Why Skills?

Employers say: “It’s the skills, stupid!”

A widely cited 2014 study shows that four of the top five attributes in employers’ hiring decisions are based on some kind of experience: internships, employment during college, volunteer experience, and extra-curricular activities.

Source: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/08/the-thing-employers-look-for-when-hiring-recent-graduates/378693/
STEP researchers have compiled an annotated bibliography that shows that students need to develop skills not provided by traditional academic program and that employers want them to have these skills.

This research helped inspire the need to create the Skills Through Experience Program. Find more information on the research and other motives for STEP in the full rationale.


STEP researchers have also compiled two reports, each on one of the main courses associated with the Skills Through Experience Program. These reports contain the results of the Fall 2016 semester’s course evaluations and are intended to serve as a baseline for future course evaluations.

PAF 410: Practicum in SU Policies– This course is designed to provide students with experience- and skill-based credit for employment within units at Syracuse University.

URP 470: Experience Credit– This course is designed to improve the skills students need for career and citizenship success through a combination of online assignments and 135 hours of work at a supervised site.

Testimonials from Students who took STEP Courses

Below is the student’s name, major(s) and graduation year, and current place of employment along with each testimonial:

Mat Mazer, Policy Studies ’15, JP Morgan
As a risk and controls analyst, the only thing that has prepared me to get thrown into the fire was doing prior internships, networking, and learning skills like excel. No one ever asked me if I knew vlookups or pivot tables, my bosses expected me to do them on the spot to assist with reporting. URP 470 was beneficial because it allowed me to get credit for something I was passionate about while also being provided a platform to reflect and apply new skills to do a better job.

Matthew Feibert, Biology ’15, U.S. Department of Justice Legal Analyst
URP 470 gave me the unique opportunity to earn credit my for using tangible skills on a daily basis while volunteering at Syracuse University Ambulance. URP 470 is unlike any other course at SU; as students we are told how our coursework will be beneficial to shaping our future but we sometimes lose sight of that idea. URP 470 provides course credit that IS “real-world” experience and that WILL shape your future.

Aysha Seedat, Political Science and Policy Studies ’16, JP Morgan
My internship for URP 470 was my role as President of Student Association. On the books, I worked about 20 hours a week, but it ended up taking far more of my time. I thoroughly enjoyed the work I was doing on behalf of Syracuse but it cut into my traditional in-the-classroom academic experience at SU. I traveled a lot and networked with student leaders across the country. URP 470 allowed me to continue to have those experiences all the while giving me academic credit for it. I’m a firm believer that every person learns differently, I certainly do. I enjoy working with other individuals with different personalities and initiatives. URP 470 was accepting of that.

Elizabeth Hayes, Geography and Citizenship & Civic Engagement ’16
URP 470 was great for me because it fulfilled my connective coursework requirement for my major by allowing me to do what I’d do anyway — a job. Connective coursework had to be 3 courses that directly related to the implementation of my capstone. I was annoyed my adviser was going to make me take 3 more theory courses that in reality didn’t relate to much of anything I was doing. They were just pointless courses. URP 470 managed to fulfill one of those requirements and actually allowed me to implement my capstone project while I worked at Sustainability Management. The course didn’t take up too much of my time, it was helpful, useful, and I didn’t feel like I was doing pointless work. It is great for people who want to have an internship or job while they go to school but still need credits to graduate. This way you can manage both without overwhelming yourself.

Maggie Tarasovitch, Policy Studies ’16, JP Morgan
Now my resume shows more depth to my experience, both the skills I have gained and the responsibilities I had. This opportunity allowed me to spend more time at the office, looking for solutions to problems. Instead of just acting as a student worker, I was able to use my internship as a way to make changes in the offices, which is reflected in my resume.
I learned to motivate myself as I worked through independent projects, develop real solutions to address real problems that our team faces, successfully sell these solutions to my teammates and my manager, and to teach others different procedures. I learned to create real change in order to help make our processes effective and to listen to my manager and my peers when considering these solutions. I also felt that I was able to prepare our team, as much as possible, for the largely new staff next semester. The internship, and specifically my manager, gave me the opportunity to act as a leader of the team, which inherently enabled me to develop these skills and many more. Overall, I believe this opportunity has prepared me for my future in the work force. I feel more confident recognizing problems, voicing my concerns, developing solutions, and implementing those solutions. I also believe this opportunity has helped me become a better communicator, specifically a communicator who can help teach others. I hope to continue to develop all of these skills as I move onto the next stage of my life of working as professional.

Liam Kirst,  Political Science ’17
On a personal level, the course was beneficial to me as someone that is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. As a sophomore at SU that worked a job, I grew overwhelmed by my coursework and ended up withdrawing from a whole semester of classes. Last Spring, the URP course made it so that I did not grow overwhelmed by the combination of schoolwork and actual work, as the URP credits allowed my internship experience to essentially serve as a class, as well. Furthermore, it helped me to regain some of the credits that I had lost as a sophomore.  The course complimented my strengths; I worked directly with businesses and members of the community, rather than struggling to pay attention in a classroom. While my situation is somewhat unique, I believe the experience would be beneficial to any student. For one, the class encourages you to be active in terms of networking, especially on LinkedIn. It also places a high emphasis on learning the skills that are critical in most careers; by the end of the class, I was able to assess these skills, therefore allowing myself to recognize my strengths, as well as where I need to improve. Lastly, the course encourages you to get out and work in the greater Syracuse community, expanding my experience. This was very important to me as someone from the city of Syracuse. I highly recommend the course to any student, especially those that are expected to succeed in college while juggling a job and a personal life.

Kelsey May, Geography and Policy Studies ’17
URP 470 allowed me to earn credit for my work-study position on campus. Taking the course forced me to examine the ways that I could improve skill sets that are laid out in the foundation of the Skills Through Experience Program. To me, the course was a win-win — I was able to earn 3 credits by being proactive in skills development for a job that already was doing.


Click here for a full list of testimonials from the PAF Department, which is the base of the skills through experience approach.