Kazakhstan Country Director:
Career and Advising Center Director
Nazarbayev University, Astana
I welcome you at the Kazakhstani page, a newly joined country member at APCDA.
As a Director of the Career and Advising Center I have a privilege of working with a committed group of professionals who are here to help the students and graduates of Nazarbayev University to successfully connect their academic accomplishments with a wide range of career opportunities. I have worked in higher education for over 20 years. My Master Degrees in International Journalism (majoring in PR) and Business Administration have supported me throughout my professional life. I enjoy travelling, sports, and watching movies; cherish my family and friends.
May I share an article about the Career and Advising Center at Nazarbayev University for the local newspaper Astana Times. Here’s the link: https://astanatimes.com/2017/06/nu-career-centre-assists-graduates-in-landing-a-job/
Highlights from Kazakhstani Career Centers, December 2017, by Stanley Currier
Over the summer of 2017, I conducted a survey and in-depth interviews with university career centers from three different cities in Kazakhstan: Almaty, Astana and Kostanai. The goal of the research was to investigate the role of career centers at Kazakhstani universities in improving students' workforce preparedness and increasing employability. This article will provide a brief snapshot of career center services at Kazakhstani universities and share best practices that four universities surveyed utilize to increase student employability.
Brief Snapshot – Career Centers at Kazakhstani Institutes of Higher Education
Career and advising centers at Kazakhstani institutes of higher education are a relatively new phenomenon. During the Soviet period, university graduates were assigned a position based on their university specialty and industry requirements. Open borders, new professions and advancements in technology have changed the picture considerably over the past two decades. Among the universities polled for this research, career centers were established as early as 1995 and as recently as 2015. Levels of career center staffing and range of services provided vary tremendously, largely due to a university's individual strategic priorities, resources and budgets.
Career and advising centers in Kazakhstan provide varied services to students and alumni and proffer different levels of engagement with industry. Services offered range from individual one-on-one counseling appointments with students to large all-university events such as career fairs or employer recruitment sessions. Career center staff assist students with securing internships, liaise with a whole range of stakeholders internally and externally, and prepare students for employment opportunities. Many of the challenges that career center staff expressed related to their work are not faced by Kazakhstani institutions alone. For example, tracking student employment data and maintaining accurate alumni data is a challenge faced by universities globally. Staff training and retention is another challenge shared by Kazakhstani universities with others around the world.
Career Center Services to Increase Employability: Institutional Highlights
Career Fairs: Varied Activities and Approaches
A nuanced career fair approach and varied fair formats yield positive results related to workforce preparedness, as demonstrated by several universities surveyed. KazGUU University in Astana has a segmented approach to its career fairs, hosting an internship-themed fair in the fall semester and an employment- themed fair in the spring semester. The university targets companies for each of these fairs according to their respective internship and employment needs. This tailored approach results in higher industry, university and student satisfaction with placement rates.
KIMEP University in Almaty incorporates multiple forums and strategy sessions into its annual career fair. During its last fair, KIMEP included a forum themed "Education and Employment: New Realities." The forum brought together top HR executives with diverse perspectives. They discussed topics such as key skills in the post-industrial era. During the fair, students had the opportunity to gain feedback on their résumés and their presentation styles.
Nazarbayev University in Astana has innovated beyond the traditional career fair format. Instead of organizing annual career fairs, the university conducts a series of on-campus recruitment events throughout the year. The university found that at traditional career fairs, the number of vacancies companies can offer is limited, and not always appropriate for new graduates. Today, the university conducts a series of customized campus recruitment events throughout the year, designed to link to the employability levels of Nazarbayev University graduates.
Industry Engagement: Thematic Round Tables and Case Study Competitions
In addition to university advisory boards, several universities surveyed shared innovative ways that they maintain close contact with industry. Narxoz University in Almaty engages with business by organizing periodic thematic round table discussions with employers. Each time the targeted invite group changes, so do the presented topics – for example, the university has organized round tables for employers in the areas of the banking, consulting, audit, hospitality, agriculture and manufacturing industries. This practice could be valuable for those universities that are looking for targeted feedback from particular industries. This approach also compliments advisory board activities.
KIMEP University in Almaty offers companies the opportunity to develop and advertise case study competitions among its students. Student teams have the opportunity to solve a real case study for a company via a team competition. Open to students at both the bachelor and master's level, these competitions are win-win for students and companies. Students have the chance to apply their critical thinking, teamwork and technical skills to a case study and companies receive valuable insight that can be applied to marketing, sales and design concepts.
Internship and Employment Preparation: Mock Interviews by Companies
Trainings, seminars and master classes related to employability competencies emerged unanimously as the top services that career centers provide to students to help prepare them for employability and job competitiveness. These include training sessions and feedback on résumés and CVs, interview preparation and interviewing skills practice labs. Nazarbayev University in Astana highlighted a best practice of inviting companies on campus to provide 'mock interviews' for students. Though the interviews are not always for currently open positions, Nazarbayev University Career and Advising Center Director Yevgeniya Kim noted that 'often companies are so impressed with our students during the mock interviews that they find ways to offer them internships or keep them in mind for future opportunities.'
This brief article presented a range of best practices that are currently employed by Kazakhstani career centers including a targeted approach to career fairs, innovations in industry engagement and preparation for internships and employment via mock interviews with company representatives. These programming strategies and approaches could easily be adapted to other country contexts. These ideas may be useful for university leadership, career center staff, and companies interested in utilizing career centers as a vehicle to improve workforce preparedness and student employability.
Stanley Currier is a Senior Program Officer in the Education Programs Division at IREX in Washington, D.C. He currently manages a portfolio of higher education and youth development programs. He can be reached at email@example.com.