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updated: 7/18/2013 6:03 AM

Harper College launching job placement initiative

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Harper College is moving forward with measures aimed at better connecting graduates with jobs in their areas of study.

Members of the Palatine community college's Job Placement Task Force on Wednesday presented its final report and recommendations following a yearlong process.

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"We haven't been on the front end of a lot of students' education experience helping them really capture why they were here in the first place," President Ken Ender said. "At the end of the day, most folks go to college with the idea it will one day lead you to a job, so I wanted to put a focus on the idea that Harper is a place you go to achieve that outcome."

The task force determined that Harper needs to help students "see how it all fits together" from education to career, starting by embedding counseling and career supportive services in a student's college experience. That especially goes for those who are undecided as to a career focus.

Harper's first step will be to hire two employment specialists for the fall term charged with establishing relationships with the district's 30,000 businesses and developing competitive job and internship opportunities. Initially, they'll oversee six career and technical programs, but the goal is to expand the scope.

Harper also will relocate all job placement services to its new Center for Workforce Development, a streamlining process Ender expects to be completed by October.

Another key component to Harper's new initiative are First-Year Seminars being rolled out this fall. The semester-long courses, part of a two-year pilot program, will have faculty members from various disciplines working with students to create personal development and education plans.

The idea, Associate Provost Joan Kindle said, is "how do we introduce this focus on career as the student just starts with us."

The courses at first will be paid for through Harper's strategic planning funds. Officials hope to grow the seminar to more than 100 sections, so future students will be charged a fee to cover personnel costs.

Another of the task force's recommendations focuses on creating support teams, increasing communication and collaboration and identifying a software system that will connect faculty, counselors, workforce specialists, students and employers.

The task force also recommended that Harper increase outreach to employers, strengthen work experiences for students and support alumni in their job searches.

The final component of Harper's job placement initiative is to incorporate the National Career Readiness Certificate into career programs and promote the adoption of the certificate among employers.

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