Pennsylvania State University College of Engineering Case Study | Burning Glass Technologies
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Pennsylvania State University

Using Labor Market Data to Empower Your Students' Career Pathway Decisions

Professor Dr. Monty Alger teaches Chemical Engineering courses at Pennsylvania State University College of Engineering and is very passionate about helping students with gaining skills that are in demand from the job market. He firmly believes chemical engineering students must gain other necessary skills to maximize opportunities to be hired by top-notch companies. 

Penn State has a strong Chemical Engineering program, but thousands of students from other institutions earn similar degrees. Dr. Alger wanted to help his students stand out by showing a blend of technical and soft skills. 

Rewatch our Live Webinar on this Case Study

Join Monty Alger, along with his two colleagues, Darrell Velegol from Penn State University and Dr. John Jordan from Syracuse University (previously, Penn State) who were the primary drivers of this program. Watch along as they explain to us how they are using Burning Glass Data to create their “Career Discovery” module for their Chemical Engineering students.

During the session, our guest speakers told us about the “Five Futures” career outcome grid and how they had students highlight the skills they possessed now, and what skills they need to attain in order to reach their defined outcomes.

You are welcome to access the resources highlighted during the session and at the bottom of this page at the button below. We also invite you to watch our webinar from June 8, 2021. If you have additional questions after watching, please reach out to sales@burning-glass.com.

The Challenge

Penn State is well known as an engineering school and students are investing lots of money and time to earn their degrees. However, there are also thousands of students from other institutions who are learning the same chemical engineering skills. How can Penn State make sure that students stand out amongst their peers and get a great job to make sure that they have a high return on investment on their degree?

“In the 21st century, chemical engineering students can’t just learn chemical engineering skills,” said Dr. Monty Alger, who teaches at Penn State. “They must learn valuable other skills that will help them stand out amongst their peers. Chemical engineers with human skills, managing data skills, project management skills, etc. will be what employers are looking for. I have been trying to help students to realize that and I opened up a class called the problem-solving class to teach them that.”

Dr. Alger also wanted to help students to realize that they often have those skills already, even if they do not realize how important they are in the job market. For example, Dr. Alger cited a student faced with a broken machine at the donut shop where she worked part-time. She organized a repair call, determined the cost, and offered a stop gap solution to her manager on how to explain the problem to customers and talk them into buying other products. All of these showed critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills that any employer values. “The challenge is that the student does not know how many valuable human skills that she just used to fix the problem and that these will make her stand out in the job market,” Dr. Alger said.

 

Dr. Alger asked students to develop a list of “five futures” with five jobs they would like to land after graduation to think about new skills they would need to gain.  Burning Glass data helped identify new places to build skills. 

 

Using Burning Glass data, Dr. Alger built a career discovery activity. He asked students to list “five futures” (exhibit 1).  Students then listed five jobs that they would like to land upon their graduation. Then with Dr. Alger, students looked at what new skills that he/she will need to gain to head towards that job. Students were then placed into breakout sessions to ask each other questions (exhibit 2). This helped students to think about how they needed to prepare during their degree program. 

Exhibit 1
Exhibit 2

Dr. Alger started doing this activity with AIChE (American Institution of Chemical Engineers) because he believes this kind of activity is not just important for his students, but for everyone. With AIChE, Dr. Alger helped students to apply for internship positions to gain new skills. With Burning Glass data, students are broadening their horizons to look at places otherwise they would not have looked into to gain new skills to prepare to get hired by top-notch companies upon their graduation from Penn State 

Moving forward, Dr. Alger will be looking into partnering with companies to run career discovery activities and train students with the skills that are desired by the companies in real-world settings. He is also in talks with AIChE to conduct activities more frequently to support students in gaining new skills. 

Key Takeaways

  • Burning Glass data is a valuable tool for showing students and faculty what skills matter in the job market and giving students guidance in becoming more marketable. Most students will need skills beyond what is in the curriculum.  
  •  Internships can help students to gain those new skills that are desired by employers.