Dr. Sarah Burrows // Providence College & CEIA
Dawn Koeltzow // Illinois Central College & CEIA
Lynne Hickle // Drexel University & CEIA
Determining what employers are looking for in recent graduates is of primary concern to college educators of all kinds—faculty, administrators, academic advisors, and career coaches. The Cooperative Education and Internship Association (CEIA) set out to discover the major trends in recruiting and hiring across the U.S.—for both full-time hires, as well as interns and co-op students. The goal of this study was to determine what employers need from educators and college students or recent graduates, and to see if those needs are being met. In addition, the survey acted as a vehicle to introduce employers to CEIA, if they were not familiar with this professional association. The CEIA is a member-driven community of educators, employers, researchers, students, and partner agencies, which advocates for best practices in co-ops, internships, and other forms of experiential education, through the core values of Excellence, Diversity & Inclusion, Community, Professional Development, Stewardship and Collaboration.
CEIA administered the employer survey in the fall of 2018 and the results were presented at the annual 2019 CEIA conference in Chicago. Distributed through Handshake in collaboration with partner schools and CEIA members, the survey had 33 questions with multiple choice and open-ended responses. A team representing a variety of professional experiences and members of the CEIA board of directors drafted the survey questions. Overall, the survey elicited 495 respondents, who held titles such as University Recruiter, HR Manager, Owner, President, Volunteer Coordinator, and Experiential Education Manager, among others. About 50% of respondents had between 5-100 employees. In terms of territorial representation, 43% of the respondents chose their organizational territory as “local,” another 20.8% chose their organizational territory as “regional” and the other 35.9% of the respondent categorized their organizational territory options as national and international. Prior to responding to the survey, 80% of respondents did not know about CEIA and 40% indicated they would like to know more about the association. The CEIA board of directors plans to conduct outreach to employer respondents to engage with them to address their needs and to explore the feedback outlined in the results.
Feedback from Respondents
Of the programs suggested to the employers, 77% indicated that on-boarding interns and/or co-ops was a priority, 49% indicated the importance of professional skills workshops for interns/co-ops while on site, and 48% indicated the need for trainings/workshops on supervising interns/co-ops. In addition, under the category of “other,” 9% indicated an interest in the following; careers fairs, recruiting interns, information about mentorship programs, off-site training for co-ops or interns, law school interns and volunteers, and best practices for summer internship programs. Respondents could choose more than one answer , so the total percent of responses totals more than 100%.
Of the resources suggested to the employers to help them manage their co-op or internship programs, 67% indicated that a sample performance evaluation form was a priority, 55% responded they would like a sample internship/co-op site evaluation form, 54% indicated that a sample learning contract would be helpful, and 51% indicated an interest in research conducted on internships/co-ops. In addition, under the category of “other,” 7% indicated an interest in the following; CRM data base management, a listing of where organizations should post internship positions, calendar deadlines or opportunities to speak to a group of potential candidates on campus, training modules, project timeline templates, research specifically highlighting the experience of interns of color, LGBTQ+ interns, and other underrepresented groups. In addition, employers indicated a need for a method to provide feedback on projects, some way to track co-op or intern’s problem-solving and intellectual maturity, as well as benchmarking reports on compensation for interns/co-ops. Respondents could choose more than one answer, so the total percent of responses totals more than 100%.
We wanted to understand more fully, why employers choose to work with certain Colleges and Universities. The respondents indicated that the primary reason to work with a certain College or University were as follows: higher quality applicants (42%); a larger quantity of applicants (36.2%); or direct referrals from career services staff (10.6%). The respondents indicated that inhibitors to working with a College or University were as follows: the complexity of connecting with target student profile through the career service office (42.9%); the cost to participate in recruiting events (41%); the timing of campus recruiting events (26.86%); and the response time of the career services office (26.45%).
The employers indicated that a focus on student preparation, attitudes and behaviors would most likely lead to a more successful internship program. Other respondents mentioned that a successful talent pipeline, academic credit component, and responsive staff were important components of successful internship programs.
“We like our internship programs to serve as a “win-win,” because we have help in one of our most demanding seasons; we also win because we get the knowledge and expertise of students. Students win by gaining valuable real-world work experience—while also having the opportunity to earn money.”
The respondents indicated that hiring decisions are driven by: building a talent pipeline (76%); filling a specific project need (47.5%); or gaining fresh ideas and outlook on existing business models (42%). Respondents could choose more than one answer, so the total percent of responses totals more than 100%. Of the respondents, 51% hired 1-5 co-ops or interns annually, 18% hired 6-10, 12% hired 11-20, 9% hired 20-49, 7% hired 50-100, and 3% hired 100-250 co-ops or interns annually.
Identifying Key School Talent Acquisition Schools
Employers indicated that they identify key schools for talent acquisition through a variety of methods. The following methods were ranked 1-10, with 1 being the most prominent method:
- Academic programs and majors
- Previous success hiring from that institution
- Geographic proximity to the organization
- Ease or ability of hiring process
- Reputation of the school
- Number of interns or co-ops needed
- Student demographics
- Ease and affordability of sending recruiters to campus
- Alma Mater of company leadership
- Size of the academic institution
Of the respondents, 49% reported that they typically work with 1-3 schools, 23% reported working with 4-6 schools, 14% reported working with 7-10 schools, 5% reported working with 11-15 schools, 4% reported working with 16-20 schools, and 5% reported working with over 21 schools. The recruiting and database management system, Handshake, will likely change these numbers significantly in the next five years as schools can choose multiple colleges and universities to post job and internship listings in one single action. 85% of respondents indicated that they were open to considering co-ops/interns from institutions outside of their Key Schools, such as referrals or children of employees, but this was not typical.
Paid or Unpaid Opportunities
Over 70% of Employers compensate their co-ops and interns. The pay options included:
- Hourly range ($11-$27)
- Housing Stipend
- Transportation/gas allowance
Interviewing Methods: Number of Interviews, Interview Types and Formats for Interviews
Employers request different numbers of interviews and use a variety of interview formats for their applicants so it is critical that applicants understand prior to the interview the process and format of the interviews and how to prepare in order to perform effectively.
Employers conducted a wide range of interview types. Respondents indicated that 38% of employers conducted situational interviews, 44% of employers conducted behavioral interviews,74% of
employers conducted conversational, open-ended interviews, 30% of employers conducted case interviews, 1.25% conducted stress interviews, 22% of employers conducted technical interviews, 21% conducted panel interviews, and 15% of employers conducted group interviews. Respondents indicated that 5% of employers conducted other forms of interviews including a presentation of work product focusing on methodology, portfolio review, or personal assessment. Respondents could choose more than one answer, so the total percent of responses totals more than 100%.
Employers utilized a wide variety of formats for these interviews. The responses indicate that 63% of employers utilized telephone interviews, 34% employers utilized virtual interviews, 21% of employers utilized on-campus interviews, 86% of employers conducted on-site interviews, and 6% of employers conducted other types of interviews such as event interviews, email communications, trial shadow day on the job, and some employers assess writing and communication skills through email. Anecdotally, the authors assert that virtual interviewing is on the rise and students are often ill prepared to perform well in this interview format. Respondents could choose more than one answer, so the total percent of responses totals more than 100%.
When queried about hiring international students for a co-op, internship or full-time position, 66% of employers would not consider a work visa for a co-op or intern for the following reasons:
- Too much risk
- Too expensive
- Too much work
Assessment of Candidates
Employers utilize writing samples, coding exams, academic record, and specific interview questions to assess hard skills in candidates. Consistent with data collected in 2018 by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), Career Readiness Competencies are—Oral/Written Communications, Teamwork/Collaboration, Digital Technology, Leadership, Professionalism/Work Ethic, Career Management, Global/Intercultural Fluency.
In a 2018 LinkedIn survey, 57% of business leaders say soft skills trump hard skills when making hiring decisions. Preferred competencies include: Leadership, Communication, Collaboration, Time Management. This survey demonstrated that employers do not value hard skills as much as one might intuitively expect. In the CEIA survey, 11% of employers indicated that hard skills were extremely important, 33% indicated hard skills were important, 21% were neutral about hard skills, 18% indicated that hard skills were not that important, and 9% indicated that hard skills were not important at all in their hiring decisions.
Work Culture Trainings
Regarding work culture trainings, 57% of employers indicated they conduct work culture trainings, 35% indicated they do not conduct work culture trainings, and 8% indicated they do something different. Other trainings included HR onboarding and unit specific training, reading the policy manual, orientations where safety, security and harassment policies are discussed, and a process whereby employees are cleared via a background check. Workplace safety, harassment policies, and virtual training issues as required by federal policy are discussed. The top training topics mentioned in the employer responses were Sexual Harassment and Assault.
The survey results summarized here indicate that recruiting trends continue to evolve and subsequently the relationship between employers and career educators is critical to the successful identification and placement of new talent, as well as onboarding and workplace assimilation and performance. Employers are actively seeking more resources and guidance on the spectrum of steps involved with recruitment, hiring and onboarding. There is certainly an important role for professional associations, such as CEIA, to engage and collaborate with employers to meet these needs. This research further corroborated the findings of NACE and LinkedIn that most employers value essential (soft) skills over hard skills as we move into the year 2020.
Below is a snapshot how CEIA is committed to research in work-integrated learning:
Ongoing Research Conducted by CEIA
Look for survey results from the 2019 survey on 2-year College and high school experiential educators across the U.S. Results will be presented at the 2020 CEIA annual conference.