Student tracking is an administrative activity that can last years after students graduate. A mindset exists that job development and training programs consist of a series of steps that are each regarded in isolation.
Unfortunately, this approach discourages the connection between the past and future. The Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) program requires that students look back and that program staff look forward as students progress after graduation. There are several good reasons for this process.
- Graduates with some certifications may need refreshers or recertification to keep credentials current.
- Sometimes expectations of the worker or employer are not fulfilled, resulting in an unemployed graduate who needs placement assistance and/or additional training.
- Successful graduates can become excellent resources in guidance, placement, and mentoring of current students. Graduates often become role models, providing testimony regarding the worthiness of the program to potential recruits, employers, supporters, and partners.
- Historically, successful EWDJT graduates have contributed to the program in a variety of ways.
- Become part of the staff.
- Provide instruction.
- Serve on advisory boards.
- Assist in development activities.
- Feedback from former students can be valuable in maintaining a current and relevant curriculum.
- Many programs have found social media an effective way in communicating with program alumni and current participants.
Each of the issues identified above requires that all EWDJT programs develop a mechanism for making graduates feel welcome, encouraging them to participate in the program after graduation, and giving them a reason to maintain contact. This step is very important, but often overlooked. It is necessary to instill in the graduates an obligation to report his or her progress after graduation. Also inform prospective employers of the tracking process in consideration of placement.
Tracking 100 percent of program graduates is a very difficult task. Methods that have been used to maximize graduate participation in EWDJT activities (which also provide tracking opportunities) include several approaches.
- Maintain and update current email and contact information.
- Encourage Facebook participation for all program participants continuing past graduation.
- Maintain a regular newsletter with employment opportunities and current events.
- Track pre-apprentice candidates into union employment.
- Continue social events that include alumni and current participants.
- Offer incentives including refreshers and professional development activities to all graduates.
- Provide employment and placement opportunities to all graduates.
As part of positive dynamics, graduates should accept responsibility for tracking. Likewise, program staff need to develop a periodic tracking instrument and process by which graduates can report and maintain contact.