Student Engagement + Support System = Success

By on August 9, 2013
Student Engagement + Support System = Success

Student Perceptions from 2013 State of St. Louis Workforce Report

The 2013 survey results of 190 recent STLCC program completers and focus groups, a component of the annual State of St. Louis Workforce Report aligned with national studies of best practices of student engagement. When students are engaged and supported they succeed. For the second year, personal connections with advisors, faculty and other students were the key to keeping students retained and engaged.

Some 2013 Student Survey Statistics

  • The 2013 survey results revealed that students were satisfied with their choice of training programs. Over eight in ten would choose the same program again.
  • Most students, 85%, felt prepared to enter their training program but 42% had to take remedial or preparatory programs first.
  • By the end of their program students felt well prepared for the workforce.
  • Over nine out of ten students felt they were somewhat or strongly prepared in the areas of technical skills and soft skills.
  • When asked if they were able to apply their skills to improve performance on the job 95% responded “Yes.”

2013 Overall Threads and Student Perceptions

Being Prepared for Learning

One overall thread in the survey and focus group results was the importance of being prepared for learning through a strong start that includes building strong relationships with instructors and other advisory staff as expressed in student comments. Accessing academic advising services was the most- cited service used by students; 51 percent selected it.

“I had instructors that were committed to me getting through. They were driven to do what it took to help me be successful. They gave freely of time before and after class. I was motivated by the sacrifice of instructors.”

“My adviser helped me to get through. She worked to get me credit for work that I had done. She helped me to make the right choices and presented me with options to reach my goals. She seemed to care very much about my completion.”

Best Practice Insight: What works…A Strong Start

“Focusing attention on the front door of the college-ensuring that the students’ earliest contacts and first weeks incorporate experiences that will foster personal connections and enhance their chances of success- is a smart investment.” (A Matter of Degrees-Promising Practices for Community College Student Success, A First Look; Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) 2012)

Best Practice Insight: What works…High Expectations and High Support

“Students entering community colleges typically enroll with high aspirations… Too often, though, community colleges have emphasized college access…without designing systems to support their success. Higher education scholar Vincent Tinto famously asserts that “no one rises to low expectations” but he simultaneously affirms that high expectations without support constitute a hollow promise.” Designing New Academic Pathways, Kay McClenney and Donna Dare, Community College Journal, June/July 2013.

Being Prepared for Work

A second overall thread in the student survey and focus groups was the importance of being prepared for work. Past State of the St. Louis Workforce surveys, as well as evidence from many other studies, clearly show technical skills and interpersonal skills as two prominent dimensions for workplace success. Nearly 95 percent of the students responding felt that they were prepared in industry technical skills; 88 percent of the students felt prepared in the soft skills areas.

“I really benefitted from being forced to work with others on a number of projects. I prefer to work alone and didn’t like it when they made me do it. I am better at my current job because of it. I manage and deal with all types of personalities better because of my group work in the program.”

“My bosses loved it. They liked all of my updated skills and started relying on me for more jobs. They were impressed by the commitment I showed and wanted to leverage my new skills.”

Best Practice Insight: What works…Intensive Student Engagement

“Decades of research indicate that a key principle for design of effective educational practices and pathways is intentional and intensive student engagement…Simply put, the more students are actively involved with one another, faculty, staff, and the academic subject matter, the more likely they are to learn at higher levels, persist, and succeed in college.” Designing New Academic Pathways, Kay McClenney and Donna Dare, Community College Journal, June/July 2013.

Being Prepared for Success

Being prepared for success also was a key perception of students. Being prepared included both success in entering the workforce as well as performance on the job. This year, 66 percent of the students are working, with 39 percent working full-time and 57 percent working in their chosen field of study. More than 95 percent of the students said they had used the skills learned in their program of study to improve on the job performance.

“I spent a semester working in a lab at a real company. I learned how a lab was organized and run while gaining lots of industry specific knowledge. When I started a real job, I was able to jump right it.”

To find out more about this annual student survey, visit You may download the graphic summary or full 2013 State of St. Louis Workforce report.  You may also follow us on Twitter @stlworkforce and join the #STLworkforce ongoing conversation.

About Shayna Howell

Shayna was the Client Development Manager in the Workforce Solutions Group of St Louis Community College. She has over 20 years of experience in the Community College system in training and development, project management, program/course development, grant writing/administration and marketing.