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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Employer need for professionalism sparks action on Madera campus

July 29, 2015

SJVC Madera Campus ProfessionalismLocal employers who sit on SJVC’s new Madera campus Advisory Board are very clear about what they need – and too often do not get – in a new employee: Professionalism.

Too many of their employees do not speak or dress appropriately, have personal cell phones out much of the time at work, are very casual about taking time off and do not hold themselves accountable.

“They really struggle with their employees just not taking their job and responsibilities seriously enough,” says Belinda Garcia, Academic Dean. “It was great feedback from our employers, and we took it to heart.”

Belinda, who has a teaching background, came up with an idea to get the school’s business and medical students on firmer ground to meet employer expectations.

The idea, referred to as “The Four Pillars of Professionalism,” would introduce students to a professional code of communication, dress and behaviors from their first official day on campus at New Student Orientation and follow them throughout their program studies.

“It is important that this career preparation start from the first time they walk in as students – not the last 15 weeks,” says Belinda.

She shared the concept with faculty and it immediately caught fire. “I call them my Dream Team,” says Belinda. “I throw an idea at them, and they just run with it.”

The initiative has four components:

  1. Accountability
  2. Professionalism
  3. Attendance
  4. Attitude

Business Administration, Medical Office Administration and Medical Assisting instructors have found some unique ways to introduce and demonstrate these links to successful employment.

Instructors are assigning leadership roles in the classroom that reflect a business operation model. An important part of the success of this professional development exercise is the team effort required to make it work. “It is a more positive experience and easier for students to adopt when they are the ones holding each other accountable.”

Cell phones are lined up on white boards and a “Violations” log is kept for anyone who breaks the code of professional conduct. “If someone is not wearing their hair up or white shoes (medical programs), or is not in full uniform you might hear someone say, ‘Hey, you’re out of dress code today,'” says Belinda. “This is making it all relevant for them.”

“Students want recognition and approval,” says Belinda. “And they know that what we call ‘moving into the next level of career preparation’ is important for their career.'”

“We have even stepped it up another notch with a ‘Professional Dress Day’ for students and staff every other module,” says Belinda. “This is an opportunity for students to shine on campus.” The students wear an outfit from their wardrobe and Ben Almaguer, Campus Director, and Dean Garcia mentor them for success, and provide feedback and suggestions on professional dress for job interviews.

“Students get excited to receive the valuable feedback on how they presented themselves,” says Belinda.  “The Madera campus is keenly focused on creating the professional environment that will inspire students to be the best professional they can be as they move toward graduation and ultimately their new career.”

It is important for SJVC graduates to not only fulfill their dream for success in their chosen field, but to be valued and appreciated by their employer for what they bring to their business operation.

“It is our responsibility as teachers to help our students overcome bad habits before going out into the work world,” says Belinda.

This initiative was launched in April, and some students were able to benefit from its practice before they graduated. “Feedback we have received has been very positive from extern sites,” says Belinda. “They say our students and grads are very professional.”

This exercise has proven so successful on the Madera campus and in their community, that faculty are hoping that other SJVC campuses adopt a similar model for student career preparation.

“We are focusing on professionalism on all campuses,” says Belinda. “This is another way for teachers to instill these important qualities in our students for greater success.”

Employers will be forever grateful for the extra effort.