Defiance College creates nationally-unique career readiness program

October 14, 2020

DEFIANCE, Ohio - Career readiness is not just about knowing how to do a certain job. It is also about having the skills necessary to adapt, think creatively, and then communicate ideas clearly. These are referred to as soft skills. Higher education institutions often tout their ability to teach students these important soft skills but only Defiance College has the fortitude to make this education required across the academic curriculum.

Defiance College, under the guidance of President Dr. Richanne C. Mankey, has created the Institute for Career Readiness and Lifelong Learning. The new institute houses both the career development office and the nationally-unique program called Jacket Journey. The DC career development office helps students strengthen their resumes, improve their job interview skills, find internships, and more, while the new Jacket Journey program actively weaves soft skill education into all aspects of campus life. This one-two punch looks to improve Defiance College's already impressive 96.8% job placement rate.

"The Jacket Journey program really came about after having a discussion with Beth Wilkerson," says President Mankey. "She is a graduate of DC, who is working in a position that didn't even exist ten years ago. Her Defiance College liberal-arts background gave her the soft skills needed to obtain her current position. What a great success story! My goal became focused on ensuring we instill those skills in every DC graduate."

The key to Jacket Journey's success will be the fact that, moving forward, it is required learning for all Defiance College students. Faculty have begun to alter their teaching methods to promote the inclusion of soft skills into their curriculum.

"Defiance was already doing such a fantastic job of teaching a liberal-arts based education that asking faculty to include the so called 'soft skills' was an easy request. Defiance College students are heading out into the workforce with career knowledge and now, thanks to our new Jacket Journey program, all of them will be able to articulate why they have the skills to succeed," states Dr. Agnes Caldwell, Vice President for Academic Affairs.

President Mankey knew that the College needed to find the right person to head Jacket Journey. Luckily, the choice was easy. The most qualified candidate was already employed at Defiance. Dr. Jeremy Taylor, a former history professor and assistant football coach at DC, agreed to lead this unique program. Dr. Taylor has been with Defiance College for nearly 10 years and is well-respected across campus.

"I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to lead this important initiative," states Dr. Taylor. "In recent years, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the value of a college degree. Jacket Journey will help settle that question. Defiance College graduates will be able to properly articulate their value to employers immediately upon graduation and for the rest of their careers. Jacket Journey forces students to begin thinking about career readiness from orientation to graduation."

The College knows that the success of Jacket Journey is heavily dependent on keeping students engaged. That is why it is implementing a three-day immersive experience each January called Jacket Days. This conference-type experience will feature various speakers and career workshops. In a nod to this generation's love of mobile games, the College has created a Jacket Journey app in which students collect "Jacket Points" for attending and completing various career readiness objectives.

"Jacket Points is a way to help students stay engaged and active with the Jacket Journey program. Students have a chance to earn points individually and in groups. We are even offering prizes to those with the most points. It is a fun way to help our students stay committed to improving their career readiness," says Dr. Taylor.

As with any well thought-out undertaking, research played a large role in Defiance College's decision to create the new Jacket Journey. Administrators from the College conducted face-to-face interviews and focus groups with a wide variety of employers, not only in Defiance, but throughout the region. The consensus was clear: employers desired career knowledge, of course, but also were looking for people with the soft skills to help solve problems in this ever-changing workforce. The Jacket Journey program at Defiance College is helping to fill this void with graduates who are academically skilled and will now definitely graduate with the built-in ability to adapt to whatever comes their way.

Defiance College, chartered in 1850, is an independent, liberal arts-based institution in Northwest Ohio offering more than 40 undergraduate programs of study as well as graduate programs in education and business. Defiance College has received national recognition for its educational experience of service and engagement. The College website is www.defiance.edu.