When Moen Inc. wanted to fill job openings for part-time customer service representatives quickly while keeping a steady flow of new talent prospects for other roles within the organization, the number one faucet brand in North America, and subsidiary of Fortune Brands Home and Security, turned to Lorain County Community College. Moen adopted a variation of the college’s successful Earn and Learn model, where students are required to gain industry-related work experience while in school. Because of its success, many of LCCC’s career pathways require it.
“As we build new academic pathways and assess ways in which we can evolve existing pathways, we are doing so with the understanding that the traditional academic setting, where students first earn their college degrees and then transition into the workplace, is an outdated and ineffective way to learn,” said LCCC President Marcia Ballinger, Ph.D.
Meeting employer needs
Nationally, employers have said that college graduates who lack work experience do not have the right mix of hands-on experience and textbook knowledge. Earn and learn programs change that and, when presented with the right program, employers like Moen are on board to help.
“Lorain County Community College’s reputation for finding creative ways for students to connect with businesses in a manner that supports its students’ diverse scheduling needs while bringing value to its business partners is a key reason why we have chosen to partner with LCCC on a customer service internship program at Moen,” says Andy Cifranic, director, Consumer Connected Contact Center at Moen.
Cifranic says the program went from idea to implementation in just a few short months. LCCC selected existing academic pathways from which to recruit students, including hospitality and tourism and marketing, based on Moen’s skillset needs for the position. The two entities worked together to customize an earn and learn schedule that best suits both student and employer needs. Moen and LCCC launched their Contact Center Internship program in summer 2022, which begins with seven weeks of remote and on-the-job training. By fall semester, students started 20 to 28 hours of paid work per week and continue through the end of the spring semester, with the option to keep working throughout their degree program.
“The structure we put in place for Moen taps into the talent pipeline at the earliest stages,” says Chrissy Cooney, program developer for Business Growth Services at LCCC. “But it also has an employee growth plan and incentives that help with talent retention.”
Rethinking the intern
Internships are a staple in most any academic setting. These professional learning experiences, with and without pay, provide practical work opportunities to students. Most often, they’re temporary. But earn and learn programs give a more permanent employment outlook on internships.
With long-term recruiting in mind, Moen and LCCC designed a complete application and onboarding process for the program. Students work with LCCC’s career services team to ensure fit, finalize and submit a resume, interview with Moen representatives, and complete the company’s entrance exam.
“Moen leadership is interested in seeing these interns become full-time employees with broader goals, within both the work and academic settings,” says Cooney.
Marie Tobin, of North Ridgeville, seems to fit Moen’s targeted intern description. The 23 year old earned an associate of arts degree from LCCC in 2019 and a Bachelor of Arts in organizational leadership from Cleveland State University through LCCC’s University Partnership in 2021. Now she’s now taking LCCC courses to prepare for graduate school.
“Having this internship at Moen, which is flexible in schedule and supportive of my development, is more than I could ever ask for,” Tobin says. “I’d like to obtain my MBA within the next few years, and I’m hoping to continue my career at Moen after I finish school.”
Easing the stress of earning
Working while learning is the new normal for most college students – up to 70 percent according to recent data. And a study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce revealed that within this reality, some students, particularly low-income students, face steeper challenges when combining work and college.
But the stress related to balancing work and class can be eased when the job complements the educational experience, rather than adding to it. Students in the Moen earn and learn program choose their work hours, making it easier to schedule classes, keep home life commitments, and maintain other part-time work. It’s also fully remote, removing any transportation issues, and the company supplies all the hardware necessary, eliminating technological hurdles.
As LCCC and Moen begin the first year of their new earn and learn program, the college is ready to adapt it as necessary, based on student feedback and employer outcomes.
“Industry and employer connections have always been a hallmark distinguisher of community colleges,” says Ballinger. “Our earn and learn programs leverage those long-standing relationships in the most impactful way and for the benefit of students, employers, and the college. It’s a win for all.”