The Power of Partnership: How ECPI University Works with Employers to Shape Student Outcomes

Power of Partnership at ECPI University

John SmithRegular readers of this publication know that much of ECPI University’s success is derived from the powerful partnerships it has forged with companies and organizations of all kinds. In fact, it could be said that partnership is tightly intertwined with the University’s DNA. Specifically, it is the role played by employment partners that touch nearly every aspect of the student lifecycle.

At ECPI University, employers are more than just intermittent consumers who hire graduates on an as-need basis. Many are perpetually engaged with the University and have a vested interest in student outcomes. “Employers often experience frustration when trying to fill a position,” says ECPI University Director of Career Services Kenton Scearce. “We have a skills gap in this country and it can be hard to find qualified applicants. That’s why we include employers in the development of our curriculum. The whole point of going to college is to land a good job in a growing profession. Who better to help us design programs than the people who will be hiring our graduates?”

Program Advisory Boards

ECPI University’s Program Advisory Boards are comprised of professionals representing specific industries. “They provide a valuable opportunity for information exchange and relationship building between faculty, students, alumni, and employers,” says ECPI University Director of Faculty Development Dr. Paul Nussbaum.  “They review program curricula, objectives, content, and length, and assess facilities and equipment. In this context, the committees serve in an advisory capacity to the faculty and administration to ensure the program content, competencies, and outcomes meet the needs of employers. Their input is essential to keep programs current and graduates prepared with the necessary skills and knowledge for success in the workplace.”

Program Advisory Boards meet at least twice annually and detailed minutes are maintained and distributed within the College, including the Curriculum Committee and other groups or committees that the campus identifies. Most members are employers representing the major occupations that align with ECPI University’s programs.

A typical meeting consists of approximately seven to fifteen employer representatives, a board facilitator, a minute-taker, and observers. “The committee is small enough for each member to speak freely and have the opportunity to make contributions, yet large enough for adequate representation of the University constituency in its service area,” says Nussbaum. “All this comes together to make sure the students and employers are getting the best and most relevant programs.”

Joe Fuller is a board member at the Virginia Beach campus. He’s Chief Information Officer for Dominion Enterprises, a media and technology company with more than 3,000 employees. “I’ve really enjoyed working with ECPI University,” says Fuller. “With most colleges, you make a suggestion and by the time it’s implemented that ‘new-technology’ is often obsolete. I make a suggestion to ECPI University and in no time at all, it’s part of the curriculum.”

Board member John Smith was the Chief Evangelist at Charleston’s fastest-growing company. A veteran in the software field, John knew the demand for software development was about to skyrocket in the Charleston market. “With our growth plans alone, I knew there would be a huge market for software and mobile applications developers,” says Smith. “ECPI University heard our challenges with finding homegrown software talent, took our input, and quickly created a Software Development track for its CIS program.”

Education Partnership Program

Dozens of employers from across the nation partner with ECPI University in order to help their existing employees grow and advance. Through the Education Partnership Program (EPP), companies can retain valued employees and promote institutional effectiveness.

Some of these partners include:

  • STIHL
  • Novant Health
  • Carolinas Healthcare System
  • Cox Communications
  • Hospital Corporation of America
  • Canon
  • Volvo Penta
  • Sentara
  • BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina
  • BMW Manufacturing Corporation

Career Fairs

As might be expected, many of the nation’s largest and most respected employers look to ECPI University to help them find qualified job candidates. Twice yearly, each campus hosts career fairs exclusively for ECPI University students and graduates. For the most part, there is usually one employer for every three or four job seekers in attendance. NN Career FairThis gives recruiters time to fully evaluate a prospective employee’s qualifications. In turn, it gives students time to determine if that employer is a good fit for them.

Some employers would rather have an exclusive audience and arrange for special visits. Texas Instruments began visiting the Virginia Beach campus in 2012. Since that time, they have returned seven times and hired 28 graduates.

Because ECPI University sees itself as a workforce development partner, many campuses partner with local organizations to co-sponsor larger regional events. For the past two years, the Columbia campus has teamed up with eight Midland South Carolina Chambers of Commerce and tech association IT-oLogy to host the South Carolina Midlands Job Fair. This year alone, more than 100 employers and 2,000 job seekers participated.

In Newport News, Virginia, that campus recently teamed up with the Peninsula Council for Workforce Development and the Virginia Employment Commission, co-hosting the HIRE Peninsula Job Fair. More than 650 employees, including about 150 ECPI University students and graduates, and 64 employees took part.

South Carolina Career Fair

Campus Events

Throughout the year, ECPI University is fortunate to host many guest speakers and special events. Guest speakers share their expertise on timely topics related to academic programs and provide insight into career development.

Special events often bring together community partners, working professionals, alumni, and students for the purpose of both networking and career development. Two recent events in Richmond were particularly well-received.

Web and mobile software developer Websmith Group recently hosted a student competition at the Richmond/Innsbrook campus where Software Development students were challenged to develop and design a library inventory mobile application. The app allowed users to inventory, check-out, and check-in books on a mobile device. Each member on the winning team received $200 in scholarship money but simply participating was a reward unto itself.

MTA Test FestAcross town, the Richmond/Moorefield campus recently hosted SQL Saturday RVA, a training event for Structured Query Language (SQL) Server professionals and those wanting to learn about SQL Server. Nationally-recognized SQL experts were on hand as well as an array of local vendors. The event also included a special opportunity for students to participate in what was called MTA Test Fest. Through the event sponsor, PASS (Professional Association for SQL Server), 27 ECPI University students took and passed 41 industry certification tests at no charge.

The Sum of its Parts

Just as the world economy is interdependent, so is higher education. Since 1966, nearly 4,000 employers have hired ECPI University graduates. It could be said that employers are a college’s customers and students are the product. If that’s the case, at ECPI University, it’s a customer service relationship that has stood the test of time.

Dominion Enterprises Chief Information Officer Joe Fuller“I’ve really enjoyed working with ECPI University. With most colleges, you make a suggestion and by the time it’s implemented that ‘new-technology’ is often obsolete. I make a suggestion to ECPI University and in no time at all, it’s part of the curriculum.”

Dominion Enterprises Chief Information Officer Joe Fuller