Higher education broadens horizons and acts as an incubator for change, by teaching and enlightening students. However, at times it can be poor in truly preparing graduates for the workforce.
Higher education broadens horizons and acts as an incubator for change, by teaching and enlightening students. However, at times it can be poor in truly preparing graduates for the workforce. In today’s job market, experience carries as much—if not more—weight than what you have studied. It should be made as easy as possible for students to gain work experience and for that experience to count toward the completion of their major requirements.
Though classes are valuable in their own right, the real-world application of knowledge through internships, work-study and volunteer activities are what will shine on a résumé. However, these are the very things for which many Portland State students do not receive course credit, therefore prolonging their time in school and ultimately costing them thousands of dollars.
There are many barriers to the success of non-traditional students at PSU—a significant portion of the university’s student population—but primary among them is the task of balancing work with classes. If students were to receive credit for career-related work that directly counted toward their major requirements, they could obtain a degree in a timely manner and gain the much-needed experience employers desire in job candidates. This can be done without harming the educational standards at PSU; work experience could in fact complement the courses we take.
For instance, students who work in the Registrar’s Office should receive credit through the School of Business Administration, students who work in Food for Thought Café should get credit toward a minor in sustainability and students in KPSU leadership positions should get credit from the communications department.
There is currently an opportunity for some students to receive general upper- or lower-division credit for work or internships, but this takes from a student’s ability to experience a breadth of coursework while in college. These generic credits aren’t available to everyone and would likely replace other classes valuable to personal development such as gender studies or Black studies classes.
Theoretical and esoteric classroom discussions could be enriched by formally tying them to practical skill application throughout the university and the greater community. There are a number of business partnerships that aid students in their goal of attaining gainful employment upon graduation, such as the links between PSU and Intel, Toyota and Nike; these partnerships afford students the chance to get to know professionals in their field and to try their hand at future work. However, these programs benefit a minority of students. For most, on-campus jobs and internships are the ways in which they build a résumé and an arsenal of skills, and targeted credit is unavailable.
President Wim Wiewel has stressed the importance of hands-on, real-world experience as being vital for both students and the Portland community, and we couldn’t agree more. However, opportunities to apply these experiences toward graduation remain scant for the majority of PSU students. There needs to be an institutionalized mechanism for applying work and volunteerism to the completion of major requirements.
We have the resources within our grasp. As a major university located in the heart of downtown Portland, we have close ties to the local community. We also manage a number of self-contained systems here on campus such as athletics and housing. Why should students not be given credit for their role in these operations?
Virginia Vickery Editor-in-Chief Corie Charnley News Editor
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