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Responding to the demand for a professional, qualified workforce to address the needs of the region’s growing economy, Point Park has established the Professional Career-Readiness Center to provide students with unique opportunities for experiential learning, career readiness and success in the professional world.

The focal point of the new Center is the University’s cooperative education program. Cooperative education — cooperation between student and employer — allows a student to work as a full-time salaried employee while earning a degree. Point Park collaborates with more than 40 companies through Pittsburgh and the surrounding region to provide an immersive, full-time work experience.

“For many students, the choice is either going to college or getting a full-time job, but not both,” said Point Park President Paul Hennigan. “As educators, we felt this wasn’t a choice any young person should have to make. Making full-time, meaningful employment available while earning a degree can help make college possible for so many deserving students.”

Fifty students have successfully completed the University’s pilot co-op program and have landed jobs at such companies as national concert promoter Live Nation, Pittsburgh-based marketing and advertising agency Flying Cork, PNC and UPMC.

Invaluable experience

Amber Mole, a 2018 Point Park graduate, completed her co-op program at PwC in Pittsburgh. “As one of the first students who went through the co-op program, I found it invaluable. Until you work full-time, it is hard to assess what kind of work environment you want. During this experience I worked with a career coach, peer coach and a relationship partner which was an invaluable experience,” said Mole. She is currently working as an assurance associate for PwC in Philadelphia.

Jaron Andrechak, a 2019 graduate of Sports, Arts and Entertainment Management program, held a co-op position as royal service supervisor at the Fairmont Pittsburgh, where he is now employed full-time. "The hospitality industry is exciting, particularly at our hotel,” said Andrechak, who was on hand to greet students and share information about co-op opportunities during Point Park’s annual first year student Move-in Day last August. “The co-op program is an amazing experience to have while in school. It will test your limits, but also will give you the chance to be in the professional atmosphere, with the safety net and support of the faculty here at Point Park."

In addition to the cooperative education program, the Center offers students access to internships, a career-focused curriculum and soft skills (for example, communication, problem solving, and collaboration). A significant focus of the Center is to provide opportunities for interaction with business leaders, community partners or employers through career-focused workshops, seminars and other networking opportunities.

“The students I have hired from Point Park have demonstrated great book-smart skills, but even better interpersonal and social skills. I believe Point Park’s commitment to having professors and instructors who have worked in the fields of study provide students with reasonable expectations and the knowledge they will need to advance in their careers has been key to making the cooperative education program a success," said Jude Michaels, president of Flying Cork.

Focus on soft and hard skills

According to the Allegheny Conference on Community Development’s Inflection Point reports (2016-18), many recent college graduates are lacking in so-called “soft skills.” These include collaboration, communication, time management and adaptability. Such soft skills, along with the necessary hard skills and technical expertise associated with the jobs of the future — also outlined in Inflection Point — are critical to employers’ success and the region’s ability to compete globally,” said Allegheny Conference CEO Stefani Pashman.

“We applaud Point Park for its leadership role in recognizing the importance of better career preparation and creating a one-stop-shop for making that happen. The resources available through the Center will help ensure students get the mentoring, direction and support they need,” said Pashman.

Jessica Hobson, who earned a master of arts in leadership with a concentration in leadership for social innovation at Point Park in 2016, has been named new director of career readiness at the University. She has broad experience in human resources and career services at both the corporate and higher education levels. Hobson has been coordinating the Cooperative Education Program at Point Park for the past two years and has taken the program to new levels of success. She says she is excited to be focusing on the development, promotion and management of the Professional Career-Readiness Center.

Hobson praised companies such as Flying Cork, “which has hosted co-op students every semester since the co-op program launched.” She added that the co-op positions have led to entry-level account manager and account supervisor positions at the company. “Our students [and graduates] are working in areas such as social media and digital marketing for area businesses of all sizes,” she said. “Flying Cork has been a great partner for Point Park.” 

Text by Barbara Vilanova
Additional reporting by Cheryl Valyo
Photos by John Altdorfer
The Point is the magazine of Point Park University

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