Thanks to everyone who tweeted or commented questions for my professional exchange to UC Berkeley! In a recent Career Counselor team meeting here, the counselor team were kind enough to add their thoughts and comments around those questions to giant post-it notes (which are awesome).  Giant post-it #1 was on internships. Now let’s look at…

Students in service delivery - group discussion notes
Comments on using students in service delivery – following question from Anne Delauzun – thanks Anne!

Giant post-it #2:

Initial comment from Anne Delauzun:

…I’m particularly interested in hearing more about their use of students in service delivery. We currently have a small student team involved in different aspects and this is an area we’re looking to develop…

Notes from UC Berkeley Career Counselors:

Peer Advisers do or did:

  • Drop in resume reviews
  • “Triage” – directing students to right person, program, service (often using career center website to show them)
  • Program delivery to small groups, ad hoc requests
  • Tours of career center
  • Program support to counselors, registration, facilities, set up etc.

Student involvement: overview

The Peer Advisers here at Berkeley’s Career Center are a HUGE asset to the service. They are the first people to great students as they walk in to reception, which they do wearing clear name tags, great branded T shirts and the genuine warmth of excellent communicators. 1 – 2 peer advisers are available as front-line support between 11 – 5pm  during teaching terms. Every ‘Peer’ I’ve worked with has been a great source of information and knowledge about the student experience, and has really helped me to understand more about the student experience here at ‘Cal’.  I now know what a ‘Super Senior’ is (~5th year student), how impressed to be if a student tells me they’re taking 19 units (very) and all about the transfer process (joining for your junior year, usually from a community college).  The Peers are part of the fabric of the career center, and ‘take the show on the road’ to present workshops on career management topics for student groups.  See more at https://career.berkeley.edu/Peers/Peers.stm

Student involvement: Trends

Public universities (those that receive some state funding) in the US are in a similar place to the UK. Falling state funding means that while student services have been asked to ‘do more with less’ rising tuition fees which attempt to plug the gap have risen the expectations of students.

University of California tuition fees reaching over $12,000 in 2012 as opposed to under $5,000 ten years previously.
University of California tuition fee rises – from KQED (Public Broadcasting)

Add to that the ‘Generation Y’ tendencies towards personalized service, and front-line staff have been a priority for many a Career Center.  Here at Berkeley ‘First-class customer care’ is one of three strategic priorities (alongside increasing partnership work and leveraging new technologies).

Federal ‘work-study’ financial aid means that student hires are a cost-effective addition to the team, with 50% of their wages subsidized by the US government. A small (13 people), well trained team of committed individuals working short shift patterns is a common model in other departments as well as at other universities – student involvement through work placements is just altogether higher. The more flexible nature of degree courses (registering for classes the semester before, continuous assessment, options to take ‘lighter’ course loads)  means that students are, however just much more available. Internships in semester-time are not at all uncommon, even alongside study and an on-campus role.

However, in talking to the peer advisers, it’s clear that although their academic workload may be a more flexible element, they juggle a huge number of commitments with a great deal of responsibility and professionalism. When all of us in the UK know students who excel in their courses alongside theatrical, sporting or musical successes, and student entrepreneurship is growing in support, it seems that there are plenty of examples of students who could take on a peer adviser role with the careers service – particularly those considering ‘helping’ or ‘communication’ as a possible graduate career focus.  Although to the budget manager it might be an example of ‘doing more with less’, a peer adviser team is actually simply a solid improvement in the relevance of front-line support.

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