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HCC career transcripts assess more than grades

June 24, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Cheyanne Lewis went to the computer lab Thursday and looked online at a college transcript that did not provide information on her grades.

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Instead, it rated her ability to think and solve problems.

The Hagerstown Community College graduate was one of the first students in the country to take part in the Career Transcript System pilot program.

Students who participated were assessed for skills such as responsibility and reasoning.

Peers and professors also rated the students and the averaged scores were entered into a database.

The results are available on the Internet for students, as well as their prospective employers or current bosses, to check out.

"I think it's really good for employers to access," said Lewis, a recent HCC graduate from Martinsburg, W. Va. "I would want them to access it. I think it would make me more competitive."

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As part of a six-year project funded by the National Science Foundation, Johns Hopkins University researchers are working with four community colleges to teach future workers the skills they will need to compete in the job market.

The career transcript is intended to document the abilities of prospective employees.

"Our idea is, whether you're on welfare or you're a 40-year-old in a company with a master's degree, you can begin to build this transcript," said Arnold H. Packer, a senior fellow at Hopkins' Institute for Policy Studies.

"The person can say, 'Here's what I can do,' not ... 'I got a 'B' in Biology,'" he said in a press release.

In 1991, the U.S. Labor Secretary's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills identified key skills, such as the ability to manage time and interpret information.

Parker heads a center at Hopkins that is trying to give employers a way to better evaluate workers, increase worker productivity and decrease turnover.

AES International, a Detroit Lakes, Minn., company, developed tests that measure competency in the skills identified as important by the program.

AlignMark, a work force recruitment and development company in Maitland, Fla., created the database and Web site for the career transcripts.

Students can access their transcripts using their Social Security numbers and a code. They can block parts they don't want employers to see.

Statements such as, "Accurately recalls factual information from discussion," are followed by assessments such as "needs development, performs acceptably or performs proficiently."

Some skills come with a percentage rating.

Packer said companies that use the career transcript system will benefit from inventorying their employees' abilities.

"If you go to a factory and you ask them what is their inventory, they can probably tell you how many machines they have and how many supplies," he said. "But if you go to them and say, 'Tell me about your intellectual capacity,' they won't be as clear."

It is Packer's hope that the career transcript will become widely accepted as more colleges participate.

Some students and business leaders on hand Thursday for the database debut were skeptical.

David Gerrish, a Frederick, Md., resident and recent HCC graduate, said he thinks the overall concept is a good one. But he said he believes the assessment system is flawed because it involves peer groups.

"The only problem I could see is if you had conflicting personalities," he said.

In other words, an enemy could give you a low mark in sociability skills and thus hurt your hiring potential.

Kurt Johnson, vice president of payment solutions at First Data Merchant Services in Hagerstown, suggested it is necessary to better explain the online transcripts and said employers would question the validity of the results.

Johnson, who is a member of a local advisory board for the project, said an effort to follow up on the workers would increase the validity of the system.

For example, employers could verify whether a student deserves a high rating for visualization, he said.

The career transcript Web address is http://cts.alignmark.com.

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