The Learn and Earn Advantage Program (LEAP) is making great strides on campus by helping employ freshmen students in departments throughout the university. The Career Management Center (CMC) created the program in spring 2011 as part of a presidential initiative from President John R. Broderick.
The plan was to offer income opportunities for freshmen that are not part of federal work-study program. LEAP helps freshman earn money and experience for their resumes. Students in the program are required to attend the university class 195, a ten-week one-credit class on work place readiness, as well as keep a 2.0 GPA. The students work along with sponsors who mimic the lessons the students will learn in the classes. Sponsors are sent a newsletter, which outlines the things being taught. They use the newsletter to set up situations in the work place to test those skills.
“[LEAP] is a fantastic program. It helps the supervisors because if they don’t have it in their budget to hire somebody, we do all the paper work. We do all the student employment processes. We do the payroll. All the supervisors have to do is identify a need and a job description. We match the students up,” said Randy Shabro, director of Employer Programs at CMC.
When freshman apply for the LEAP program, they fill out a profile and submit a resume. The LEAP program tries to fit them into a position that will complement their interests. Joslyn McElvy, administrative coordinator of student employment at CMC, said the students in LEAP work 10-15 hours a week at $8 an hour.
Around 125 students are employed under 80 different supervisors around campus. LEAP students work can be placed into four job areas: office assistant, event assistant, academic assistant and ODU support services. The jobs include driving carts on campus, answering phones in various departments, working at the Ted Constant Convocation Center and the Student Recreation Center.
This semester, CMC has partnered with Monarch Millionaire to offer a finance program for the LEAP students. The program will teach the student how to manage the money they are making through the program and learn about student loans.
On average the LEAP program accepts a maximum of 125-130 students a year. This year, 17 of those students volunteered to take the spring course of Monarch Millionaire: LEAP Edition. Shabro plans to have all the students be required to take the financial literacy class from Monarch Millionaires in the future, in addition to the university workplace readiness course 195.
After completing their first year at ODU, LEAP students who were enrolled as freshman can join LEAP 2 as sophomores. The LEAP 2 program is competitive and not all applicants make it in. LEAP 2 has identical goals as LEAP 1 but focuses on getting students jobs in a pre-internship position similar to their major. This opportunity will set them up with the abilities and work place knowledge to be a competitive applicant when they apply for internships in their junior year. “We are providing developmental, appropriate instruction and work place experiences for the first two years,” said Tom Wunderlich, executive director for CMC.
“These students that are going into this program have something I have never had. They are so far ahead of their peers with preparedness than most students at other universities,” said Jay McCord, assistant director at CMC. The team describes success so great that other schools have become interested in adopting the program.
On the other side of the scale, supervisors have enjoyed the benefits of the LEAP program. Kaila Kea, a success story from LEAP now works with Dr. Ellen Neufeldt, vice president of Student Engagement and Enrollment Services (SEES). Kea worked with CMC as a LEAP student and was hired by SEES to work in their office after her employment through LEAP was completed. Many sponsors will find space in their budget to hire students that were sent by LEAP due to their quality of work and experience.
It is very rare that students in the program are terminated. The program follows behavioral correction procedures when issues arise, for example not arriving to work. CMC works with ODU Cares to provide counseling services to students who need it. More often than not, the issues stem from stress over balancing school and work.
The CMC reaches out to students during ODU previews. LEAP has a table at every one to ensure all incoming freshman have the opportunity to enroll in the program. Once a student fills out their paperwork, the CMC makes a commitment to placing them into a position. The success has caused the program to begin keeping a waiting list. They will pull from this list to fill their 125 positions on campus.
As students from the program start to graduate from ODU, CMC and the LEAP coordinators will track the progress of the individuals in the working world to determine the success of the LEAP programs. The coordinators review surveys from students and supervisors to improve their program, so it can prepare students for an ever-changing workforce.
By: Megan Jefferson