Best Practices for Handling Experiential Learning Activity Requests
One of the great things about having a single system where students and educators can find experiential learning activities (ELAs) is the efficiency with which connections can be made with employers. Currently, nearly 600 businesses and organizations are offering a combined 3,000+ ELAs to the students and educators across our region through Inspire.
We hope that educators will take full advantage of these offerings and continue to empower their students to do so as well. Information on how to best use the system is key. So we’ve put together a brief tutorial on how to find ELAs, make requests, follow up on requests made by students and record requests. First, let’s look at how to find and make requests as an educator.
First, log in to your Career Cruising CAMS account and click on “Inspire Madison Region” then click on “Search for ELA” (see Figure A). Next, decide whether you want to search by industry or by ELA type and then choose which industry or ELA type you are looking for. Once you are on the results page for your selection you can filter the results by city (see Figure B).
After you find an ELA that interests you, submit a request by clicking on the name of the request listed (left column in Figure B: job shadow, internship etc.) and filling out the details, or you can click on the name of the company listed to get their contact information (3rd column from left in Figure B). It is up to you if you make a request directly through Career Cruising, use the contact information provided to call or email the provider, or use a combination of both.
But if you choose to only call or email a provider to request an ELA that you found in Career Cruising, it’s important to record that ELA by clicking on “Manage ELA Requests” then “Record a Request”. That way, the “who, what, when, where and why” of the ELA will be recorded in the system. The screenshot below (Figure C) shows where to click to record a request that was set up outside of Career Cruising.
Next, we’ll look at how our suggested process for managing ELA requests generated by students.
When a student makes the request:
There are three ways to contact the employer after a student has made an ELA request: Using the Career Cruising system, by emailing or calling the ELA provider yourself or by having the student contact the provider. When a student makes a request, you will get a notification email but the request will not proceed until you act on it. You can also see new requests listed on your main CAMS dashboard until you’ve taken action on them. Click on “Manage ELA Requests” under “Inspire Madison Region” to see all ELA requests. Here are some suggested steps to take with a student-generated ELA request (See Figure D for a visual):
We hope that these suggestions will make it easier for you to connect with employers and to learn about the careers available in our region. Here are some other tutorials that may help with the ELA process:
Erik Nielsen: EatStreet director of engineering, career coach master and computer programming ninja talks about his career path and gives some great advice to students on how to get into programming.
Q. Why did you get involved with computer programming? How old were you when you started?
A. I was in 4th grade when I wrote my first program in BASIC on an Apple IIe computer in my math class. My father worked on some early computer systems (before computer science was even a degree you could get) and was at that time in the tech industry. So we also had computers in the house, and I would play games and use other software but also boot the computer into BASIC mode to play around.
In high school, I joined a Boy Scout Explorer post (co-ed) at AT&T Bell Labs (now Lucent). There I learned basic UNIX and Linux skills. My high school also had a program where, if they didn’t offer an AP course that you wanted to take, you could enroll at Ohio State University (now “The” Ohio State University — I feel old). In my senior year, I took basic computer science courses like intro to programming courses and assembly language programming (of course, this was in languages like Pascal and Modulo-2 that no one uses anymore).
Q. What steps did you take to make this your career?
A. I knew I was going to go into some form of computer programming when starting college, but I always tried to get a job in some form of IT. Near the end of high school, I started looking for tech jobs for the summer. I was lucky to get a summer job after high school and before college at Progressive Systems, a company that made PPP communication software. These days, no one knows what PPP is, and Progressive Systems has long been acquired and merged with another company.
If I really think about steps, it’s using connections or whatever resources you have to find the first job, and then looking for the next opportunities that are going to advance your career.
However, there I got to learn a lot more about different flavors of UNIX systems and do some basic web programming. When I started college, I got another system admin job maintaining computers for the Computer Sciences department. I did an programming internship at SCO in Santa Cruz after my Freshman year. (That’s another company that doesn’t exist anymore… is it me?) After that, I looked for another programming job back in Madison, and I found one at the UW-Chemistry Department at the Smith Group.
At this point, I fell into biotechnology working control software for a genetic sequencer and various bioinformatics tools, and that set me off into my initial career doing software development and IT for biotech companies. If I really think about steps, it’s using connections or whatever resources you have to find the first job, and then looking for the next opportunities that are going to advance your career. All the while, you need to keep up with technology trends and update. You’ll note that I no longer program in BASIC or Pascal, nor do I use PPP with a modem to connect to the internet. Ironically, though, UNIX skills from systems developed in the 1970s are still relevant to my job today.
Q. Where did you get your degree?
A. I graduated with a Computer Sciences degree from the UW-Madison. Note that the “s” in Sciences is not a typo. I think it reflects the Computer Sciences departments acknowledgement that there are many fields under the department including Data Science, Software Engineering, Computer Architecture, Operating Systems, Databases, Mobile Devices, etc.
Q. When do you think an aspiring programmer should get started learning to code?
A. As early as they can follow a recipe. Or, better yet, as early as they can instruct someone else in following a recipe and correct them when they go wrong.
Q. What are some ways that a young person can get started on computer programming early?
A. LightBot and other apps are great to start thinking in the way programmers think. I had the advantage of taking programming in my early math classes, so that’s something that school curricula can provide. Also Google “programming resources for kids”.
The real answer, though is to start doing things, then do the next thing, and, before you know it, you’re a programmer. If you don’t have a computer, try to get one cheap off of craigslist. If it’s a PC, install Linux. If you’re interested in app development, the tools are mainly free to download. If you have computer course at your school, take it. Learn to touch type if you haven’t already.
Learn Linux commands (macOS is also based on UNIX, so there are cross-over skills there). Find a makerspace. If there’s a career exploration group like Boy Scout Explorer post in a career you’re interested in, join it. If you don’t have an internet connection at home, go to your local library.
(Note: I should say that I’m very biased towards Linux and macOS, but tools on Windows are equivalent and also generally free for students.)
Q. Are there other important subjects or skills a young person should learn to help them if they want to be a programmer? What are they?
A. Math and logic are very important, as are critical thinking skills. Soft skills are an increasing differentiator for employers, so good written and verbal communication skills (ala English and speech classes) are great complementary skills. Graphic arts and design are also important for visual communication and user experience. Though, if you believe Larry Wall, one of the luminaries of computer programming, the virtues of a great programmer are Laziness, Impatience, and Hubris (http://threevirtues.com/). (For hubris, pay attention when you study MacBeth in English class… that’s the only reason I know what hubris means without having to look it up).
For reference, I took AP Language and AP Literature in high school, and, even though I had to read Tess of the D’urbervilles, I don’t hold a grudge (or at least not too big of a grudge) against my English teachers. Doing a lot of reading and writing is very, very important to modern software development, where technology changes quickly and you are always reading and parsing documentation and writing code and documentation for other people. Thank your English teacher even if they say alright is “all wrong”. It’s at least nice to know the rules before you break them. And Google Docs didn’t underline “alright” in red, and neither does Microsoft Word. So there. I’m not bitter.
Q. What do you like most about your career as a programmer? What don’t you like?
A. Another way of saying impatience is being quick to get bored. I get bored very easily, so I need a constant stream of new challenges. Programming can provide that, because there’s always a new problem to solve, a new feature to implement, or a new bug to fix. The problems also vary in scale. Once you have something working for yourself, how do you make it work for 100 people? a thousand? a million? How do you fix it when it breaks?
One trend in computer programming is DevOps, which is a combination of development and operations. Modern websites need to be up and operational 24/7/365. That means that developers have to be available 24/7/365. On the one hand, this gives developers an incentive to write good code that’s not going to break at 2am. On the other hand, someone has to be on call at 2am when the code breaks, the site’s down, and the office is on fire. I’ve had my share of 2am calls. However, that’s the price you pay for working in a very fast paced environment.
And not all software development jobs are like that. Even most might not be like that. I think people can find the programming job for the level of excitement they’re prepared to deal with. The fun part is that that there are all kinds of programming jobs from manufacturing, automotive, aerospace, biotech, robotics, artificial intelligence, apps, web, whatever. You can apply computer programming skills to many, many jobs, even if your primary job isn’t computer programming. Even the marketing people need to know SQL for data access and analysis.
November 10th, 2017 Inspire Educators User Group Recap and More!
MadREP Wins Mid-American Economic Development Award for Inspire Madison Region initiative!
The Mid-America Economic Development Council presented its annual Economic Development awards at the 2017 Mid-America Competitiveness Conference & Site Selector Forum, held December 3-5 at the Intercontinental Hotel in Chicago.
Award entries were accepted in two markets per category – large market (annual marketing budget over $100,000) and small market (annual marketing budget under $100,000).
Thanks to the collective hard work of our partners in education and business, MadREP won first place in the small division Workforce Development category for the Inspire Madison Region initiative!
The Workforce Development category included activities to attract new workforce, strengthen the skills of existing workforce or encourage retention of youth in a specific area.
MADISON, WI – Career development and exploration activities for students in twelve counties across Southern Wisconsin recently received a significant boost, as Inspire Madison Region and Inspire Rock County have integrated their databases to enhance collaborative talent development and employment engagement activities throughout the greater region.
The Inspire initiatives leverage career development software by Career Cruising that is available in all public school with grades 6-12 and technical colleges in the region. Career Cruising allows students to learn more about specific occupations, while the Inspire add-on to the program connects students to career coaches and local businesses providing experiential learning activities such as job shadows, internships, and youth apprenticeships. Employers, educators, students, parents, and workforce professionals all have access to this combined database and networking system designed to improve the future workforce in the broader region.
With the integration of the Inspire Madison Region and Inspire Rock County databases, students will now have the opportunity to engage with employers in the following South Central and South West Wisconsin counties: Columbia, Crawford, Dane, Dodge, Grant, Green, Iowa, Juneau, Lafayette, Richland, Rock and Sauk. While both Inspire Madison Region and Inspire Rock County (managed by the Madison Region Economic Partnership and Rock 5.0, respectively) will maintain their regional identities, both will benefit from a significant increase in the number of employers, career coaches, and experiential learning activities as the databases come together. With integration, users now have access to:
- 539 Career Coaches
- 477 Company Profiles
- 2,419 Work-Based Learning Activities
For years, employers from Rock County and the Madison Region have expressed the need for ways to connect with their future workforce. Both Inspire initiatives address that need by aligning career exploration and occupational information with real-time data on local employers, their needs, and the opportunities they offer young people to get experience in their industries. At the same time, Inspire also supports the development of robust career pathways and academic and career planning (ACP) that all public school districts in Wisconsin are implementing in the 2017-18 school year.
Going forward in the Madison Region, the Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP) will work closely with school districts and businesses to develop best-practices around experiential learning activities, and will continue to streamline workflow processes. To address the needs of at-risk populations, MadREP is developing partnerships with community organizations to bring Inspire to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds through mentoring and other career-readiness activities outside of schools.
Since its inception in 2015, Inspire Madison Region has grown to nearly 55,000 active student portfolios, 23,406 of which have at least one saved career and 7,648 portfolios with at least one saved higher-education target. In addition, online career coaches have answered more than 500 questions from students from public schools and the technical college system. With the merger, the joint-initiatives will cover 67 school districts (with the potential for more in South West Wisconsin), four technical colleges, one UW-System College and Beloit College. In addition, MadREP is currently working with its sister economic development regions throughout the state and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) to promote and integrate Inspire statewide.
For additional information about MadREP, visit www.madisonregion.org.
About Madison Region Economic Partnership (MadREP)
MadREP is the economic development agency for the eight-county Madison Region, founded by business and community leaders to create a dynamic environment where people and businesses prosper. MadREP and its partners aim to proactively and strategically position the region to take advantage of economic and business development opportunities. Visit www.madisonregion.org for more information.