A degree just isn’t enough.
“A lot of people coming out of college don’t have the experience that’s needed in the workforce,” says NIU graduate Joe Malak, “Businesses tend to spend more time training those students.” That’s why an experience like the one offered by NIU Springboard is vital to students entering a revitalized economy. Businesses are hiring and they are looking for proven talent. How do you prove you got what it takes? Just ask Joe how he did it.
Springboard is NIU’s outreach vehicle for businesses within the region, offering contracted “student analysts” to do research to assess competitors, untapped markets, and social media promotion, to name a few of their tasks.
Joe heard about Springboard from a professor during his final semester as an Economics student. “She said [Springboard] was a new initiative and an alternative to the traditional capstone project.” The capstone usually consists of a research paper. Springboard offered the chance to gain experience.
Joe began work as a student analyst early in Springboard’s development. Director Luanne Mayorga guided him and the other few analysts through the basics of research. “The biggest challenges were understanding the research, what could be used, what couldn’t be used, and how to back up findings by looking at different databases,” Joe says.
As a Springboard analyst, Joe’s capstone project was to identify international market trends and possible overseas markets for an agricultural technology manufacturer. This was his first experiential learning project. He would go to on to become a Senior Analyst and supervise the new Springboard recruits on their research.
This experience enabled Joe to be hired as a Quality Assurance Agent with Prime Therapeutics even before he graduated in May 2015 with a BS in Economics. And he points to his time with Springboard as the reason why. “I don’t think that [without Springboard] I would’ve gotten a call from my next employer. Springboard is a great way to prepare yourself for the next level.” The recruiter that hired Joe concurred, stating “normally [we] don’t see recent graduates with these kinds of skills…Springboard sounds like a great program!”