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To meet the demands of our customers, partners and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), we rely on the expertise of Consulting Systems Engineers (CSE). CSEs bridge the gap between product, solutions and customers. To bridge this gap efficiently, CSEs are required to understand sales techniques, technology and problems faced by their customers and prospective clients.

WWT has identified the challenges of hiring CSEs with the requisite knowledge that takes into consideration the constant change of technology combined with the ability to make an effective sales pitch. A program was needed within WWT to educate passionate individuals on best practices of The World Wide Way and efficient CSE  practices. Thus far, 19 associates have been carefully interviewed, assessed and hand-picked within the tenets of the WWT ACSE Development Program. As facilitators continue to educate associates on best practices, they are learning that associates advance at different rates. At program conclusion, the objective for all associates would entail being effective in the field, with a thorough understanding of the technology sales processes. If an associate meets the objectives prior to the program's end date, could the associate be released from the program, into the workplace, before their peers? What would be the long-term effects of allowing early placement within the workplace?

As the WWT Associate Systems Consulting Engineer (ACSE) Development Program began we noticed a trend in the personas of associates. The associates fell into one of the three categories:

  • Career change
  • Career advancement
  • Early in Career

Skills and background of associates entering the ACSE Development Program vary significantly based on these three different personas. This leads to varied progress rates among the ACSE community. This conundrum leads to the question: should the associates be allowed to "graduate" early. However, there is a lack of research on perceived effectiveness of career training programs and the impact of early graduation (Simpson et al., 1997; Weiss et al., 2014; York et al., 2015). 

The facilitators of the ACSE Development Program began by asking the question: how do facilitators ensure early graduate participants graduate the program with effective career readiness? To that effect, similar programs from thirteen of WWT's leading partners were examined. Six of the thirteen partners lacked any development program such as the WWT ACSE Development Program and two partners were noncompliant within the research. The five remaining partners had a similar development. Program managers within these five partners were interviewed with a series of questions with the purpose of evaluating each of their programs. 

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There were evident similarities. The graphs to the right summarize the data. The first graph is the number of participants in each of the five partner program cohorts at any given time. The second graph is the number of companies, of the five evaluated, who possess each criterion. Although partner A, by far, has the most participants within a cohort in a single year, three program managers or program facilitators are needed to support 29 participants. Whereas Partner C and E produce 10-12 associates per cohort, twice a year, resulting in 24 participants graduating within a year. Five companies look for strictly new graduates who are recruited by the local university. Partner B and D's programs are funded by the local university. All companies had an extensive interview process resulting in four companies requiring relocation and three companies requiring a signed claw back agreement. Two companies provided a two-path option within the program: Sales and Technology. Partner B is the only company with a duration of a six-month program. Two companies have set objectives. Of these two companies, Partner A is the only company with set program objectives and graduation requirements which does not allow early graduation. Although Partner B has set program objectives, graduation requirements have not been established. Along with Partner A, creating established graduation requirements, Partner D and E have also established graduation criteria and allow early graduation. Partner B also allows early graduation, resulting in three companies that allow early graduation. 

After compiling our findings and configuring trends, three of the five partners allow early graduation; however, they lack graduation requirements for the program. All five partners only accept new college graduates into their program. Because the participants of these five partner development programs all contain new college graduates (early in career personas), it is unclear how these partners ensure field readiness for their early graduates. Our research was unable to discern which aspects of the program were eliminated for the participant to be released into the workplace. This is a key differentiator of WWT's development program. As a reminder, associates from WWT's development program fell into one of the three categories: career change, career advancement, and early in career. Because of the associates' varied background, this led to the associates excelling at different rates.  

A new question arose within this study and an addendum was needed to modify mindset for early term graduation. Early graduation may be perceived by some as a shortening of the curriculum. This shift in mindset, will evolve the term of early graduation to developing and implementing an individualized education learning plan for each graduate. Timeline of graduation may vary by graduate expertise, knowledge, experience and acquired certifications. This is when our addendum was created from: How do facilitators ensure early graduate participants graduate the program with effective career readiness? To How does an individualized education plan for participants impact their career readiness upon graduation?

As learning theories in education have developed over the past century, individualized education plans, also known as differentiation instruction, came to light in 1990. Differentiation is the process by which a teacher designs and implements lessons that are adapted to meet each student's individual and diverse need in order to facilitate success (Santangelo & Tomlinson, 2009, p. 308). Differentiation emphasizes the learning process that students must complete in learning the content (Tomlinson, 1999). There are several ways to look at differentiating instruction:

  • Curriculum differentiation as it refers to students enrolling and participating in a variety of different courses or completely different educational programs than other students based on their personal academic ability levels
  • Differentiated instruction which refers to what is taking place educationally and instructionally within one specific classroom, and the idea differentiation alone to encompass everything (Anne & Hanley, 2017)

Classrooms contain students who are diverse in a variety of ways thus creating the importance of using differentiated instruction (Oden, 2012). Differentiated instruction allows the facilitator to focus on the same key principals and goals for all students however the pace and rate toward mastering these concepts varies (Subban, 2006). Subban continues to support the idea of differentiating instruction to be a philosophy of teaching that is based on the premise that students learn best when facilitators accommodate the differences in readiness, interest and learning profiles. 

The study determined that individualized learning plans may be highly effective. Further research is needed to identify a standardized methodology to create individualized learning paths for each associate. The facilitators of WWT's ACSE Development Program decided the interview process when recruiting associates should communicate two conclusions:

  1. Which associates have the personality, skills and dedication to complete the program.
  2. A skills evaluation process for the enrolled associates in order to create an individualized learning path to meet program objectives. 

A new study will begin to evaluate the interview process of our partners. Upon our findings, the WWT ACSE Development Program will create a new method to interviewing ACSE candidates. The result in differentiating the ACSE Development Program will support the findings in answering the question: How does an individualized education plan for participants impact their career readiness upon graduation?

References 

Lesley, A., & Haney, R. (2017). Differentiation (DI) in Higher Education (HE): Modeling What We Teach with Pre-Service Teachers. Journal of Higher Education Theory and Practice17(9), 28–38. https://articlegateway.com/index.php/JHETP/article/view/1535

Oden, C. (2012). The Effects of Differentiated Instruction on the Achievement of High School Business Education Students. Non-Jounal. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED550564

Santangelo, T., & Tomlinson, C. A. (2009). The application of differentiated instruction in postsecondary environments: Benefits, challenges, and future directions. International Journal of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education, 20(3), 307-323. 

Simpson, M. L., Hynd, C. R., Nist, S. L., & Burrell, K. I. (1997). College academic assistance programs and practices. Educational Psychology Review, 9(1), 39-87.

Subban, P. (2006). Differentiated instruction: A research basis. International Education Journal, 935–947. https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED550564

Tomlinson, C. A. (1999). Mapping a route toward differentiated instruction. Educational Leadership, 57(1), 12-16. 

Weiss, M. J., Bloom, H. S., & Brock, T. (2014). A conceptual framework for studying the sources of variation in program effects. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 33(3), 778-808.

York, T. T., Gibson, C., & Rankin, S. (2015). Defining and measuring academic success. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 20.

Learn more about the Associate Consulting Systems Engineer Development Program.