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Project CEO: The Potential Value of Beyond-the-Classroom Experiences for Developing Career Competencies

With limited resources for on-the-job training, today’s employers often prefer college graduates who are “job ready” and can demonstrate competency-based skills, not just knowledge in a specific academic area. To meet this expectation, as well as to justify the rising costs of higher education, colleges and universities are under increasing pressure to prove they can adequately prepare their students for viable careers. This paper presents the Co-Curricular Experience Outcomes project, better known as Project CEO, whose findings can help us explore the question: How can institutions better prepare students to make the transition from their campuses to the career marketplace? Using the annual Job Outlook survey from NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) as a starting point for data collection, Project CEO focuses on student perceptions of skill development and attainment, especially in relation to co-curricular experiences. The research also considers the impact of off-campus employment as well as the first-generation student experience.