Arizona State University’s Work+ program, which aims to enhance and create holistic on-the-job experiences for working learners across ASU, was awarded $1.5 million by the Strada Education Network as part of its Beyond Completion Challenge.
Piloted last spring, Work+ is a collaboration among the University College, Career and Professional Development Services and the Student Employment Office. The program offers a personalized experience that empowers students to hone their sense of identity, agency and purpose in their lives and careers throughout their paid work experience at ASU.
The program started with around 500 students, and the initial $250,000 grant from Strada supported technology, digital assets, stipends and administrative costs, but Sukhwant Jhaj, dean of University College and vice provost for academic innovation and student achievement, says the additional grant funding of $1.5 million over the next three years will greatly expand the program’s reach and impact to scale Work+ efforts both internally and to other institutions across the country.
“Work+ is in a great place for significant expansion across ASU, empowering student employees across the university to leverage their roles to gain high-quality work experience that is helping them build skills transferable to any industry they move into post-graduation,” Jhaj said.
The program aims to scale its reach to the more than 12,000 students employed annually at ASU. In addition, eight partner institutions have committed to participate in a Work+ Institute: Chandler-Gilbert Community College, Georgia State University, Northern Arizona University, University of Central Florida, University of Illinois Chicago, University of Maine, University of Michigan-Dearborn and Virginia Commonwealth University.
Jhaj added that he and his team are thrilled to expand the program nationwide by launching new options for collaborative engagement with two- and four-year partner institutions.
“These partners are jumping right in with us to co-design customized strategies for their institutional needs that they will take back and pilot in their campus environments beginning in late 2023 through 2025,” Jhaj said. “As they pilot, they will be sharing their successes, challenges and advice with not just ASU, but a broader community of practice of additional higher ed partners who are also interested in evolving what student employment looks like at their institution.”
Partners will serve a minimum of 50 student workers and their supervisors at each institution, with the potential of serving up to 19,000 working learners across the country.
“At the end of this grant, we will have a new national model for on-campus employment that redesigns student employment to be a transformative educational experience,” Jhaj said. “This program will deliver the relevant career skills that students expect and employers value.”
According to Jhaj, so far the feedback on Work+ participants, both from ASU working learners and supervisors, has been overwhelmingly positive.
“This work will inform improvements to Work+ at ASU and will also hopefully lead to a national movement that is changing traditional student employment experiences into transformative working and learning opportunities for the 14-plus million students who are currently working while attending school," he said. "It’s time to reinvent work-and-learn programs so they deliver much greater value for our learners during their time on campus.”
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