Entering the workforce after graduation can be nerve-wracking—even with a job lined up. But students of Washington State University Vancouver’s Business Growth Mentor & Analysis Program can breathe easier as they near commencement and pursue their careers. Students enrolled in this capstone course get a leg up on their job-seeking competition by putting into practice what they’ve learned in the classroom.
With the help of volunteer business mentors and guidance from their professor, teams of students consult on challenges presented to them by small businesses. By the end of the semester, students have gained valuable experience they use for résumés, LinkedIn, job interviews, and networking.
This experience led to a job for 2016 management information systems graduate Caleb Steinborn.
IT STARTED AS A CLASS ASSIGNMENT
Drake Striping & Painting, a Vancouver pavement marking company, was experiencing growing pains and needed help assessing the situation. Steinborn’s Business Growth MAP team, which included students from different majors—accounting, finance, and management information system —was assigned the task. Together, the team had one goal: Find real solutions for their business.
“Understanding this was liberating,” Steinborn says. “The drive to do well was not for the sake of a good grade, but for the sake of the client because we were impacting its livelihood. That was exciting.”
The students analyzed the client’s business functions and recommended the company implement Microsoft Surface Pros, purchase Microsoft Office 365, buy a website domain, build a website, and create professional email addresses,among other ideas.
The team’s recommendations were on point. “We started pursuing the students’ ideas before they were typed,” says Nathan Drake, owner of Drake Striping & Painting.
Today the company can be run from outside the office, and it can communicate with workers in the field. “Every project manager now has a Surface Pro,” says Drake. “We can type job orders and update them in the field.”
SOLID WORK PAYS OFF
While fulfilling the project manager role on the Drake Striping & Painting project, the team’s business mentor, Zack Parnell, took notice of Steinborn.
Parnell is president of Industrial Training International, a company that provides crane, rigging, load-handling training, and consulting to corporate clients and individuals.
Impressed with Steinborn’s alignment of skills and attitude, Parnell offered him an internship.
“During his internship, Caleb was in the office every Friday working with our team,” Parnell says. “We quickly determined he was a good fit.”
By the end of the semester, Steinborn was offered a full-time position as ITI’s e-learning specialist.
BUILDING LOCAL TALENT AND BUSINESSES
Ninety-three percent of WSU Vancouver students stay in the region after graduation. With a focus on using skills already learned, the Business Growth MAP supplies well-trained talent to the southwest Washington/Portland metropolitan area. Since 2011, Business Growth MAP has consulted with 172 businesses and given more than 950 students the opportunity to do at least one project.