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A Web Letter from the Office of the Provost - November 2021

By Mary Jane Chew

Center for Career Opportunities celebrates 100 years

In 1921, when Dean A. A. Potter used a $3,000 check from Indiana Steel Works and the Indiana Manufacturers’ Association to establish the Personnel Service at Purdue, the office offered occupational guidance, placement, and other services to the men in the Schools of Engineering. One hundred years later, the Center for Career Opportunities (CCO) has evolved into a resource that helps students make the career choices that are right for them and supports them all along the way.

"Over the years, the university recognized that in addition to simply placing students in jobs, it was important to provide career counseling and coaching to help them make well-informed decisions about what they wanted to do," says Tim Luzader, director of the center for career opportunities and executive director for career success.

The CCO establishes a "My CCO" (the university’s career services management platform) account for each incoming freshman. CCO staff conduct more than 500 workshops each year. Workshop topics range from resume writing to how to boost your career with an internship.

"An estimated 25,000-30,000 students are in classrooms, student organization meetings and other locations where workshops happen. We are particularly sensitive to first-generation college students and students from low-income families," Luzader says.

Along with the center’s own programs and activities, it supports the colleges and student organizations that conduct career fairs.

"We offer guidance, as well as the technology," he adds. "Not only My CCO, but also a new platform called Career Fair Plus that provides an advanced interface for employers and students. The CCO also hosts the "Just in Time" job fair in the late spring, billed as employers’ last career fair-based chance to see students. The companies can come in, see someone they want to hire, and the person could start in a few weeks after Commencement."

In 2019-2020, nearly 1,800 employer organizations came to campus to recruit, either at career fairs or in the CCO interview facilities. When the pandemic closed most in-person operations, the CCO and employers made the transition to virtual career fairs and video interviews. Luzader believes virtual recruiting, or at least a hybrid of virtual and on-campus recruiting, is here to stay.

"Nearly everyone has gained experience and comfort in using the virtual platforms," he says. "It’s a great option for companies that are looking to save money. They still need to come to campus to develop a rapport with students and campus advocates but being able to do things like follow-up interviews virtually is much more productive for them."

In its 100 years, the Center has helped students through times of both low and high employment opportunities.

"The economic crisis of 2008-2010 caused many companies to not only not hire, but actually withdraw some job offers that had been extended to students," Luzader recalls. "We worked with students to re-engage them in the job search process and get connected to companies that were still hiring. We also worked to help companies get the best possible outcome for the students and maintain a good working relationship with the University."

Now, when employers are struggling to fill vacancies, the CCO’s professional staff help companies connect directly with students to meet their hiring needs.

Looking toward the future, Luzader envisions a more collaborative model on campus to help students connect with career coaching, internships, or job opportunities.

"An important future direction is accomplishing efficiency and effectiveness in an overarching student career success effort on campus," he says.

Asked what he considers the CCO’s greatest accomplishment, Luzader doesn’t hesitate.

"Regardless of what the career need is, the student’s circumstance, or where the student is going after graduation—into the job market or advanced study—we have created something here at the CCO to help them succeed."