Seattle-area schools go beyond coursework to boost students’ job prospects.
Students returning to school to pursue a certificate at Bellevue College usually need some help in the résumé department, says Bethany Arakaki, program manager at Bellevue College’s Workforce Education department.
In the past, résumé templates were commonly used; but the new generation of applicant tracking systems seeks keywords. “You have to tailor your résumé to the job description,” Arakaki says.
Inside insights such as these are among the ways that local universities and colleges are helping certificate-seekers locate the perfect job.
Some programs offer an intensive suite of career services. At Seattle University, the Web Development Certificate is a credit-earning certificate program open to both undergraduates and those already holding advanced degrees — as it’s intended to act as a career retraining certificate.
“The explicit goal of the program is to equip adults with the skills and knowledge to get an entry-level job in the field of web development,” says Shawn Rider, the director of Web, Application and Technology Studies at Seattle University. “Since job placement is an explicit goal of the program, we do a lot both formally and informally to support that.”
The certificate’s “Professional Practice” course teaches students how to read job listings, and they conduct mock phone and in-person interviews, while building projects in their online portfolio.
There’s a Seattle University Web Developers Meetup with more than 800 members, sponsored monthly job talks by tech recruiters and professionals, and a student-only online community featuring job postings, freelance gigs, internships, hackathons and other opportunities.
“After graduation, we work with students to refer them to recruiters, review résumés and portfolios, and offer additional advice,” Rider says, along with access to Seattle University’s Career Services résumé review, mock interviews, job counseling and job fairs, as well as a private job posting network only open to SU students.
“Our average time for our students to find a job after graduation is 2-3 months,” he says, with at least an average of 85 percent at work desks upon certificate completion, with both startups and big players like Amazon and Gallup.
Shoreline Community College
At Shoreline Community College, job prep is key. “Most of our certificate programs build mentoring, networking or job shadowing into the curriculum and many have required internships,” says Guy Hamilton, dean of Shoreline’s Workforce, a support service for students needing worker retraining or funding for professional and technical programs. That includes certificates in criminal justice, clean energy technology and automotive general service technology.
For example, those pursuing a certificate of completion in the biotechnology lab specialist program will meet with local biotech industry representatives for informational interviews, answering questions about the company, a typical work day, training needed, the hiring process, and recommendations for someone interested in the field.
Grads have gone on to work for renowned companies and research organizations such as ZymoGenetics, Seattle Genetics and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Additionally, Shoreline offers all certificate-seekers general and program-specific advisors, a job and career services department and A Workforce Education department assists professional and technical program students to identify funding options to support their educational goals, and later, job resources.
At Bellevue College, students pursuing certificate degrees come from a wide variety of backgrounds, says Arakaki. Some were recently laid off and are in the midst of retraining, are displaced homemakers or are low-income. Arakaki assists them in refining their résumé, writing cover letters, preparing for interviews, building a LinkedIn profile, whether they are pursuing certificates in business professions, computer and technology, healthcare or early childhood education.
When it comes to landing an internship, you want to think ahead, Arakaki says. For example, to line up a summer internship, start looking in winter.
While internships are not required for certificate programs, students are encouraged to take advantage of the college’s career services. Bellevue College’s Center for Career Connections recently helped a student who is pursuing a healthcare informatics certificate brush up their resume and coached them during an internship at Overlake Hospital Medical Center.
“We’re a resource to help students transition from the classroom to the workforce by providing support through the job search process,” Arakaki says.
University of Washington
University of Washington Continuum College’s Professional and Continuing Education program offers credit-earning and non-credit certificates in a wide variety of subjects. To boost career success, Professional and Continuing Ed graduates can join a private LinkedIn group and become a member of the Alumni Association. In addition, students of certificate programs may take advantage of professional development and networking events hosted by UW Continuum College.
While the region’s certificate programs help students accomplish this transition in a variety of ways, the practical, hands-on nature of a certificate lends itself well to a bright employment future.