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Creating Career Pathways

Higher education institutions are increasingly under a metrics-focused magnifying glass. Everyone from students, to parents, to policymakers are asking, in louder voices, “What do colleges and universities do to help students get jobs?” Creating Career Pathways. In a 2022 global survey of staff and students called the Salesforce Connected Student Report, nearly half of the students reported selecting the institution they attended for career prospects. But only 11 percent of the students felt very prepared for work, leaving many of them disappointed with their higher education experience.

Enter the University of Minnesota system, with 5 campuses, 12 colleges and 55,000 students. The university’s leadership embraces its decentralized nature, but at the same time wants to make sure all students get the career preparation they need.

Strategic Plan

As the University of Minnesota pursues its strategic plan, called Mpact 2025, there is also a hidden force behind the scenes that is helping career services get more institution-wide traction: a customer relationship management system (CRM).

Sara Newberg, executive director of career services administration at the University of Minnesota, says the Salesforce CRM, has pooled disparate career services data from the institution’s many colleges and academic units and is beginning to create analysis that administrators can act on. The first data the university focused on were students’ post-graduation experiences.

Career services staff members have already been able to generate a list of the top 100 employers for both internships and employment of students.

“I could describe it as a moon landing in my profession,” says Newberg. “It was really exciting to see new information in that way.”

She and her colleagues can now use data, not hunches, to shape the lists of which employers are best suited for which career fairs. She also wants to make data-driven decisions about messages sent to undergraduates: “Our students miss out on opportunities because they don’t know where the relevant employers are.”

Likewise, Newberg says, those within the university who are tasked with employer relations can become more strategic about which employers to reach out to. That will strengthen important relationships that will benefit students.

In another early use of the CRM, the university was able to create a word cloud—a graphic representation of how often words appear—from students’ career interests. The word “healthcare” stood out. Subsequently, this provides a powerful incentive for career services staff, says Newberg, to find new ways to smooth the paths of students into healthcare careers.


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