New Hampshire Technical Institute
Off-Campus FWS: Opening Up Career Pathways
“It is easy to create work-study jobs on campus, but the opportunities off campus can be as meaningful or more meaningful. It has helped many of our students open up career pathways or change directions.” Steve Caccia
Vice President of Student Affairs
New Hampshire Technical Institute
Steve Caccia has been working to build a strong community service program for the students at New Hampshire Technical Institute (NHTI) for many years. Having served as a VISTA volunteer early in his career, he has a personal interest in providing positive community-based opportunities for students that enrich and enhance the traditional college student experience.
Caccia believes service-learning and civic engagement are more common in higher education now because college presidents are more focused on it, and because students are coming into college with this interest. “I have a 17-year-old, and many of his peers are very involved in community action, more than ten years ago. Churches, scouting, and high schools have all taken it on and interest in community service is spreading to a wider population of kids. It is recognized as a good thing to do.”
Community service Federal Work-Study (FWS) is one way that NHTI students experience community service. While all forms of FWS (both on-campus and in the community) provide students with “real life experience,” Caccia believes that students see their on-campus employment as “just a job,” while a position at an organization such as the Boys and Girls Club or the Housing Authority is more career-related and can feel more like the real world because students are away from campus. “Community service jobs help students make decisions about careers, even if they discover that what they thought the wanted to do isn’t right for them. That’s a valuable outcome, too,” he explains.
“There are a lot of colleges in Concord, but NHTI is home base for 3,500 students, so we want to provide a lot back to the community,” says Caccia. He emphasizes the benefits that community service FWS offers community organizations. He has served on the board of directors for both the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA in Concord, and knows these organizations rely on bright, energetic students. “Students help them help their populations, such as providing role models for children. The more help they have, the better the services they can provide.” He hopes organizations in Concord see NHTI as a resource in many ways, such as providing facility space and speakers, in addition to the assistance students provide.
Caccia notes that the more the college and community are connected, the more the mission of the college is enhanced. “Long term, community-based work-study is a great way to engage community groups and give them a better feel for the college. It will come back to help the college in the long run,” he says. But he acknowledges that there is an investment of time and resources to make such a program work. Despite this, he encourages his peers at other institutions to establish community service FWS programs. “It is easy to create work-study jobs on campus, but the opportunities off campus can be as meaningful or more meaningful. It has helped many of our students open up career pathways or change directions. This is a great opportunity for students to get a good experience, and the more they are out in the community, the more it helps them, the organization, and our institution.”
NHTI’s FWS Program: Meeting Community Needs
“We’re Concord’s community college, so it is important for us to meet community needs.” Chuck Lloyd
Director, Campus Activities and Community Service
New Hampshire Technical Institute
Chuck Lloyd directs the community service efforts at New Hampshire Technical Institute. He has worked at the school for nearly four years. His role includes helping manage the community service FWS program for NHTI, specifically making 35-40 student placements annually in the community.
Many students approach Lloyd asking about the opportunity to do their work-study job in the community. After the Financial Aid department checks the students’ financial aid eligibility, students bring their paperwork to Lloyd, showing how many hours they can work. He interviews the students about their interests and academic major and matches them to one of 25 community sites. He sets up an interview between the community supervisor and the student to make sure there will be a good match. Lloyd does this at the beginning of each semester, although many students serve a full school year at their site.
Lloyd strives to improve the quality of NHTI’s community partnerships each year. “We’re Concord’s community college, so it is important for us to meet community needs,” he says. He sends a weekly or bi-weekly email to partners to solicit their feedback on the program, and does a site visit with each student at the community agency. NHTI pays for the employer portion of the students’ wages, so community partners do not pay anything to participate in the program.
Students receive $8 per hour for community service FWS positions, which is more than other student jobs. This is a way to attract students to the program. Lloyd encourages students to see these jobs as a good way to strengthen their resumes and make a lot of contacts. Some students have been hired for permanent positions at the community organization where they served.
Lloyd also checks in with the Financial Aid office each week regarding the hours students have left in their FWS contracts. He describes his relationship to the Financial Aid office as very strong, and emphasizes this helps make the program work well.
A recent grant from Campus Compact for New Hampshire allowed Lloyd to do more program marketing (e.g., creating a brochure) and hire an intern to facilitate training for students before their begin their work. The training provides basics of the program and how to best serve the needs of community sites.
Lloyd finds that community service FWS works well with his other community service programming. FWS students, volunteers, and service-learners all serve at the same sites, and the FWS students can be on-site trainers and support to the other students.
When asked about challenges he faces, Lloyd explains that community service FWS is not well known and that students at NHTI, a commuter school, aren’t necessarily looking for “another job.” Some community partners don’t understand the distinction between FWS and volunteers. He also acknowledges that community-based jobs require travel and are not “a chance to do homework” like some campus jobs.
Lloyd emphasizes that part of his program’s success is due to keeping important decision makers informed. He has conversations with the campus president and vice-president and documents the program, such as taking photos and writing articles, and shares these with the campus public information office so they can let others know about the good work that is happening. Chuck also recommends having a marketing plan that “makes it just as easy to get a community service job as an on-campus job” and to talk about the benefits to students. He also encourages others who are thinking of starting a community service FWS program to “keep it simple” by creating tools such as checklists for students. (See an example of such a checklist on the program’s brochure.)
The Student Perspective: “Cool, I Had Part in That!”
“I love people and get to work with people all the time in this job… After a project comes together, I can say, ‘Cool, I had a part in that!'” Niccole Rennie
Student, New Hampshire Technical Institute
Niccole Rennie is a student at New Hampshire Technical Institute who helps organize community service activities as part of her FWS job. She works closely with the Director for Community Service, many community organizations, and other students. Her position is considered “community service” FWS because she is helping connect NHTI students with community organizations.
“I love people and get to work with people all the time in this job,” she explains. Rennie is an athlete who enjoyed coaching youth basketball while in high school and participating in fundraising events for different nonprofit organizations. She hadn’t held another FWS job while in college, but thought the position with the Community Service program sounded like a fun way to help others.
Some of the activities Rennie has completed for her FWS job include:
- Recruiting student volunteers for community projects.
- Recruiting students for FWS positions in the community.
- Communication with community partner organizations.
- Participating in a spring break trip with Habitat for Humanity.
- Coordinating charity fundraising efforts, such as NHTI’s involvement in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life and the campus wiffelball tournament raising money for sick children.
Rennie helps raise money and donations for different community projects and enjoys seeing the success of the events. “After a project comes together, I can say, ‘Cool, I had a part in that!'” She has met many people and developed new skills as part of her position. “I used to hate talking on the phone, but the campus staff helped me learn to talk and write in a professional way when I’m trying to get donations and write thank you letters, and now I’m relaxed about doing it.” Rennie believes the skills she’s developed in communicating with different kinds of people will be beneficial after college.
In her positions, Rennie also communicates with people on campus to get them interested in the events and community service opportunities. “I know a lot more professors and they know me. If I’m struggling with school, I feel I can go to them now.”
Rennie also likes being part of a group of people trying to make a difference. She works with other students and the campus staff to get more students involved. She feels that NHTI really supports student involvement in the community, and hopes to continue her work-study position for another year.