Managing tuition, family obligations and building a résumé are just some of the reasons many TCC students seek on-campus employment. Jobs with the College can be a financial lifeline for some students, helping remove an obstacle to their academic success.
In the past, however, some students found the application process for TCC jobs to be challenging. Hiring students was a paper-based, manual process that required students to travel to each campus where they wanted to apply. Unfortunately, there were inconsistent hiring practices used across the District, resulting in an uneven student experience. While the overall application process did a good job of exposing TCC students to the realities of obtaining employment, some inefficiencies proved onerous to both students and supervisors.
Something had to change.
Building a strong application process is a critical element of the student employment experience, according to the National Association of Student Affairs Administrators website. That’s why TCC used a more student-centered approach to redesign its application process more than a year ago, continuing its commitment to being a student-ready college.
As a result, TCC established the Career Services Student Employment Work Team to redesign TCC’s student employment program. This group, one of many working to advance the College’s 3G8P (three goals and eight principles) vision, included professional input from the areas of Business Services, Career Services, Financial Aid, Human Resources, Information Technology, Finance and the Enterprise Project Management Office (EPMO).
Leading the team through this collaborative work was William (Bill) McMullen, director of student financial aid services for TCC Trinity River. He credits the team’s broad representation and wealth of experience for allowing the group to navigate such a challenging project.
“This comprehensive approach enabled us to scrutinize every aspect of a mammoth procedure that spanned numerous campus and District offices. We first identified all aspects of the complex system, which allowed us to design the streamlined process,” McMullen said. “The team took an appreciative inquiry approach to the work as we sought to ensure the program design is from a student-first perspective.”
During a three-month period in late 2020, students, supervisors and personnel in Career Services and Financial Aid tested the viability of the new process. Reducing the average length of the hiring process was a key improvement. With the new automated process, it took an average of 20 days for students to apply and get hired, compared to the 45- to 60-day window some students experienced.
“This new process is much more efficient and makes it easier for our students to take advantage of one of the greatest benefits available to them while studying at TCC: work, which we will attempt to align with their chosen career path and provide work experiences to be added to their professional résumé,” said TCC Trinity River President Sean Madison, the College’s champion for the Career Services Student Employment Work Team.
“I found TCC’s job site easy to navigate and apply for jobs,” said Jennifer Nunley, a mental health and human services major currently working for the Communications, Public Relations & Marketing department. “I am glad that you’re able to create a profile and just keep it updated as you go. The process is very smooth.”
Other program enhancements include the standardization of student positions and pay for four employment levels, with hourly rates ranging from $8.79 to $12. Interestingly, there was no consistency across the College with respect to job titles for students. Prior to the redesign, students were called student workers, work-study students or student workers. Today, all TCC students are known as “student employees,” a move that was welcomed by students and supervisors alike.
“The emphasis on calling them ‘student employees’ is fantastic,” said Marjeanna Burge, coordinator of the Intercultural Network at TCC Northeast. “Of course, I’m still catching myself using the phrase ‘student worker’ occasionally, but I am grateful this change was made and emphasized…words matter.”
Under this new system, TCC aims to hire roughly 420 students across the District each year, according to Jesica Valadez Espinoza, administrative assistant of career services at TCC Trinity River. The pandemic has slowed hiring somewhat; however, those numbers are expected to improve once students return to campus.
Federal and state funding covers 75 percent of the student’s wages at TCC, with the remaining 25 percent being covered by the institution. Last year, TCC spent approximately $660,000 to cover students’ wages. This year TCC has allocated roughly $789,000 institutional dollars to support student employees. When some schools had to eliminate work-study jobs last year due to the pandemic, TCC was able to retain students and pay their wages.
Stephanie Franco, assistant director of financial aid, tracks annual federal, state and institutional funds to ensure compliance with all relevant guidelines. Students no longer have to worry about losing a position due to lack of funding—an occurrence that happened far too often.
Hourly students are limited to no more than 19.5 hours per week during any academic period at TCC. Students working 20 hours or less on campus report higher levels of engagement and are less likely to drop out, according to several studies.
Student employees play a critical role in TCC’s operations. In fact, they ensure that essential College facilities such as campus libraries and TCC bookstores, among other areas, are running smoothly. They can be found working in many departments or facilities throughout the District.
“Our student employee [Jesus Ramirez] spends time in the library every week working a curbside shift (answering the phone, distributing library materials to students, etc.) shelving materials, organizing and much more,” said Brittany Wedgeworth Parker, library manager at TCC Northwest. “He also works virtually from home, helping us test student devices, creating library flyers and using LinkedIn Learning for his professional development.” The online courses allow him to improve his communication and time management skills.
Ramirez, whose goal is to become a biomedical engineer, is thankful for the opportunity to grow professionally. “This job is giving me a more office type of experience,” he said. “All my previous experience had been in retail or restaurants, so this will really expand my résumé and experience.”
While working, students are mentored and coached by their supervisors in order to learn new skills and adapt in a professional work environment. Supervisors also receive formalized mentor training to help enhance the student work experience.
“The new Student Employment Program is designed to help students explore different career pathways while adding relevant work experience to their résumés,” said Angela Pena, coordinator of career & employment services. “With this new program, we are helping our students become leaders and professionals in our community.”
TCC leaders expect this new program to help students make an even greater impact in the community. A well-educated workforce is key to a more prosperous Tarrant County and hopefully, boosting the economic well-being of its people. By increasing the number of degreed and credentialed workers, the region can be seen as an attractive option for high-wage employers looking to relocate to the area.
“All departments are encouraged to think outside the box and find ways to employ students during this pandemic. Don’t wait until we return to campus,” said David Wallace, project manager for TCC’s Enterprise Project Management Office. “By doing so, departments can help students meet their financial needs while also providing work experience and helping them build marketable skills.”
Learn more about job opportunities at Tarrant County College.