Competency to Career: Preparing Students Through a NACE-Based Internship Program

By Kelli Smith posted 05-21-2019 08:03


by Kelli K. Smith and Cassie Spencer

Don't miss this session at the NACE 2019 
Conference & Expo: Competency to Career: Preparing Students Through a NACE-Based Internship Program, Wednesday, June 5 at 3:45 p.m., Lobby Level, Asia 1

For years our field has seen significant consistency among the skills identified by employers who participate in NACE’s annual survey. The NACE career-readiness competencies embody these skills (and more) as areas of focus for all college students to develop. At the same time, there has also been increased focus on academic curricular integration for our work. Developing and improving on the NACE career-readiness competencies is the foundation of the Career Development Centralized Internship (CDCI), an academic internship program, at Binghamton University, a selective public, R-1, and leading institution within the State University of New York. Through the CDCI program we are not only educating students about the competency areas but are also providing students with an opportunity to focus on developing and improving these competencies through a combination of both classroom and internship experiences.

The CDCI program consists of approximately 1,000 undergraduate students per year and is the largest credit bearing internship program at Binghamton University. Since July of 2008 the CDCI program has been continuously enhanced in an effort to meet the ever changing needs of students, employers, and the university as a whole. These enhancements have been aimed to meet the rising need for career preparation, to streamline the CDCI courses while also ensuring academic rigor, and to increase education for internship supervisors and course instructors.   

By incorporating the eight NACE career-readiness competencies as a focal point for all aspects of the CDCI program we are better able to identify the ways in which students are developing and improving on the NACE career-readiness competencies. Through self reported pre- and post-internship evaluations students are not only ranking their competency level but are also asked to provide examples of their competence from their internship experiences and their CDCI courses. One strategy the Fleishman Center chose to use to assist with assessment, potentially replicable on other campuses, was a partnering with a tenured Binghamton University faculty member and supporting this individual with a course buyout. This faculty member already had familiarity with, and a vested interest in, the program as Chair of the CDCI Academic Council, and it allowed a much deeper level of assessment that we could otherwise conduct. 

The evaluations collected over the past eight semesters show that students and supervisors are seeing the impact of incorporating the career-readiness competencies throughout the program. When having students self-report there is often the concern of a ceiling effect with the data, students rating the selves higher than they should for various reasons. Our data, however, shows agreement in competency growth between the supervisors’ rating of the students and the students’ self-reported ratings. This data point confirms that, although self-report is not a perfect evaluation method, there has still been recognizable growth in the competency areas from the start of the internship to the end. Further, based on the collected data, we have found that in addition to self-reporting an increase in the various competency areas, students are also able to effectively articulate examples of how they have improved in various competencies. 

In addition to this, the post internship evaluation also asks students to identify which of the competencies and other professional skills were learned at their internship site, in their CDCI class, or both. Overall, the top three reported skills that students gained throughout the program were in public speaking (57.1 percent ), career readiness  i.e., interviewing skills, resume development, networking, etc. (40.8 percent ), and conflict resolution (24.6 percent ). More specifically, 54.5 percent of students reported improving their public speaking skills in the CDCI class whereas only 5.4 percent of students reported using and improving their public speaking skills at their internship site alone. Based on this data point and others we are continuously evaluating the course component of the program to ensure that we are maintaining an appropriate balance of what is taught in the courses versus at an internship site. 

Through this research we feel that the CDCI program is providing a more meaningful internship and deeper learning experience for Binghamton students. Practical strategies for implementing and assessing similar internship programs, adaptable for your campus, in addition to sample syllabus and example of NACE-based assignments will be provided during the Competency to Career: Preparing Students Through a NACE-Based Internship Program session at the NACE ’19 conference on Wednesday, June 5 at 3:45 p.m., Lobby Level, Asia 1. 


Presenters:  Cassie Spencer, Career and Internship Consultant, and Kelli K. Smith, Assistant Vice President for Student Success