Alumni Engagement. What’s In It for VET/FE Schools?

TRACKTION is entering its third and final year of implementation.  Our ongoing tracer study will collect the next batch of post-graduation data at the end of 2019 but in the meantime we will turn our attention to explore ways to improve or devise new alumni engagement strategies at VET schools.

Our pre-graduation survey shows 2 out of 3 students in our sample (n=624) expressed an interest in keeping in touch with their school after graduation. They would like to receive info on job opportunities but they are also keen to give back and contribute to school activities as guest lecturers or giving career talks, to name a few.  Unfortunately, there’s not always a strong alumni network or alumni office in place to take advantage of this untapped potential and interest.

During the last decade, the International CASE Alumni Relations Survey (ICARS)  has documented the evolving alumni relations landscape in Higher Education Institutions in Europe. Released by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) , the latest edition of this study provides some inspiring pointers on how to articulate a sound alumni strategy based on the info provided by 99 Higher Education Institutions across Europe (75% UK-based).

Number of attendees, volunteers and donors are the three measures of success identified by ICARS. At first sight, the fundraising role may not be so significant when you work in a VET setting but the other two levels of engagement (attendees and volunteers) convey the message that both sides benefit from the relation.  Another interesting concept identified by ICARS is the concept of alumni programme maturity. A mature programme is one up and running for several years with a portfolio of repeated events and services, a dedicated staff and a budget to make it happen.

Staff, budget? Hmmm… VET institutions taking part in our baseline study flagged up some interesting initiatives but at the same time raised concerns about lack of funding or personnel to make alumni services sustainable.  So what’s just possible in a VET School setting? Start with what you have. A basic first step is collecting all the actions that your colleagues and you already do. While this initial picture may lack structure, more often than not the portfolio of actions is more impressive than expected. Next engage in a conversation with students about alumni engagement, elicit their opinions about what they expect, the best channels to stay in touch and get student consent to start building a database of contacts before they leave the school.  Organizing an event or inviting former students to join this conversation may be a good way to get the ball rolling.

We haven´t found so many outstanding alumni initiatives in the VET sector yet. Some of them have been featured in our blog. We learned about the amazing job done by the Armeria Eskola Alumni Association  in the Basque Country (Spain) or the innovative ways former students are engaged in quality assurance at Alfa College (The Netherlands). Outside Europe, we have recently stumbled upon the Australian VET Alumni Programme, a national community of VET graduates, training organisations, practitioners and businesses dedicated to sharing their VET journey and encourage greater participation in VET  but  we’re sure there are many many more. So, if you happen to be running one of them, we would love to hear more from you.

Alumni engagement will be part of the discussions in our 5th project meeting taking place in lovely Como (Italy) next week. Stay tuned for more details.


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