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Strada Education Network and George Mason University Launch first-of-its-kind Digital Toolkit for ADVANCE Partnership with NOVA

Strada Education Network provided a $1M grant this fall to help George Mason University launch the ADVANCE Career Accelerator Toolkit, a first-of-its-kind web-based application designed to help prospective students select majors based on desired career outcomes.

ADVANCE is a seamless transfer pathways partnership between Mason and Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) that offers students defined roadmaps and integrated support services leading to successful completion of a bachelor’s degree.

The ADVANCE Career Accelerator Toolkit helps students see the roadmap and their destination clearly and understand the advantages of persisting in their chosen course of study as they earn critical skills needed by employers. The initial launch is aimed at prospective students who are looking to identify the right degree program and career. Current students will have access to the Accelerator in spring 2021.

“The beauty of the skills roadmap is that it will show a student the tangible skills they are acquiring at each step of the way in the ADVANCE program,” said Dr. Marc Austin, executive director of Mason’s Academic Ventures unit. “Our hope is that it will help students get jobs and internships because they can point to the high-demand skills they are acquiring in their courses.”

The Career Accelerator maps in-demand skills directly to the courses students need to take as part of their undergraduate degrees. By selecting their desired degree, students can view prospective courses and the skillsets associated with each course. This clear connection keeps career relevance front and center throughout their academic progression. It also helps them better communicate to employers how their degree and educational experiences relate to jobs.

“While ADVANCE assures that students can easily follow explicit pathways through NOVA and Mason to a baccalaureate degree, the Career Accelerator will help them select the right pathway in the first place. Students don’t always understand what different career titles mean or what they entail, but the Accelerator will help navigate the career exploration process so that they make well-informed decisions,” said Sheri Robertson, interim Chief Academic Officer at NOVA.

The Career Accelerator also draws on labor market data from Burning Glass Inc., a job market analytics firm, and features videos about career options in three high-growth areas – technology, business and health. Over time, the Accelerator will offer more degree programs aligned with other industries.

The Accelerator will put accessible labor market data directly in the hands of coaches, helping them become familiar with industry needs and emerging market trends. Starting in early 2021, coaches providing academic and career advising and helping students navigate their journey from NOVA to Mason, can use this information to inform advising discussions with their students.

“This work is another example of how Mason is creating access to excellence for our students,” said Mason Provost Dr. Mark Ginsberg. “We provide the necessary conditions for students to excel and experience transformational learning throughout their time with us. At the same time, we also ensure that the knowledge they gain is of consequence, that they can use it to contribute effectively to society.”

One of the Career Accelerator’s most exciting features is its capability to generate a skills transcript that tracks students’ progress and helps them accurately communicate the skills they earned in their courses. The skills transcript, which serves as a supplement to the traditional academic transcript, also gives employers better insight into students’ capabilities, helping them identify the right job based on their skillsets.

"At Strada, we're focused on empowering learners to complete their education with purpose," said Strada CEO William D. Hansen. "The Career Accelerator will enable NOVA and Mason students to better navigate their individual paths by helping them understand how to get where they want to go and the skills they need to develop along the way. These types of innovations, focused on learners' needs and goals, represent the kind of change we want to see in the education-employment system."

The Career Accelerator has been developed to help students identify and land the right jobs. But for Mason, NOVA and Strada, the ultimate goal is always degree completion.

“We’ve designed the toolkit with the intent to create a clear path for our students because we believe that if they can see the steps laid out in front of them, they will be inspired to gain these valuable skills, and they’ll push through to the finish line,” says Austin. “While skills acquisition is incredibly important, it’s the degree that makes all the difference.” 

For more information about the Career Accelerator and to follow our progress, visit us at: https://acat.advancesuccess.gmu.edu/about.

George Mason University Media Contact: Robin Rose Parker, Director for Strategic Engagement and Communications, rparkera@gmu.edu.

Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) is the largest public institution of higher learning in the Commonwealth of Virginia and one of America's largest community colleges. NOVA enrolls nearly 80,000 students at its six campuses in Alexandria, Annandale, Loudoun, Manassas, Springfield (Medical Education Campus) and Woodbridge, through NOVA Online and high school dual enrollment. We offer more than 100 associate degree and certificate programs to help our students reach their academic and professional goals through university transfers and access to the most in-demand careers. At NOVA, we strive to ensure that every student succeeds, every program achieves and every community prospers. For more information about NOVA and its programs or services, visit our website, www.nvcc.eduor call 703.323.3000.