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Jun 10, 2020

CSCU Embarks on Path to Ensure Employability of its Graduates

The QA Commons assessment will help Connecticut State Colleges & Universities restructure academic program review to help students succeed in their careers

Connecticut State Colleges & Universities (CSCU) announced a partnership with The QA Commons that will bring together stakeholders to evaluate and affirm how higher education programs are preparing graduates for the changing world of work by focusing on the skills employers say are most needed and too often lacking. 

Twenty-four programs —  ranging from pre-professional to liberal arts programs from eight CSCU system schools — will participate in the two-year project. During that time, programs will assess how well curricula are preparing graduates with Essential Employability Qualities (EEQs) and how effective graduates are in the workplace. This work is a step toward ensuring all CSCU graduates are equipped with the soft skills employers say are most needed and too often lacking. 

The eight participating CSCU institutions are: Capital, Housatonic, Middlesex, Northwestern Connecticut, Quinebaug, and Three Rivers Community Colleges; and Eastern and Western Connecticut State Universities.

“This moment in history demonstrates the pressing need for higher education to better prepare students for employment,” said Ralph Wolff, president and founder of The QA Commons. “Connecticut is the second state to work with the QA Commons to invest in its future workforce by preparing students for employability. We expect demand for graduates prepared for career success will result in more colleges and universities making this investment. In the face of the many dislocations caused by COVID-19, demonstrating these skills will be more important than ever.” 

Each collegiate program will participate in an employability self-assessment, using a powerful field-tested framework: Employability Self-Assessment (ESA) Framework. Designed by The QA Commons, the ESA Framework is intended to engage participating programs in the process of creating a foundation for demonstrating their effectiveness in preparing all students for the current and post-COVID-19 workplace. Lessons learned from this initiative will serve as a model for other CSCU programs. Through this partnership, employability outcomes will be emphasized in defining program learning outcomes and embedded in the system program review process. The goal of the partnership is to provide concrete, documented assurance to all stakeholders that CSCU academic programs provide a high-quality and workforce ready education. 

“CSCU is committed to better preparing graduates of our programs for a lifetime of engaged employment,” said CSCU Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Jane Gates. “By working with The QA Commons, we will empower our faculty with employability best practices that will give our increasingly diverse student population an advantage as they enter a transformed workplace.”

The QA Commons has developed five categories for program self-assessment including EEQ graduate preparation, career services, employer engagement, student and alumni engagement, and public information. This self-assessment will provide a structure for faculty to better see opportunities for program improvement that will help students from all backgrounds succeed in their education and in their careers. The CSCU system was awarded a grant by Lumina Foundation to engage in this work with The QA Commons.

“It is exciting to see how CSCU is working as a system to help assure that all their students are getting the quality education they need to succeed in work and life,” said Debra Humphreys, Lumina Foundation vice president of strategic engagement. “Their work and the partnership with The QA Commons will help the system generate the greater economic opportunity, security, and social mobility their graduates need and deserve as they face a very challenging time. We look forward to seeing the impact of these new pathways and models both on the initial cohort of institutions and across the state.”

Connecticut represents the second state to commit to employability by working with The QA Commons. The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education was the first organization to join The QA Commons in ensuring that an investment in higher education leads to greater employment opportunities. To date, The QA Commons has awarded an EEQ Certification to 13 collegiate programs in Kentucky. In addition, The QA Commons recently completed its first 10-month Faculty Employability Fellows Program in which 14 faculty members in Kentucky were empowered to create cultures to support employability within their collegiate programs.