Living our Mission by “Walking the Walk”

For an organization to be successful, it’s essential for the leadership team to live out its mission and values.

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For an organization to be successful, it’s essential for the leadership team to live out its mission and values; to not only set an example for fellow employees, but also to demonstrate to clients the company can deliver by “walking the walk”. One of the services we offer our clients is an opportunity to hire our students into their enterprises to perform mission critical work while they complete their college degrees.

In other words, we help clients build a full-time talent pipeline of graduates qualified and eager to work for our clients. Students work part-time on client sites, during college, performing jobs in a variety of departments including, finance, marketing, customer service, data analysis, back office and IT. And, it’s no different at Education at Work where students work part-time in a wide variety of jobs meant to hone their skills and prepare them to compete for their first job post-graduation. Whether supporting a client or Education at Work, students are not only learning great skills, but also covering college expenses with their wages and tax-free tuition support, up to $5,250 on an annual basis.

Just like our clients, EAW carefully selects high achieving students for internal opportunities. Our candidates often transition from customer support positions to business roles throughout EAW. Students work on average 20 hours a week, supporting the mission in IT, Business Intelligence, Marketing, Business Development, HR, and Recruiting. While working under an assigned manager, often Director-level and above, the student is assigned concrete goals, expected to meet deadlines and deliver high quality work. As the student demonstrates responsibility and ability, they move on to tackle even more complex tasks. For example, our students have delivered website pages, recruiting quotas, “hot” leads, reports used by our clients and complex IT projects. Similar to our client-site students, it is not unusual for a student to work at EAW two or more years, often up to graduation.

Post-graduation, EAW, like our clients, offers many students full-time positions within our enterprise. We have the luxury of observing the student over time, while conversely, the student has the opportunity to determine his/her fit within our organization. To-date, our staff has hired 15 former student-employees in full-time positions within 9 different departments, including Marketing, HR, Business Intelligence, IT, Operations, and Educational Outreach. We currently have a half dozen other student-employees in our talent pipeline who will be considered for future hiring.

EAW and our clients agree the benefit of this approach differs from the typical internship program, which is usually shorter in duration with little opportunity to observe behaviors and skills over a long period of time. In a nutshell the talent-pipeline model allows us to:

  • Trial the model we offer our clients internally – gathering critical data we can use to make our client programs perform at a higher level.
  • Retain top talent within our organization – these students already know our mission inside-and-out, and are able to provide an elevated level of support to incoming students and overall EAW programming.
  • Enjoy the benefits of peer-to-peer development. Former student-employees on our full-time staff mentor current student-employees to bring our mission full circle.

A program such as this, produces a robust full-time talent pipeline while supporting hiring needs through a pool of educated, diverse, job tested students. It taps into the 70% of college students who need to work to help pay for their education, and connects the academic experience with a workplace experience. The final result is a much smoother transition from a part-time role while in school to a full-time career post-graduation. For EAW’s team, leveraging our own solution is incredibly important for our long-term success. We are not just selling this business model to our clients, we are practicing what we “preach”. Our own validation makes it easier to “sell” to a client, because we have proof points internally as well as externally.


Soft Skills: A Misnomer

Soft skills. At the intersection of outstanding customer service and an energized student workforce; there couldn’t be a greater misnomer.

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Soft skills. At the intersection of outstanding customer service and an energized student workforce; there couldn’t be a greater misnomer.  Intended or not, the term “soft” in soft skills implies that the qualitative abilities associated with soft skills are easy to get/maintain while the quantitative abilities associated with hard skills are more difficult to master. The attributes associated with soft skills: contagious enthusiasm, responsible professionalism, problem-solving creativity and –most importantly—clear communication are by no means easily earned or mastered.

Moreover, soft skills are more important today than they ever have been. As humans, we tend to go the path of most efficiency when communicating—especially when in a professional environment. The desire to get as much information across in as little space as possible lends itself to more emails and texts than phone calls or face-to-face meetings. For our digitally native workforce, who have grown-up with all of these options on the communication table, Education at Work (EAW) makes an extra effort to coach the intangible basics associated with soft skills. Why? Because EAW believes that by focusing on these core skill-sets, we are empowering students to best serve our clients in the present and themselves in the future.

A three-fold approach is the best way coach up soft-skills with a collegiate workforce. First, we directly address the specific short fall. This could range anywhere from coaching the student in a real-time side-by-side or role-playing with them in a development session. Second, we guide students to embrace the best intangible qualities by embodying those qualities. If we want our students to be enthusiastic professionals then we create an enthusiastic, professional environment. Lastly, we consistently reinforce ideal soft skills of both EAW and our business partners. Every interaction is a reminder of our expectations and values.

By focusing on soft-skills, EAW creates a workforce that goes beyond the metrics. Those students achieve a harder task by having softer skills: solve a customer’s problem on the surface level and leave those customers with a deeper sense of satisfaction. It is this dynamic that will propel our students to success in their future careers and with our current clients.


Andrew Clark, Education at Work

Andy Clark | Program Manager, Education at Work

Andy, a Xavier University alumnus, has been a part of the EAW team since 2014. Before EAW, he spent the majority of his career in Japan in the education and recruitment industries. In addition to his passion for reducing student debt, his greatest attraction to working for EAW is developing the business leaders of tomorrow while providing excellent results today.