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Connecting Students to Jobs

Western’s Grace Janssen has taken plenty of calls over the last few months from area employers. They all have a common theme: 

“The employers need our students yesterday,” Janssen said. 

As Western’s Work Based Learning Specialist, Janssen’s job involves coordinating and developing opportunities that connect students to career learning experience. She often works with faculty and other areas of the college, looking to help students make informed career choices outside of the traditional career fair. It’s all a part of Western’s Experience 2025 strategic plan, designed to connect students to employers earlier in the academic timeframe. 

Much of that work is about changing the mindset about career-focused education. 

“We don’t want (a student’s experience) to be an internship just the end of the program,” said Janssen. “We want it to be interwoven. We want students to have opportunities throughout that time at Western. 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Janssen has continued her work on connecting employers to students, despite doing so in a virtual format. When restrictions began lifting this spring, it was time to put a new plan in motion: employer spotlight lunches. 

Starting the summer, Janssen began organizing these lunches as a way to connect these employers to students. The first business was Weiser Brothers and the Building Construction and Cabinetmaking program. 

A few weeks ago, Weiser Brothers had one half hour to describe the day-to-day life working for the business. From there, students had the opportunity to ask questions. Janssen says the event is not a career pitch. Instead, it is intended to give students a better idea of the business. 

“There is more focus on getting students to see what their outcomes could be,” Janssen said. “Employer spotlights are more about a day in the life. Giving students an opportunity to see what it would like to have a job with this employer.”

Weiser Brothers said the event was a positive and important experience. 

“It is so important for us to connect with the students face-to-face,” said Abby Voss, Human Resources Coordinator at Wieser Brothers. “We like to meet all the students each term and let them know all the opportunities we have. The job market is tough right now.” 

“The engagement level was palpable and clear from the students,” said Janssen. “They were very interested in learning about the process.” 

Into the Fall Term, Janssen hopes to expand the exploration lunches to select programs and businesses, hoping to further extend the opportunity to more students.   

For more information on career exploration at Western, visit