‘The Power of Connections’: Building a Better Hiring Event at Butte College

Butte College Re-Imagined Hiring Event

In Northern California industry, as in life, the most powerful solutions are rarely simple. But when it came to bridging specific skills gaps in Butte County and beyond, the Butte College Career Center didn’t want to overthink it.

Instead, they went straight to the source, partnering with local agencies and nonprofits to fill imminent demand with pilot pathways in accounting and business. The result was the Butte College Re-Imagined Hiring Event, launched in the Spring and poised to expand as additional employers catch on.

“At Butte College, we believe in the power of connections,” says Tammera Shinar, Dean of Student Enrollment Services. “Providing career-focused support to students helps them gain the skills and confidence needed to walk into an interview and come away with a number of job opportunities.”

Delivered in collaboration with SynEd, a non-profit committed to fostering classroom-to-career pathways, the event was modeled after the organization’s Appointment With Your Future program. The concept? Ditch the dead-end trappings of a typical job fair – the big-budget brochures… the scattershot anonymity – and put in the work to cultivate can’t-miss candidates with the exact skills hiring managers are looking for. 

“This is an excellent model for the future,” says Butte College faculty member Beth Dunn, whose accounting students were among the 20 initially interested in the pilot program. “Students ended up with good job offers that fit their skills.”

Rather than sit back and wait for qualified applicants, the Re-Imagined Hiring Event empowers employers to influence the training itself, especially when it comes to “soft skills” like preparation and personal presentation. Throughout the Spring 2023 semester, business and accounting students worked toward completion of a progressive, employer-driven program that included assessments, résumé assistance and networking skills. 

“The response from local employers was overwhelmingly positive,” says Wendy Porter, Assistant Director of Employer Partnerships at Butte College. “Their willingness to participate in our student’s success was beautiful to experience.”

Prospects were matched to specific, in-demand career pathways with employers like Butte County (Public Health, Behavioral Health, Development Services and the Auditor’s Office), the City of Chico, Northern CA Regional Land Trust, and ChicoStart. 

As the semester progressed, students would complete milestones like CliftonStrengths and Indeed assessments, launch LinkedIn profiles, and streamline their online résumés. Those who persisted were invited to the all-day workshop event, where they networked with industry employers and provided an “elevator pitch” encompassing their customized skill set. Meanwhile, those all-important “soft skills” were on full display, with students heeding expert advice from the very same HR professionals that would potentially perform their interviews.

“The students gained great insight into interview preparation and resume building,” Dunn reflects. “They all approached the interview day with a much more confident mindset.

“Tips for dressing for a successful interview were very helpful.” 

The pilot event set a decidedly upbeat tone for the effort going forward. In May, directly following the workshop, students were matched to specific career opportunities with participating agencies, interviewing with confidence and savvy to match their Butte-built skill sets. Employers were impressed, extending eight job offers, five of which were immediately accepted. 

“My experience was amazing,” says one successful interviewee, now working full-time for a participating agency in Butte County. “The opportunity provided me with a mountain of experiences and allowed me to meet so many influential people in the local area.”

For local employers, the feeling was mutual. Thanks to their involvement from the beginning of the process, hiring managers were able to sidestep the uncertainty of blind recruitment, saving valuable time and vastly improving the overall quality of candidates. Meanwhile, they position their employers on the ground floor of evolving career education trends, boosting the precision of the pipeline at both ends.

“Meeting with the students from Butte College in a real-time on campus hiring event brought home all the reasons why I work in the field of Human Resources,” says Chelsea Phebus, Human Resources Director for the City of Chico. “I was able to interact directly with candidates who clearly possessed the knowledge and skills to make them workforce ready.”

While it may have sprung from a simple idea – giving employers and prospects more control over industry pathways – the program has created excitement at Butte College, cracking a window into a wider world of “hire education” innovations. 

“This new program does not just strengthen the bridge between education and employment – it transforms our students’ potential,” says Brian Donnelly, Interim Director of the Butte College Career Center. “We are proud to witness students forging meaningful connections with employers as they build a future that is both fulfilling and impactful.”

“The strengths realized by working together allowed everyone to achieve more and built a foundation,” adds Liz Fraumann, Senior Project Manager at SynED. “As a result, the students and businesses have lasting relationships and achieved greater success with this event and will into the future.”

Though unique in approach, Butte College’s focus on direct, authentic outcomes echoes California’s broader “guided pathways” philosophy, driven by the Strong Workforce Program and other higher education funding efforts. Particularly in Northern California, where some industries traditionally struggle to maintain a consistent, qualified workforce, the simplest innovation can prove game changing.

“Our career readiness programs and job placement opportunities fuel the engine of student success,” concludes Shinar. “Through these connections, we empower our students to thrive in the professional world…guiding them towards a future filled with endless possibilities.” 

Thanks to the success of the inaugural hiring event, efforts for Fall 2023 and beyond are already picking up speed. For those involved, it’s easy to picture the same concept being applied to pathways in the surging IT, health care and manufacturing workforce – ultimately playing a pivotal role in Northern California’s future.

“We are already moving forward with new opportunities,” says Porter, reflecting on the future of the Career Center’s initiative. “Expanding this program next year will continue the momentum of employer engagement on campus.”

July 2023