A Vision for Democratizing Access for Students

A recap from Christine Cruzvergara’s welcome address at Access 2021

The past year has taught all of us about the power and barriers to access. At this moment of summer reflection, we have an opportunity to recalculate together and craft a new future to increase access and deliver more equitable outcomes for students. In partnership with our career services colleagues, we look forward to building this vision with them. 

At Handshake’s annual user conference, Access 2021, Christine Cruzvergara, Handshake’s Chief Education Strategy Officer, delivered a welcome that addressed how career services can seize this moment to embrace new beginnings, new systems, and new practices in the year to come.

Her talk focused four key areas for Handshake’s vision in the coming years: 

  1. Bring the product to life for students
  2. Increase access with trust
  3. Advocate for the profession with data and insights
  4. Deliver more equitable outcomes

Bring the product to life for students

As Handshake develops features and products in the coming years, we’ll focus on creating a product that’s easy to use, leads to real opportunities, and infuses real life into students’ growing network. This means a few things. 

First, we want students to have a more seamless experience using Handshake. We know that a student’s education pathway isn’t linear. Many students may transfer from a two-year institution to a four-year institution, transfer between four-year institutions, and eventually become employers. With that in mind, we want students to be able to take their Handshake account with them wherever they go and only have one login throughout their lifetime in the network.

Next, we want students to have a more personalized experience. Gen Z is used to having high levels of personalization in almost every aspect of their lives, whether its movie recommendations to fitness programs to financial tools. They expect the same from Handshake, and we’re excited to sharpen the experience on Handshake for students.

Last, we want students to have a more human experience. Handshake will never replace the human connection; instead we want to use Handshake to enable more connections at scale. Building relationships—with the career center, with employers, and with peers—is the jumping off point for students to discover career opportunities. Handshake wants to be the place where students can foster those connections.

Increase access with trust

At Handshake we are constantly asking ourselves: how do we increase access to opportunity while personalizing the experience for students? While there are plenty of opportunities on Handshake, the average student currently only sees about 3% of jobs posted on the network. This constrained level of access doesn’t serve students well. We want to know that students are not only seeing the most available jobs, but also the jobs that are best suited to them. 

The primary reason for this constraint is a system that we are all familiar with: job approvals. Ingrained in daily workflows, job approvals allow career centers to ensure the safety of students and legitimacy of employers, share relevant job opportunities, and show senior administrators the value that career services provides to help students get hired.

Our goal: help career services achieve those same outcomes by evolving the way we serve students.

We’ll achieve this two ways.

First, as ever, we will ground everything on trust and safety. By building better mechanisms to automate the legitimacy of employers, Handshake can strengthen trust and save career services time manually approving employers.

Next, we’ll drive relevancy by marrying personalization from technology with the expertise and guidance from career services. In this vision, career services professionals are no longer spending hours approving jobs for students. Instead, students have access to the trusted jobs on Handshake and career services uses their deep knowledge of their students to send signals in the platform and boost relevancy of job opportunities.

To learn more about the first step of this effort, watch the recording of the “Reimagining the Trust Score” session in the Access On-Demand Recording Hub.

Advocate for the profession with data and insights

Handshake believes in the work of career educators. As a partner, Handshake wants to advocate for the profession by contributing to the national conversation on the pathway from education to employment and emphasize the critical work of career services.

Outside of the national conversation, Handshake also wants to arm career educators with impactful data and insights to continue to drive change by embedding it into practice. Every career center is critical at their institution and insights from Handshake will allow partners to further advocate and highlight the importance of their work.

Deliver more equitable outcomes

Handshake’s vision would not be complete without explicit commitment to deliver more equitable outcomes. We achieve this in a few ways.

First, Handshake looks to its own data to hold itself accountable. Through an Impact Advisory Board made up of experts in the social impact space, Handshake is constantly evaluating the commitment to its mission and looks deeply to ensure its closing gaps rather than amplify them.

Next, Handshake looks to surface data to partners in this process. Last month, Handshake released its first set of DEI report templates in the product for partners to evaluate efforts at an institutional level and identify potential gaps across certain demographics.

Last, Handshake looks to illuminate research that can help change behavior. Handshake’s new research arm, Handshake Network Trends, will share data and insights for employers, higher education, and students to think more deeply about how they recruit and interact.

Guiding principles moving forward

Over the next three years, Handshake is committed to working tirelessly towards success in these four focus areas. Throughout this journey, Handshake defined principles to guide the deployment of these efforts.

  1. Always keep students safe: Handshake has always and will continue to abide by the strongest legal regulations to protect students from fraud.
  2. Always put students in the driver’s seat: When faced with an option, we always prioritize student preference, choice, and agency in their own career journey. This applies to everything from how they identify themselves to what opportunities they’d like to apply for.
  3. Always let schools create unique and personalized experiences: Handshake respects the expertise of its education partners. They will always have the ability to create the best experience to help their students find great opportunities.
  4. Always provide schools with insight and data on student activity: As a network, Handshake is uniquely positioned at the intersection between student, career center, and employer interaction. This position comes with the responsibility to surface the insight and engagement on the platform, especially as Handshake increases access to student opportunity with employers.

Watch the recordings of Access 2021 sessions, including Christine Cruzvergara’s welcome address, in the Access On-Demand Recording Hub.