Community College Students Offer a Wealth of Valuable Experience

Community College Student Kathryn Sweet recently shared her experience of seeking internships at the Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) of Women in Computing career fair in a guest post on the official Anita Borg Institute’s Medium. “By Friday, I had met countless amazing women studying, teaching, and working in many different facets of technology, but my optimism surrounding my internship prospects had waned. Several of the companies that I spoke with in the career fair would not hire community college students as interns. Regardless of the skills I was learning, my educational path didn’t fit their mold.” Kathryn is a network security student at Madison Area Technical College and a 2015 Grace Hopper scholar.

Kathryn’s experience points to a need for educators to reassure high school and college students that community college is one of many viable pathways to a career in computer science or technology, as well as a need for companies to consider the incredibly diverse pool of talent that community colleges offer.

For Educators

As noted in “Top 10 Ways You Can Retain Students in Computing,” routinely discussing the options for computing careers is one way to help students persist in their computing education. When discussing options, internships should be noted as one of several pathways to an IT career from community college. Pursuing industry-recognized certifications or two-year associate's degree represent additional options, which can prepare students for technical jobs in a short period of time. (“A Lucrative, Secure Computing Career: Community College Can Take You There” and “Intersecting Pathways to a Computing Career,” also available in Spanish, provides sample jobs and annual wages that a professional can get with a two-year degree or technical certification.) Or, students can transfer to a four-year college or university, enabling them to work toward a bachelor's degree in computer science.

Additionally, a boost in motivation never hurts! Educators can tell students about their own career path and experiences, including any difficulties that were overcome. View more ways to retain students online.

For Companies

According to a brief prepared by the American Association of Community Colleges, “Community colleges provide access to higher education to the most diverse student body in history. It is diversity in every respect: age, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, and degree of disability. Forty-seven percent of first-generation college students, 53% of Hispanic students, 45% of Black students, 52% of Native American students, and 45% of Asian/Pacific Islander students attend community colleges. Although the average age of community college students is 28, 46% of them are age 21 or younger (NCES, 2007c).”

Are companies overlooking a viable source for recruiting diverse talent? Many community college students are transitioning careers with a wealth of valuable experience or are high potential students who will eventually go on to achieve a bachelor’s degree but do not have the means to do so immediately. Companies would do well to provide internships and other opportunities to these students. Kathryn’s experience provides an opportunity for companies to reexamine their recruitment strategies. “Supervising-in-a-Box Series: Employee Recruitment/Selection” can help companies focus on hiring diverse talent.