools to distinguish internship programs from one another and to evaluate their efficacy, quality and commitment to equity. In this report we first review various frameworks that distinguish different types of work-based learning and internship programs, and then describe a new framework for distinguishing internships on the basis of purpose, quality and equity – The Internship Scorecard.
This new framework is based on theory and evidence from cultural anthropology, the learning sciences and work-based learning, and is designed for higher education professionals, funders, policymakers and employers so that they can – with more nuance and precision than is currently available – make distinctions between program types and begin to “score” programs at the individual-level or in the aggregate for entire institutions. An example of how the Internship Scorecard can be used in practice is provided, along with next steps for the analysis and improvement of college internship programs.
Note: We are very interested to hear any feedback that you might have about The Internship Scorecard. We are especially interested in hearing your thoughts, critiques and suggestions for how the Scorecard can be used in practice to study and/or evaluate internships.
Hora, M.T., Vivona, B.,Chen, Z., Zhang, J., Thompson, M., & Brown, R. (2020). What do we know about online internships? A review of the academic and practitioner literatures. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions Research Brief #10. University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Abstract: Internships are one of the most widely promoted co-curricular experiences for college students, and the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shelter-in-place orders led to a substantial growth in the availability and popularity of online internships. However, little is known about the impacts of online internships on student outcomes. In this literature review we present key trends and findings from the academic and practitioner literatures on online internships. Relatively little empirical research exists on online internships, but researchers have found that pre-internship orientations, self-regulated learning, sufficient technology, and effective supervision are important for successful experiences. Our review also highlights that considerable variation exists among online internships, especially with respect to the host organization (i.e., employers or third-party vendors), compliance with standards for legitimate and high-quality internships, and duration. Ultimately, we conclude that standards articulated for “legitimate internships” by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) and for rigorous experiential learning programs by CCWT should also be applied to online and/or remote internship programs. We conclude our review with recommendations for students, postsecondary professionals, employers and higher education researchers.
Hora, M.T., & Lee, C. (2020). Industry in the college classroom: Does industry experience increase or enhance how faculty teach cognitive, inter- and intrapersonal skills? Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison
Executive Summary: Competencies known variously as “soft” or “21st century skills” are increasingly linked to college students’ academic and career success, and faculty with industry experience are hypothesized to be uniquely qualified to teach these skills. Yet little research exists on this topic. In this paper, we report findings from a mixed methods study of the degree to which industry experience influences how STEMM faculty teach teamwork, oral and written communication, problem-solving, and self-directed learning skills in 2- and 4-year postsecondary institutions. Using inductive thematic and hierarchical linear modeling techniques to analyze survey (n=1,140) and interview (n=89) data, we find that faculty place relatively low emphasis on these skills, but that industry experience is significantly associated with teaching oral communication, teamwork, and problem-solving skills. Other factors including race and perceptions of departmental teaching norms also influenced skills-focused instruction. Industry experience also informed problem-based learning activities, knowledge of desired workplace skills, and a focus on divergent thinking. Given that industry experience is an important, but not the only influence on skills-focused instruction, policies aimed solely at hiring faculty with industry experience will be of limited utility without a corresponding focus on training in teaching and instructional design.
Authors (in alphabetical order): Lena Lee, Pangzoo Lee, Bailey B. Smolarek, Myxee Thao, Kia Vang, Matthew Wolfgram, Choua Xiong, Odyssey Xiong, Pa Kou Xiong, & Pheechai Xiong. Our HMoob American College Paj Ntaub.
“Our HMoob American College Paj Ntuab” is a qualitative research study conducted by the Center for College-Workforce Transitions (CCWT) in partnership with the HMoob American Studies Committee (HMASC), a University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) student activist initiative, to examine the sociocultural and institutional factors influencing HMoob American college experiences at UW-Madison. We found that the HMoob American students who participated in our study often reported feeling unwelcome or excluded at UW-Madison. Participants stated that they felt the campus community did not have any knowledge of HMoob history and culture, which put HMoob American students in the position of educating their peers and professors on who the HMoob are. Additionally, participants reported experiencing macro- and/or micro-aggressions in classrooms, residence halls, and on the streets near campus. Our participants also reported feeling unwelcome in certain schools, buildings, and professional student organizations, which has significant implications on HMoob American students’ academic majors, future career plans, and professional social networks. In contrast, the spaces in which our participants stated that they felt most comfortable, safe, and welcome were student support programs, race-specific student organizations, and HMoob specific classes. Participants described these spaces as places where they were able to cultivate their ethnic identity and find mentorship and other support systems.
Hora, M.T., Wolfgram, M. & Chen, Z. (2019). Research Brief #8: Closing the doors of opportunity: How financial, sociocultural and institutional barriers inhibit access to college internships. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison
Abstract: Internships are widely perceived as experiences that open the doors of opportunity, yet little is known about obstacles to participation. We report findings from surveys (n = 1,549) and focus groups (n= 100) with students at five postsecondary institutions. Results indicate that 64% of non-interns did not pursue one due to intersecting obstacles including the need to work, heavy course loads, and a lack of opportunities in their disciplines. First-generation students were more likely to report needing to work, Arts and Humanities students were more likely to report insufficient pay and heavy course loads, and full-time students were least likely to report insufficient pay. Colleges and universities must work to ensure that internships do not reproduce privilege and exacerbate inequality.
Hora, M.T., Parrott, E. & Her, P. (2019). Research Brief #7: How do students experience internships? Exploring student perspectives on college internships for more equitable and responsive program design. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison
Abstract: At a time when colleges and universities are anxious to prove that their graduates are employable, internships are being increasingly touted as valuable “high-impact” practices. However, how students themselves conceptualize internships is poorly understood, which inhibits their inclusion in the employability discourse and their incorporation into program design. In this study we use the freelisting method from cultural anthropology to analyze data from students (n=57) in three U.S. colleges, using saliency analysis, thematic analysis, and social network analysis techniques. Results indicate that the most salient terms in the cultural domain of internships were: “experience,” “learning,” “paid,” and “connections.” Students discussed these words in utilitarian terms (e.g., something to “get” for one’s resume), as important aspects of career- and self-exploration, and to highlight the importance of compensation. Differences in the complexity of student accounts were evident between students who had taken an internship and those who had not. These findings highlight how common definitions of internships reflect a homogenous and aspirational perspective that is inconsistent with student accounts. We conclude that students’ insights about internships are important to consider to re-frame the employability debate to include student interests, to avoid one-size-fits-all approaches to internship design, and to facilitate student self-reflection.
Mun Yuk Chin (2018). Research Brief #6: Career Advisor Experiences in a 2-year College. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison
Abstract: Technical and community colleges are increasingly scrutinized for their ability to generate positive job outcomes for their students. While some attention has been paid to understanding students’ experiences with their campus career services, there is limited research on career advisors’ experiences in supporting these students in today’s economy. In this brief report, we highlight the main themes identified by five career advisors in a 2-year college that illustrate their role and function, and the organizational and systemic constraints they face in their work.
Scaglione, M.D. (2018). Skilled Non-College Occupations in the U.S. WCER Working Paper No. 2018-7. Wisconsin Center for Education Research. University of Wisconsin-Madison
Abstract: This paper presents a new approach to the identification of relatively skilled occupations that do not typically require a bachelor’s degree for entry. I call this group of occupations Skilled Non-College Occupations (SNCOs). The proposed approach relies heavily on a new skills index based on data from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET) sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. In contrast with studies that estimate that employment in so-called middle-skill jobs in the U.S. represents one third to nearly a half of total employment, this study estimates that the combined employment of SNCOs accounted for 16.2% of all jobs in 2016. Exploratory analysis shows that SNCOs (a) represent only one in five jobs that do not require a 4-year college degree for entry; (b) encompass a wide variety of occupations and industries, even though they are highly concentrated in a relatively small number of them; (c) usually pay above-average wages; (d) show a quite low correlation between wages and the skills scores; and (e) include a significant proportion of workers who are potentially underemployed in terms of their level of educational attainment.
For a shorter version of this paper see this research brief.
Mun Yuk Chin, Chelsea A. Blackburn Cohen, and Matthew T. Hora (2018). The Role of Career Services Programs and Sociocultural Factors in Student Career Development. WCER Working Paper No. 2018-8. Wisconsin Center for Education Research. University of Wisconsin-Madison
Abstract: Existing research on the effectiveness of college career services centers (CSCs) has primarily focused on students’ rates of utilization and their satisfaction with the programs and services offered. Based on survey (n = 372) and focus group data (n = 35) from undergraduate business students, we found that participants were most satisfied with the CSC’s provision of practical tools that enhanced employability and were least satisfied with the CSC’s integration of students’ backgrounds and interests during advising. Our qualitative analysis yielded three categories of contributors (i.e., sociocultural factors, independent activities, and institutional factors) to student career outcomes, which were psychological characteristics, career decisions, and social capital. Sociocultural factors were most prominently featured in students’ narratives of their experiences, in that they shaped how students leveraged institutional resources and how they engaged in independent activities as part of their career trajectories. Practical implications and future research directions are discussed.
For a shorter version of this paper see this research brief.
Hora, M.T. & Blackburn Cohen, C. (2018). Career services report: Midwestern State. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison
Abstract: This study documented the experiences of a group of undergraduate students at Midwestern State, with the aim to provide findings and actionable recommendations to student affairs professionals at this campus. This study sought to document how college students make decisions regarding their careers, whose advice they are most likely to seek, and how adaptable, confident, and proactive they are in regard to career planning. Insights into these issues may illuminate how today’s students are thinking about the world of work, which can help to inform how educators, student affairs professionals, and institutional leaders design and implement academic and career-related programs. In particular, career services professionals and institutional leaders would benefit from insights regarding whether or not their advising services are meeting students’ needs, particularly for first-generation, underrepresented minority and international students whose goals, interests, and concerns may vary from upper-income white students.This report includes findings from an online survey and in-person focus groups conducted with a group of undergraduate student respondents from Midwestern State in the Spring of 2017, and is an example of the type of applied research that CCWT is conducting.
Hora, M.T., Wolfgram, M. & Thompson, S. (2017). Research Brief #2: What do we know about the impact of internships on student outcomes? Results from a preliminary review of the scholarly and practitioner literatures. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison
Abstract: Internships and other forms of work-based learning are widely viewed as promising programs that can provide college students with valuable skills, knowledge and abilities that can help ease their transition to the workforce. However, while a considerable amount of empirical and practitioner research exists on internships, the literature is limited by terminological imprecision, incomparability across countries and disciplines, and a lack of rigorous field studies on student outcomes. The empirical evidence indicates that internships improve students’ employability, academic outcomes, and career crystallization, but the evidence is mixed regarding the effects of internships on employability over the long-term and little research exists about the effects of internship experiences on wages. The literature also indicates the importance of internship characteristics such as job-site mentoring, autonomy, pay, and meaningful tasks on outcomes such as student satisfaction and job pursuit, yet few studies examine the relationship between these design characteristics and student outcomes. Furthermore, the practitioner or “grey” literature highlights the importance of careful planning, institutional support systems, coordination between academic programs and job-site mentors, a large “stable” of employers willing and able to host interns, and careful attention to legal and ethical issues. States and institutions hoping to scale up internship programs should ensure adequate staff, funding, and willing participants are in place before creating internship programs at scale. The field also needs rigorous mixed methods longitudinal studies that examine the impacts of specific internship characteristics on a variety of student outcomes.
Hora, M.T. & Blackburn-Cohen, C. (2017). Research Brief #1: Cultural capital at work: How cognitive and non-cognitive skills are taught, trained and rewarded in a Chinese technical college. Center for Research on College-Workforce Transitions. University of Wisconsin-Madison
Abstract: The employability of college students is one of postsecondary education’s most pressing concerns in the United States and China. In response, policymakers are focusing on developing students’ human capital, in the form of credentials and cognitive skills acquired in technical colleges, so that higher education becomes more aligned with workforce needs. In this exploratory study we use a cultural capital framework to examine how a group of technical college educators and employers in a large eastern Chinese city conceptualize skills, cultivate them via teaching and training, and utilize them when making hiring decisions. Findings include a shared view that both cognitive and non-cognitive skills are essential, a cultural predisposition to lecturing but also a growing use of active learning techniques, and the importance of “cultural fit” during the hiring process. The data are used to advance a new cultural framework for conceptualizing college student employability, which indicates that improving students’ prospects in the labor market requires integrating non-cognitive skills development in technical college classrooms, and advising students about the cultural underpinnings of the job search process.