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Employer Perspectives on Preparing the Next Generation of Fish and Wildlife Professionals. Steve L. McMullin Department of Fish & Wildlife Conservation Virginia Tech smcmulli@vt.edu. Background and Objectives.

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employer perspectives on preparing the next generation of fish and wildlife professionals

Employer Perspectives on Preparing the Next Generation of Fish and Wildlife Professionals

Steve L. McMullin

Department of Fish & Wildlife Conservation

Virginia Tech

smcmulli@vt.edu

background and objectives
Background and Objectives
  • Frequent complaints: graduates not adequately prepared for jobs as F&W professionals
  • Employer, student & faculty perceptions:
    • What is important in determining career success?
    • Proficiency of recent entry-level hires
  • What to do & who should do it
slide3

“Too few schools offer good instruction in the field operations of wildlife management and administration; too many offer indifferent training in wildlife science and research.”

Aldo Leopold, 1939

recurring themes
Recurring Themes
  • BS/BA inadequate to prepare students for professional work
  • Broad interdisciplinary undergraduate programs
  • Save specialization for graduate work
  • Focus on critical thinking, communication
  • “People” skills: human dimensions, policy, interpersonal communication, teams
  • Too much focus on research, not enough on job skills and management
a plethora of options
A Plethora of Options
  • 526 North American institutions offer courses in wildlife or related fields (Wallace & Baydack 2009)
  • 430 schools offer fisheries or related courses, >200 more with environmental programs (AFS 2014)
research questions
Research Questions
  • Most important knowledge & skills for early career success as a professional?
  • Student and faculty perceptions of how well academic programs prepare young professionals
  • Employer perceptions of proficiency of recent entry-level hires
  • What to do & who should do it?
surveys of tws afs members
Surveys of TWS & AFS Members
  • TWS survey
    • State agencies (n=418)
    • Fed agencies (n=342)
    • NGOs (n=111)
    • Private (n=235)
    • Faculty (n=218)
  • AFS survey
    • State agencies (n=472)
    • Fed agencies (n=227)
    • NGOs (n=55)
    • Private (n=192)
    • Faculty (n=184)
    • Students (n=231)

(Stauffer & McMullin 2009)

(McMullin et al. in prep)

importance to early career success
Importance to Early Career Success?
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Oral communication skills
  • Written communication skills
  • Working in teams
  • Fish/Wildlifecourses
  • Biological sciences
  • Physical sciences
  • Math & statistics
  • Human dimensions

>>

All topics rated at least somewhat important

slide10

Perceptions of Proficiency: Students, Faculty, Employers

Undergraduates, Faculty & Employers

Masters students, Faculty & Employers

who should be most responsible for addressing deficiencies
Who should be most responsible for addressing deficiencies?

Societies

Universities

Employers

  • Critical thinking
  • Writing skills
  • Speaking skills
  • Technical knowledge
  • Field skills
  • Working in teams
  • Nontechnical communication
  • Establish standards
  • Provide opportunities for education, communication, networking
challenges for academia
Challenges for Academia
  • Faculty:
    • Curricular changes & limits on total credits
    • Costs of experiential learning
    • Time required to improve comm. Skills
  • Students/employees:
    • Gaining experience
    • Life-long learning
challenges for employers
Challenges for Employers
  • Increased expectations must be consistent with educational requirements
  • Don’t expect finished products
  • Invest in employees
  • Work with universities on curricula, research
challenges for professional societies
Challenges for Professional Societies
  • Keep certification requirements current
  • Offer low-cost training opportunities
acknowledgements
Acknowledgements
  • TWS Ad-hoc Committee on Collegiate Wildlife Programs
  • AFS Special Committee on Education Requirements
  • TWS & AFS—funding support
  • Vic DiCenzo