A large, ethnically diverse, top-ranked college: Broward College is the first institution of higher education in Broward County, Florida, about 28 miles north of Miami.
The second largest of the 28 colleges in the state’s college system, Broward currently serves more than 63,000 students on three main campuses and six satellite locations, where more than 100 technical, career, or academic degree programs are offered. There’s also a virtual campus, which provides programs designed to meet local workforce demand.
In addition, the community college proudly heralds a multi-ethnic student body, with more than 180 countries represented. Overall, nearly a million people have taken a course at Broward since the college opened in 1960.
What Sets Broward Apart
Their diversity is not all that makes the institution unique, says Shermone Mitchell. Mitchell, the Director of Workforce Development since 2015, is a former Academic Affairs director and Career and Technical Education manager. With 18 years in higher education, she explains why Broward has been rated among the Nation’s Best Community Colleges.
“We’re not just a large community college with great diversity,” she says, “we offer many of the things found at a four-year university, including bachelor’s degrees that provides students with relevant skills that prepare them for the workforce. We also share campus space with Florida Atlantic University, so when a student wants to transfer, they don’t have far to go.”
And when they are ready for a job, they don’t have far to go either.
In 2016, with a need for newer, more relevant career exploration tools, along with Title V grant funds, Mitchell thought it time to revisit a product she had learned about through the Career Center staff: VirtualJobShadow.com.
“The majority of our students work,” she explains, “so a traditional job shadowing program was out of the question. I contacted VirtualJobShadow.com for a product demo, and when my Executive Director agreed, we made the purchase.”
They were strategic in their rollout, placing the resource in two main areas: Career Centers where a full-time career coach is employed, and through a transitional, one-credit Life Skills course in which associate degree seekers use VirtualJobShadow.com as part of their homework assignment. During the course, the student is required to select three careers and provide feedback.
Since then, Mitchell has shared the VirtualJobShadow.com tool with administrators, career counselors and other staff in an effort to expand its impact on the student body.
Paths to Career Pathways
Students enrolled part or full-time at Broward can choose from eight different Career Pathways, which lead to certificate programs, associate, or baccalaureate degrees. Among the pathways: Business (the largest); Health Sciences; Arts, Humanities, Communication and Design (AHCD); Education; Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM); and Industry, Manufacturing, Construction and Transportation (IMCT).
After VirtualJobShadow.com was put in place, students were able to explore careers that were not even on their radar.
“I ask of students, ‘What do you want to do within your category of interest?’” Mitchell says. “Before VirtualJobShadow.com, it was only those careers they were exposed to that they chose.”
“For example,” she continues, “in Food Sciences, a common response to what they saw on VirtualJobShadow.com was ‘Wow, I’ve never heard of that.’ This product opens their minds to all the career exploration opportunities, giving them a better idea of where they might belong.”
It also directs them to follow “Hot Jobs” in the southern part of Florida. A 2017 survey found that Marketing Specialist, Financial Analysts, and Paralegals were among those with the highest demand within the Business Pathway in the region.
That may help explain why Broward graduates are among the highest earners in the state and why the school was ranked 6th nationally by the Community College Week 2016 Report for conferring associate degrees.
Broward Career Coach Moses Washington says his students’ experience with VirtualJobShadow.com has been consistently positive. Among the comments he has heard and shares:
“An awesome resource;” “I like it because it gives a more in-depth look at your career options before choosing a major;” “I was unsure about what degree to pursue but after watching the videos, it helped me choose between Architect and Architectural Designer.”
A New Initiative
Shermone Mitchell says perhaps the most important role VirtualJobShadow.com plays at Broward, at least from her perspective as Director of Workforce Development, is that it is bringing career exploration to the forefront – literally.
“We found through research that students are not given the opportunity to explore careers upfront,” she says. “They enroll, earn their credits and even when they are about to graduate, they still haven’t made a decision about their career path.”
Of course, some students are just “quantitatively indecisive,” she adds, but for the majority, providing them with career exploration upfront and early can help steer them toward their goals and increase the odds they will graduate on time and on track.”
The institution’s Strategic Plan will take VirtualJobShadow.com to the next level by offering training to all school staff on the platform and providing faculty with an opportunity to receive Professional Development credit through the Center for Teaching Excellence and Learning (CTEL).
“Our ultimate goal,” say Mitchell,” is to have every staff person, whether they work in career counseling or not, trained on VirtualJobShadow.com so they can start a conversation with students about prospective career goals. We'd like to see it being used in classrooms, allowing students a chance to explore a variety of careers in a virtual, 24/7 format. Along with the flexibility that makes it such a great tool, students like hearing from someone first person within the industry they’ve selected. It really helps them make better career decisions.”
VirtualJobShadow.com provides career exploration resources for K-12, post-secondary institutions, and workforce development programs nationwide. To learn more, please visit VirtualJobShadow.com.