Your Activities Office Needs an Apprenticeship Program

The current administration’s focus on workforce development and its relationship to education has prompted a lot of conversation about a reemergence of apprenticeship programs across the United States.

While many institutions may feel that apprenticeships won’t affect their day-to-day operations, I see an opportunity emerging: one that encourages student involvement on campus and prepares for working life outside of the university while directly fostering a training ground for job-ready skills for students.

More and more, students are communicating the importance of job readiness as a top reason for their pursuit of college in the first place, and many are planning to work while in college. These shifts are prompting savvy administrators to consider ways they can integrate valuable campus involvement and engagement opportunities into clear pathways to develop relevant, essential, and job-ready skills and experiences on campus.

I’ve mentioned before the opportunity I see for student leadership programs to be positioned as a direct learning lab for the essential skills employers are looking for, and I think the same can be true of event planning for students involved in campus activities.

By more closely integrating out-of-classroom experiences and projects that incorporate digital media, marketing, branding, production, and the litany of other career pathways that complement students’ academic pursuits in their major or minor with out-of-classroom experiences, students expand their portfolio of project-based learning while deepening their connection to the university through co-curricular involvement.

Here’s how to start building an apprenticeship program on your campus:

Start with Learning Outcomes

Texas A&M has done an excellent job capturing the learning outcomes associated with on-campus work opportunities. With this kind of foundation, the connection between how administrators and faculty members might team up to contribute to a students’ learning becomes much more focused around how students might benefit.

Bring key partners to the table

Incorporate the career center, faculty departments, and those who might serve in supervisory capacities to shape what a student role in campus activities might look like for someone pursuing a career in event planning, marketing, or branding. EAB recently highlighted a great example of a few Universities who created a University-wide internship program geared towards this kind of formal, on-campus learning in preparation for career.

Ryerson university apprenticeship/internship timeline

Image from EAB Academic Affairs Forum, “How Ryerson and Western Oregon enriched on-campus student work

Provide students opportunities to showcase their work

By considering not only what students will learn, but also considering what they will produce as an output of a working/learning experience, you begin to speak a project-based language that will arm students with a packaged portfolio of their work. Plus, they’ll develop the ability to communicate their skills. By providing opportunities for students to submit deliverables (and have them evaluated), we make clear the purpose and benefit of a students’ efforts to learn new skills, while tangibly preparing them for work after college. They won’t just have skills listed on a resume — they’ll have the work to back them up. 

Integrate formal feedback loops

Both in demonstrating student learning and improvement across their experience and to account for the success of the program overall, my co-contributor Joe will tell you, the integration of clear evaluation is critical.

What’s more, by responding to student needs and positioning campus activities as a set of activities directly oriented around career preparation, campus engagement deepens its reputation not only as educationally purposeful, but adaptive to the changing needs of students and higher education — and shares its clear return on engagement.

Does your campus offer in-house apprenticeships? In which departments? We’d love to hear about the programs you’re building! Let us know on Twitter, @BrianFLeDuc and @themoderncampus.


Brian LeDuc

About the author: Brian LeDuc (he/him) is a design strategist at Intuit. Learn how we can help get your students involved.