|by Jennifer Browne, Michelle Honeygold and Lynn Walsh
Throughout the United States and some schools in Canada, parent programs are emerging as a dynamic and new topic within student affairs. Post secondary institutions are recognizing and taking note of increased parent communication with their students and the institution. In the U.S. many institutions are developing offices that provide services in support of parents and families to meet these increasing needs of the parent constituency. In Canada, programming is developed each year around orientation programs and additional services specifically targeting parents. Partnering with parents provides student affairs with a strong avenue to reach students and increase student retention by sharing resources and guidance.
Each September at Memorial University, a representative from the Centre for Career Development (CCD) welcomes parents of first year students to campus during Orientation Week. During this address, parents are introduced to the five key messages of career planning and are advised of how they can support their student in the career planning process. Based on parent attendance and corresponding favourable evaluations, the CCD recognized the need to increase the accessibility of its services to the student parent cohort. As a result, a pilot project offering career development sessions for parents both face-to-face and online was initiated and facilitated over the Fall 2005 semester.
During the CCD’s Orientation Week presentation, parents were invited to participate in a pilot project scheduled later that fall. The pilot was developed as an extension of the Orientation Week session providing greater coverage of career development issues for parents, generating awareness of the resources available and providing ample opportunities for group discussion. Web content pertinent to supporting student parents was also added to the Centre’s website.
Parents who expressed interest in participating in the pilot were extended an invitation to attend the session entitled “Career Development for Parents”, either in person on-campus or online via web-conferencing software. The face-to-face session was held on a Saturday and hosted parents in the local area. Parents were given a tour of the Career Centre to highlight the various resources available to students, followed by two presentations and group discussion.
To accommodate parents situated outside the city or province, or those who simply preferred the convenience of the Internet, an online session was offered. Elluminate Live!, real-time web-conferencing software allowed the presenters to communicate directly with participants, run a PowerPoint presentation and to demonstrate online resource websites, such as labour market information and various employment program sites.
Parents were emailed detailed instructions to connect to Elluminate Live! and were provided with a technical support telephone number. Once the session began, the presenter could be heard over the participant’s PC speakers while watching a PowerPoint presentation. Headsets with microphones weren’t a requirement to participate. Typically parents communicated with the presenter through the text messaging function and the presenter responded either aloud to the group or text messaged privately to the individual. Over a 1.5 hour period parents were engaged in two presentations and discussion.
The first presentation provided guidance and advice to parents in support of their student’s career development and transition to university. The second presentation concentrated on labour market information, the importance of researching job market trends and employment prospects to help students make well-informed career decisions.
Parents were very supportive of this new initiative and provided us with valued feedback for evaluation.
These sessions helped to make parents aware of the resources available to students at Memorial, encouraged career exploration and education in the realities of the job market. “…I found the content to be valuable. It’s important to be aware of the topics covered.” one person commented. “…I thought the content was quite good. It opened my wife’s and my eyes to the services you provide.” noted another parent.
The sessions were attended by parents from across the city, the province and the Maritimes. The sessions helped those at a distance feel connected to the University. One parent said, “…I would recommend this online session to others as it makes you feel that someone else, besides yourself, is interested in helping your child succeed at MUN and in finding the correct career path.”
Parents participating in the online session were pleased with the use of technology as a means of interaction. One individual remarked, “…That was my first experience with Elluminate Live! Isn’t the technology amazing? The content was very helpful. It is easy to feel out in left field when your child is there and we are here.”
“…Overall I thought it went quite well. Perhaps the university could expand on this idea for parent orientation for parents outside the metro area who can’t attend the on campus sessions. Having participated in teleconference meetings at work I found this [Elluminate Live!] to be much superior.”
Connecting career professionals and parents is an innovative approach to career development. The use of web-conferencing technology to reach parents is just beginning in universities across Canada. Its impact on student parents is significant since parents play such an instrumental role in the development of their students. By exposing parents of first year students to relevant career resources, such as labour market information and the resources available to their students, they are better equipped to speak to their children about the realities of the job market and guide them in where to go for further support and information. By advising them of effective strategies to support their student in their journey of career exploration parents feel more equipped to relate to their students career related needs.
Further research will evaluate the feasibility of conducting sessions to address parent career planning concerns of students more advanced in their academic programs. The goal, of course, is to connect with and support the career development needs of Memorial University students at all levels through whichever means they value most. If you would like to learn more about this initiative please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jennifer Browne is the Manager of the Centre for Career Development at Memorial University of Newfoundland. She has worked in the area of career development in both community/non-profit and post-secondary settings and has presented nationally and internationally on a variety of career related topics. She currently sits as Vice President of Contact Point and is a member of a number of student affairs and career related organizations including CACEE, CACUSS, AACUSS, CCIA, NSEE and NASPA.
Michelle Honeygold is a programmer consultant at Memorial University’s Department of Career Development and Experiential Learning. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Lynn Walsh is the Graduation Transition Coordinator at the Centre for Career Development, Memorial University of Newfoundland. She has been working in the field of career development for 4 years, on various initiatives working with students, graduates and employers. She has also presented nationally on a variety of career related topics. Lynn has been a member of CACEE since 2002 and currently sits on the National Membership Committee and Atlantic Regional Board. She currently holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree.