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Talent Feed Articles - Academia-corporate partnerships that work

October 2018

Academia-Corporate Partnerships That Work

If you are responsible for hiring at your company, you know how hard it is to find high-quality candidates. It can be daunting to sift through countless applications hoping to find the perfect hire.

Many companies tackle this problem by building a hiring pipeline through co-op programs with area colleges. At the Main Line Chamber of Commerce, we’re fortunate to have two members who are responsible for co-op programs at their schools – and they both focus on engaging companies with nontraditional students – older students, some as old as 40-50 years old.

  • Todd Krug is Director of the Erivan K. Haub School of Business Co-op Program at St. Joseph’s University.
  • Malik Brown is Associate Vice President, Workforce Solutions & Community Impact at Peirce College. He also is a member of the Chamber’s Talent and Education Network (TEN), an employer collaborative focused on helping companies learn from each other’s best practices in cultivating a diverse pool of entry-level employees.

I talked with Todd and Malik about their co-op programs and the unique traits non-traditional students bring to local companies.

St. Joseph’s University

Culver: Tell me about St. Joseph’s co-op opportunities and describe your non-traditional student population.

Krug: St. Joseph’s has offered co-op opportunities for undergraduate students since 2001. Between our General Co-op and Food Marketing Co-op programs, we have an enrollment of about 250 students.

Non-traditional students are a population most people don’t know exists. Most of our older students are in their 30s and 40s. They don’t have a college degree because they may not have had the financial resources after high school graduation; or they started families. Some started college and didn’t finish.

Culver: St. Joseph’s recently began offering special co-op opportunities for veterans – right?

Krug: Yes. The number of veterans attending St. Joseph’s has been growing. We now have about 70 undergraduates who are vets. A few years ago, several of these veterans revealed their struggle with transitioning from the military to the business world. As director of the business school’s co-op program, I began to think that I could do something about this, and opening up the program to veterans majoring in business was a great way for vets to take a ‘soft step’ into the business world.

For the first time, beginning in the winter 2016 semester, military veterans enrolled in the Haub Degree Completion program became eligible to participate in the Haub School of Business Cooperative Education program, which connects students with full-time, paid work opportunities.

Culver: What skills do veterans bring to the co-op experience?

Krug: Veterans have developed leadership skills and life experience that most students in their early twenties can’t match. The military has taught them a sense of community, team-building skills, a strong sense of responsibility and a knack for rebounding from disappointment. One of their biggest challenges is transitioning from a more rigid, regimented environment to one that is more flexible. But, most really embrace the change.

Culver: Can you provide some of the particulars of the co-op experience (e.g., the length of the co-ops and the kinds of companies students work with)?

Krug: We have two co-op sessions: The August to December co-op is open to sophomores, who make $13 to $16 an hour. The January to August co-op is open to upcoming seniors who make $16 to $20 an hour.

Our employers include Johnson & Johnson, AmerisourceBergen, Chubb, Comcast, Independence Blue Cross and Vanguard. They appreciate the additional dimension of diversity these veterans bring to their companies. They find that the co-op students bring drive, energy and commitment to their work, and their life experience and wisdom are readily apparent.

Editor’s note: This year, Military Times, a source for news and information on U.S. military issues, named St. Joseph’s one of the nation’s best colleges for veterans. In 2015 and 2016, the publication named the Haub School the top university in the Philadelphia region.


Peirce College

Culver: Tell me about Peirce College’s unique experience with non-traditional students.

Brown: Peirce first opened its doors in 1865 to provide business training for returning Civil War veterans in response to the demand for skilled office workers from local businesses. Peirce was also one of the first colleges in the region to admit women. Over time, we’ve organically grown our student body and focus on diverse, non-traditional learners in the adult education market.

The majority of Peirce students are non-traditional. About 67 percent of our student body is African American, and 67 percent are women – many of them working mothers. Their average age is 35, though about 10 percent of our students are 50 to 60 years old. The majority of them are first-generation adult learners who are seeking socioeconomic mobility.

Culver: Can you talk more about the backgrounds of these students?

Brown: Some of our students never went to college; instead, they entered the workforce right after high school graduation. Some attended a year or two of college, but because of life circumstances, financial or family obligations and other reasons, they didn’t complete their college education. What is a common thread for our students is their connection to the workforce. Many have years of workforce experience, but in some cases they are trying to transition from jobs to career pathways. The missing ingredient for their career and social mobility is a college degree. Many of our students come in with some college credit already earned, as well as a host of work experience that can be parlayed into credit for college-level knowledge. Peirce helps them set a plan and finally cross the finish line.

Culver: What kinds of companies partner with Peirce, and what do these employers say about the non-traditional co-op students?

Brown: Our non-traditional students participate in practical learning opportunities with companies such as Comcast, Wells Fargo and JP Morgan Chase. They demonstrate tenacity, resilience, grit and a strong work ethic – traits their employers value greatly. It is common for schools to tell us that what sets these non-traditional students apart from others is their level of maturity, their ability to relate to others, their emotional intelligence and professionalism. These students already have work experience, so they’re able to come into these co-ops and jobs with the power skills that employers need.

Culver: How does Peirce help these non-traditional students succeed in their co-op experiences?

Brown: Most of our students are working diligently in full-time jobs during the day and attending classes at night. To help accommodate their busy schedules, Peirce offers an innovative education delivery format called Peirce Fit®. Class is held on campus and online, and we allow students to switch between the two formats on a week-to-week basis as their schedules require. Both the student and the employer appreciate this flexibility.

At Peirce, our core competency is the adult learner. We offer four key program areas, each of which is responsive to the needs of business and industry in the Greater Philadelphia region: business, information technology, healthcare and legal studies. In addition to the tenacity and drive of our students, I think one of the keys to the success of our programs is our intentional focus on workforce development, strategic partnerships and employer-employee engagement.


Submitted by:
David Culver
Vice President, BTC Marketing 

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