CONCLUSIONS & DISCUSSION
Hiring is a screening process intended to assess the qualifications and competencies of candidates. Through this process, employers will often take 30 seconds to scan an application and determine whether or not they are interested in the candidate (Job Bank, 2011). Therefore, candidates must provide a succinct overview of their qualifications and competencies, in order to catch the eye of the employer.
Through the results of this survey and the existing literature, it is evident that employers are looking for a set of core competencies—such as communication, professionalism, and teamwork. Through the literature, we know that engagement in co-curricular opportunities can provide the foundation for developing such desirable transferable skills. Yet, if employers are not acknowledging the value of co-curricular experiences as indicators of competencies, and students are inadequately articulating those competencies, then there is an identified gap. For example, residence dons develop a vast array of valuable skills. Yet, if a student cannot effectively articulate the skills that they developed, and an employer does not know what a residence don is, then the value of that experience is lost in the process. Thus, the assumption is that the student does not possess the skills, and that there is a “job skills gap”.
Based on the results found in this study, I argue that:
- If employers look for competencies and skills when hiring, AND
- If employers do not necessarily look at extracurricular engagement as a primary indicator when hiring, THEN
- Employers may not view extracurricular engagement as a means to develop the competencies and skills they look for.
Thus, the Co-Curricular Record can act as a translation tool. For students, the CCR is intended to help students be more self-aware and well-versed in the competencies and skills developed, so they can tell their story on their resume, application, and in an interview. An official record demonstrates the value that institutions place on these experiences, which is intended to encourage engagement and to help prepare students in their future pursuits. For employers, it helps them understand what co-curricular experiences are, provides a succinct description, and identifies transferable competencies that students developed.
Rhetoric in the media has focused on concerns about a job skills gap and youth unemployment/underemployment. Some solutions presented in reports and articles focus on work-integrated learning and experiential opportunities (Council of Ontario Universities, 2014). Yet, despite these conversations, left out of the equation is the Co-Curricular Record and the role that it can play in tandem with the development of these opportunities. The vast uptake of co-curricular recognition programs across Canadian universities and colleges warrants a more focused discussion on how the CCR fits into the larger experiential learning rhetoric. Postsecondary institutions have the opportunity to address concerns about a perceived “job skills gap” by encouraging a culture of learning, development, and reflection through both curricular and co-curricular experiences.
In this study, across the board, we see a shift in the level of importance respondents place on extracurricular participation (49%) versus how likely they are to review a CCR in the hiring process (73-77%). Between these two questions was a description about the CCR, which includes defining extra/co-curricular, and acknowledging that there are competencies embedded in these opportunities.
These results demonstrate that employers are open to accepting and reviewing a CCR in the hiring process, and these results are consistent with previous results. Bryan, Mann, Nelson & North (1981), found that 71% of employers indicated that they “would definitely want” or “would prefer to have” a co-curricular transcript included in the job application.
Three prominent theoretical frameworks support the benefits and value of co-curricular engagement on student development, success, and retention—Astin’s theory of involvement, Chickering’s theory of identity development, and Tinto’s retention theory. Yet, the existence of the academic transcript as the sole form of assessment, demonstrates the institutional focus on the academic curricula. Brown & Citrin (1977) argued that the unchanging nature of the academic transcript faces challenges in acting as a relevant and useful tool for students, and thus a student development transcript (variation of the Co-Curricular Record) can complement the transcript, and provide a medium to encourage and assess student learning and development.
There are differences in the criteria, validation processes, and documents that are produced through various institutional CCRs. Therefore, these differences can cause more confusion than clarity. The CCR Network met at the University of Toronto for the first national Summit where we started discussions about developing standards, and this discussion continued at the second national Summit at Vancouver Island University and the Canadian Association for College and University Student Services (CACUSS) conference in spring 2015. While these conversations have begun, the network can benefit from having a more focused conversation that brings in the expertise from registrarial groups, government, and education-focused organizations.
Supporting co-curricular programming and the CCR:
There are financial costs associated with developing a CCR which can act as a barrier. If we want the CCR to be used in hiring processes, then the success of an institution’s CCR rests in the success of its uptake across Canada. Some institutions have expressed interest in developing a CCR, however argue that they first need to develop and support a more robust co-curricular program, before they can even develop a CCR (Co- Curricular Record Summit, personal communication, May 1-2, 2014). Others described how they do not have the financial or human resources to dedicate to getting the CCR up and running. Since government priorities are focused on encouraging the development of job-ready skills and experiential learning, the CCR can act as a vehicle to help facilitate some of their goals. Thus there should be more resources and supports available to interested institutions.
Communicating benefits of co-curricular engagement to employers:
Communicating the benefits of co-curricular engagement can help counter the narrative of the “job skills gap”, by demonstrating that it iss not just about the knowledge that is gained through an academic program that prepares students. Instead, postsecondary institutions offer a wealth of opportunities that helps students develop skills, and employers should look at co-curricular engagement as an indicator for the skills they look for. Currently, the CCR is a very grassroots initiative that is being developed and promoted at the local institutional level. Through the CCR Professionals Network, there have been early conversations about developing a communication campaign. An educational campaign should be supported by the efforts of government and government agencies. This would include promoting the value of co-curricular engagement and the CCR in the hiring process. This would require liaising and communicating with industries, and ensuring that there is a succinct and clear message that is being promoted.