When it comes to Texoma, we are proud of our grads, both high school and college.
So many are working hard to keep them right here, employed and in Wichita Falls.
And even with the struggling economy M.S.U. grads are fairing well with an 88 percent job placement rate after graduation in the 08-09 year.
To find out how those numbers are so high and how Midwestern State is working to keep some of those grads here at home working. We sat down with the director of MSU's Career Management Center Dirk Welch, and he said it's the partnership between the school and local businesses that have provided so many opportunities.
"Then our students really have to shine and do well and sell themselves, apply for and obtain those opportunities," Welch said.
To help students achieve that, the center works with students and alumni to navigate the job search process so they are able to effectively market themselves.
"So they do come out when they are talking to potential employers as we really want to have you whether it be for part-time, internship, or full time. You know opportunities so we gear a lot of our services and events around there helping the students and alumni acquire and develop and master resume writing or letter writing or honing their interview skills. Or putting themselves together to make a positive impression or really impressed and developing that network,"Welch said.
The school also works with local employeers, encouraging them to recruit and come to MSU to hire and interview MSU students and alums.
The school also invites business to take part in a job fair. Newschannel 6 took part a few months ago and is planning to join the school again in October.
"For our career expos and for our part time job and volunteer fairs, we send out over 220 invitations to our local employers encouraging them to utilize those venues to hire for full time or part time or internship opportunities and like other career expos over the last few semesters we have had over 53 local employers attend. Sometimes multiple semesters they have had needs and so they have come in and so that's been very rewarding and and i really think that's been part of that partnership between getting those employers in front of and letting our students know what is it about this employer that they might like and who are they and they have these opportunities for them," Welch said. "We have had local employers that are primarily local attend like KAUZ, Albert Moving and Storage, Mathis West or the city or U.R.H.C. and then we have a lot of employers that have a national presence but also are hiring our students and grads locally. Like the Boys and Girls Club, Wells Fargo or Enterprise, so we have been pleased and excited when we have both the ones with national and local, they have that dual ability for those who want to travel, but we have a lot of really good ones that come in that are primarily local with those opportunities."
The school also hosts an education fair that includes local school districts. It's a chance for them to show off the opportunities they have for students to stay in the area and teach.
Welch said, "We do on-campus interviews as anther way to encourage employers and to connect with students, so employers will come on campus and might interview right up here in our office space with prospective candidates."
And if they are not able to travel to campus for any reason, students and employers can log onto MUSTANGSHIRE.org.
"And that's a very robust job search system where students can search and apply for jobs through that and employers for free can post opportunities and search for students or accept applications. So that's another way to really allow employers to broadcast and advertise and let out students know who may not know what we have out there," Welch said.
But he says it's that one-on-one help in the office that gives students a real upperhand when it comes to finding the right job in Texoma.
"They will get the most assistance and best understanding of how to do that effectively by coming in and making an appointment and certainly our students and alumni that aren't so local ya know we can do a lot of that via e-mail, on phone or things like that but we do resume presentations in our classrooms we do workshops and seminars outside of classroom. Might be to a club or organization. Or to athletic dept or various things. We try to just get in all sorts of different ways in front of them but that one on one sis where most of the work or where we can personalize it or really learn about them and what they are doing and how best to get that down on that piece of paper that they'll use," Welch said. "And for interviewing we talk a lot about what they might experience and what it might be like and types of questions. But we do mock interviews with them, and we can video tape it or not. Depending on comfort level of oh i don't know if i want to be on camera i don't know if i want to see all of that. But we really try to look at and provide them that. We have done phone mock interviews. Because that is part of the process for a lot of applicants to be on the phone for an initial interview."
Welch has been at MSU for seven years, and although the mock interviews are not new, they are constantly expanding each and every year, as things develop and change.
"We are doing this year a lot more of the web-based because more employers have started using Skype or other media to webcams. So to help our students and alum feel comfortable--'I'm just looking at a box or monitor'--and do that well, so we really like to meet with or work with, personalize it and customize it to each person," Welch said.
He said they are also having to keep up with the latest way of how resumes are put together.
"A few years back it was really starting to do it a little differently in terms of more were accepting it online and then having programs where they may look for key words and how to really accentuate what students and alumni are putting down to get that notice, so things do change as technology, that's where the whole--we gotta really try our best to keep on top of it and know, so that our students and alumni remain competitive for local employment or employment anywhere across the country or abroad," Welch said.
And because of the job market and competitive nature, Welch said students are coming in earlier in their education for help, which is why they are also adding new programs to help those succeed, as the economy continues to struggle.
Welch said, "We have expanded greatly our graduate and professional school service. Certainly in time of job market struggle and its more challenging nation wide. More students think maybe i need to go on know and pursue grad work. I might have done it 2 years from now but i think now is a good time with the way things are. And so we have really expanded a lot of our services in that arena with preparation courses. That they might experience going on to a grad program medical, dental vet, law , etc. And through out the process there are a lot of interview so we expanded our offers in that way. Also expanded other things through grad professional school fair so ultimately it will lead to careers and such."
They are also hosting more business etiquette luncheon and seminars and dining etiquette seminars to give students and alumni the comfort with,
"Okay, I'm interacting, they are firing questions at me, but gosh, I have this food that I have to focus on and concentrate on. So that's something that we added over the seven years and changes and adapted as things have changes. It's been fun we have done fashion shows, brought in local employers talking about how to look sharp in interview process..and we try to engage in local folks in educating too our students. From employers panels and what students need to have so we want it to be a good partnership in what we can do and what the community has to offer, which will in turn enrich our students," Welch said.
But with this change, those leading the way in the career center are having to shift their focus and way of thinking as well.
"We are finding ourselves being more cheerleaders through this process because you are absolutely right, i think some students and grads oh the woes they become disheartened and what will my opportunities be. So helping them, remain positive and confident and optimistic as possible," Welch said. "I mean, there is a realism there. But that attitude is very very important to them doing well. If they go into a situation and oh there must 16, 000 candidates for this one job that is probably going to show through, and not be of any assistance. So we work on keeping them upbeat and positive as possible. But that's where they need to challenge themselves to do as much as they can while at MSU."
And that's done by realizing the job market is struggling, and students are learning how to be better prepared if the challenges continue, and Welch said a big encouragement to give them that upperhand: internships.
Welch said, "That has really aided students in being able to get in with an employer and gain some experience and then that employer has an opportunity and so it's led to some opportunities that perhaps might not have been there. So I think more and more in seeing the value of that type of practical experience."
That internship or extra experience, Welch said, may also make a determining decision in your favor when you are up against someone else with the same skills. Welch's department's ultimate hope for each student and grad is for them to achieve their goals and dreams, which is why they work so hard with local employeers. Welch said, "To get the talent that we have and to be able to apply, because we have a wonderful community; it's nice when that fit occurs."
Another way Midwestern state works to keep grads here is by campaigning to the high school graduates in our area, and MSU Marketing Director Janus Buss said it's all done with the students.
"Our marketing campaign really stresses our students as the face of our university. We have marketing not only in Wichita Falls, but out of Wichita Falls because obviously we get our students from different areas. But as far as the Wichita Falls area, we hope to encourage a sense of pride in the students who are graduating from high schools here and also students who are here and have come from different areas but might want to stay here because they have fallen in love with the area. And that been the main focus a sense of pride in MSU," Buss said. "We feel like the students' faces really sell the university, and I think with the tagline 'it shows their sense of pride.' They want to claim the university as theirs, and we have also used that same approach with even the people in the community. MSU is the university of Wichita Falls and we hope people feel a sense of pride in that, whether it's our donors, business people in the community, or just the community as a whole, we want them to have that sense of pride of who we are and that we are part of this community."
Buss said the campaigning started in 2002 and, although the students' faces have changed, the concept is still the same. 'This is our university and we hope you will make it yours.'
"And again, not just recruiting to campus but also if you move to Wichita Falls, we hope you will take ownership in MSU," Buss said.
Another selling point is the school's location, something Buss's office is sure to market.
"Being in Wichita Falls, we are at a great location of course for the students living here and surrounding areas, even students living in the metroplex. This is a great way for them to get way from home, getaway from the parents but still be close enough to take their laundry home," Buss said.
MSU also reaches out to moms and dads of area high school kids, through enrollment and finacial aid programs at schools, college night, and the Mustangs rally, where they invite students and families. That's how MSU makes it easy for parents to learn about the university and even take tours. "Parents have a lot to say about where kids are going to school and so we want them to feel an ownership in school also," Buss said. "So we always include family and even though, even when students enroll we have a 'Family Day' so brothers and sisters and families can all come and enjoy the spirit of the university."
It seems no matter where you look, MSU is there to remind you that they are here to stay and Buss said that is their goal. Billboards are up all over town and expand into metroplex as well.
Advertisment is plastered on city buses, postcards are sent home to students in Region 9, as well as book covers. Ads are also at the movies, MSU's logos is on flags, banners, T-shirts, and even radio and TV spots, which you can see on Newschannel 6.
"And we have already gotten feedback about that because it's such a repetition throughout the day. That throughout Monday, you're probably going to see Midwestern and once again, it's just an identity, and 'don't forget us we are here,'" Buss said. "We do run ads in high school newspapersm and that was a good place to run the laundry adm as we like to call it, for them to remember we are right here, we have a great reputation. Great academic standing among universities in state, and it's not necessary for you to go to a private school to get a good education or to get the attention you would like to have in a classroom. Most have less than 30 students and you're not going to get that at a large university, even at senior level, so not everybody wants a flagship university. They want individual attention and that's something we can provide at a smaller cost."
To keep up with the times and to reach more students, the university also redesigned its website. "Which, of course, a website is really the way students are going now to decide about a college. And we get a lot of compliments about that, about it being user friendly. So it's all part of the campaign," Buss said.
Inside host: "Meaning when people think of Wichita Falls, they may think of Sheppard Air Force Base, but do they also think of MSU?"
Buss answered, "It's again the name recognition. I always compare it to McDonalds. Everybody knows McDonalds is on the corner, but it doesn't keep them from advertising. They want to always be in the forefront. They want you to see their billboards and want to remind you, and that's kind of the way we are. We know everyone in Wichita Falls knows we are here, but we want them to have a great attitude and buy into it and have ownership in it. So that is a great part of the ad campaign."
But back to those faces you see on those ads and billboards, Inside Texoma host Ashley Fitzwater wanted to know if the faces we see are real students.
"They are. They are all real students. We have used real students every year except one and we seem to--we heard people could tell those were not our students. And I thought it was interesting they could pick up on that. Except for that one year, we have always used our own students. And there is no rhyme or reason, we call a few areas and say could you send us some students, and we take a whole day to take pics and some just photograph well and their expression on their face that the camera catches it just is the look we are looking for," Buss said, and she said the kids selected are thrilled to take part.
"In fact, I heard from one of the dads this year who called and said, 'I just want to tell you that you made my son's day. He is so excited to be apart of this, and we are so proud of him.' So that was nice to hear, and we have heard other stories about people being really proud to be maybe in another area. On the Decatur board right now is a pic of one student who is from that area, so I'm sure a lot of people who drive by there recognize her and it's nice to make that connection," Buss said, which in turn creates more word of mouth about the school and more attention.
Although we have MSU's numbers, we wanted to find out what the city does to track grads.
BCI president and CEO Tim Chase said they dont track graduates, but they do track job opportunities for a wide varity of skill sets, which is a big factor in keeping high school and college grads here.
Chase said both Midwestern State University and Vernon College are helping many prepare for the job market, and also helping many, like several recent Vernon College grads, learn new skills.
"...20 to 30 percent said 20 months ago, 'I was working at Saint-Gobain, and I needed new skills to stay in Wichita Falls and find gainful employment,' and they went to school and retooled themselves and came out of Vernon with a stellar experience, and now they are ready to go to work in another aspect of our community and they have been successful in doing that," Chase said. In fact, chase said, as of late, "We have had the greatest run of new job creation and retention that the community has seen in the past three decades or more...today we have done seven deals that over eight to nine months will create 1800 new jobs. Now that's taking good care of what we have got now and some new ones. And if you look at skill sets, they range from entry level little or no skills, in other words go to work and the company teaches them everything they need to know," Chas said. "When you got another set that said 'I'm going to work because I posses certain skills they need, metal fab, welding machinery, and another that are professionals, nursing engineering,' so we have been fortunate to capture employment across that entire spectrum from $8 and hour to literally areospace engineers," Chase said, with more exciting news still ahead.
"Right now. our pipeline is full. And we are working on the next quarter and the quarter after that making sure that the pipeline stays full," Chase said. He adds having competitive skills in healthcare and engineering and design seems to give many the upperhand in this area in finding a job, and the reason why, Chase said, "Well, you are looking at one of the reasons. Okay. I'm at the not at the cutting edge but on the back end of the baby boomers, but as everyone knows there is a large portion of our population that are getting older and when we get older we need more services. So that is in itself driving a demand. But there is another side to it, in my opinion, that healthcare is not an easy job you don't go and sit back and take it easy. It's hard work and you have to have a passion for it and love what you are doing. And i think some get in and realize they burn out or don't have the passion to stay in it. And i think if you would talk to see you would find nursing has a fairly high turnover burn rate. So i think those to things contribute to the fact there always seems to be a consistent need for healthcare," Chase said. In next year and a half, the job market is going to look very good, which will help, however Chase said there are some realistic points to consider when it comes to keeping everyone here.
"We want to keep everyone we possibly can, but we are not going to keep every student they didn't come here to live and work they cam to get a great education. And surely while they are here if they fall in love with us we would love to keep them," Chase said. But with all of these changes, we must keep a vision for the future always looking ahead, and that's something Mayor Glenn Barham is focused on.
Barham said that a big part of keeping young people in the city goes back to the 'Vision 20-20' plan. "I think that plan was probably focused more on students that actually grew up in Wichita Falls," Barham said. "They either go to MSU to get a great education or go off and get a great education and we're focusing on those folks to stay. My son is one of those, and we work on him constantly, saying 'we want you to come back' and hopefully he will when he has finished his education."
In fact, Barham said recent endorsements came just a few weeks ago to keep those young families and students in our area. "Council endorsed an application for a 4-B board for work out at Lake Wichita Park. I think projects like that are very beneficial to the community, it's one of those quality of life issues you hear people bringing up all of the time. And the more of those types of issues and situations we can provide our population, I think the better off we are going to be. The skate park is one. Any work out at Lake Wichita is a quality of life issue. Castaway Cove is a big one and we need to do a lot of those." He said it's also a way to pull in new families and businesses who--when they come in to look at our city--look at those types of things.
"'What are my people going to be able to do in the evenings when they get off work in July or December?' and we have to provide some of those opportunities, and certainly Castaway takes care of summer and Lake Wichita would be a year-round solution to some of those issues. Anything we can do to further [our efforts] we need to look at seriously."
Barham said the Chamber of Commerce and Industry does a great job of getting opportunities for local students and residents to apply for and said with their continued work and community encouragement thinks we will see more people keep the Falls their home.
"I think there is a myth that you go off to college and you step out into the world and should be making $50-60,000 a year. That just doesn't happen. Most entry level jobs are in $30-40,000 range, and you have to work up. And so providing our young folks with opportunities to start and then progress from that point is where we need to focus and I think that's what we are doing and I think thats what MSU and Vernon College are doing," Barham said.
Barham said he would also like to see more focus being put on jobs with skills and not just professional work, and just like MSU, Barham also encourages internships in the community.
"I would encourage the professional job market, accounting, and legal, I think, a lot do internships, but if more would make that opportunity available for our college students, it certainly would help," Barham said. He said he knows 100 percent of our grads aren't going to stay but trying to keep a good percentage at least is a big focus and will only benefit Texoma's economy.