How to Bootcamp Your Student Leadership Training

Over the last 5 years, there’s been an incredible emergence and growth towards “bootcamp” models of education delivery, focusing on specific, demonstrable skill sets to prepare students for the workforce.

And more and more, the focus on skill-based education continues to increase.

The evolution sits at the intersection of workforce preparation and industry demand alongside a skill-based economy. But what practices might be useful and informative for student activities professionals?

This places student affairs in general, and student leadership programs in particular, in a powerful position to prepare students for the workforce by maximizing the ways in which student leadership programs and education build skills to assist students in preparing for their first job.

Having worked in both leadership education and the bootcamp space, here is where I see the most ready opportunities to “bootcamp” your student leadership programming and training, thinking at the intersection of student learning, career preparation, student engagement, and leadership development.

1. Build awareness of the most in-demand job skills, designing exercises around those outcomes.

Each year, NACE (the National Association of Careers and Employers) releases results from their Job Outlook survey, pointing to the skills employers are most interested in from new graduates. Understanding what skills and competencies (based on NACE’s newest project) employers are interested in, the scope of your “bootcamped” leadership programming expands in career preparation.

In fact, even beyond these formal assessments, employers consistently outline the skills and characteristics they most need from their new hires:

  • Team work
  • Critical thinking
  • Creative problem solving
  • Oral communication

2. Outline not only what students are learning, but think critically and communicate how it contributes to and connects with vital workforce skills.

Establishing strong learning outcomes is critical for any co-curricular learning, but being able to clearly articulate why a particular learning outcome is critical to a student’s development, and how students will demonstrate competency in that area takes learning assessment one step further. Learning is Not Sprint is one of my favorite resources to assist both with the development of outcomes and the various tools to assess a student’s progress within them!

3. Engage local industry as both a guiding force for workforce relevant training, and as a partner and participant.

By connecting with local employers to explore opportunities for your work to intersect (especially by utilizing connections within career education or other community engagement initiatives), you can take yet another step further to explore opportunities to bring workforce preparation and relevance into your programming. By utilizing NACE data or other workforce skill resources as the starting point for conversation, local employers might serve as a strong resource to extend their own professional development tools, workshops, or training programs into your campus programming. In fact, by formalizing and convening a group of employers to serve as an advisory board (like many bootcamps have begun doing), you establish a feedback loop and collaboration mechanism that further integrates workforce training into your programming!

Have you integrated any of these strategies into your student leadership programming?

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Brian LeDuc

About the author: Brian helps design education for the future of work with Education Design Lab. Follow him on Twitter @BrianFLeDuc! Learn how we can help get your students involved.

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