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Job Hunting Students Turn to Business Boot Camp to Gain a Competitive Edge

March 7, 2013

With the job market still rocky, many college students and graduates—particularly liberal arts majors—are understandably concerned that their education may not be enough to land them a good job. Even business majors are worried and as a result, many business schools have started to beef up their career and job placement services. However, it has not been enough to alleviate some students’ fears that they lack solid real world skills.

According to The Wall Street Journal, so-called bridge programs, or business boot camps, are intensive courses that aim to give students, usually regardless of their educational background, tips and skills to navigate and succeed in the corporate world. Such programs have been offered at a number of top b-schools for years, but are now growing in popularity as college students’ job hunting concerns are at an all-time high.

As Poets and Quants noted, business boot camps vary in length and cost, but the goal is usually the same: to help students get a leg up on the job market. One example of a program is Fullbridge. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, the Fullbridge Program is designed to teach undergraduates, new grads, veterans and law students business basics. It was originally geared towards law students who wanted to learn about management and quantitative work, but in January 2012 the program expanded to college students and recent graduates in the Boston area. Co-CEO and founder Candice Olson described the program as filling in the gap left by what she calls an outdated MBA model. The program is also known as the XBA, which implies “beyond the B.A.”

“Everyone agrees that college students need self-awareness and core skills to transition into their career,” Olson explained in Bloomberg Businessweek. “In the 20th century, the MBA helped fulfill this role. Now, it has more limited utility—students have to take two years out of the workplace and it is debt-inducing and narrow on careers.”

During the 4-week program, which ranges in cost from $5,000 to $10,000, Fullbridge students are trained on basics such as business analysis, strategy, best practices, communication, self-awareness in the workplace and entrepreneurship. Unlike the classroom, students work with coaches to learn and understand the material and at the end of the program, work in teams to present a group analysis, including recommendations, based on a theoretical business dilemma.

“There are a number of deliverables with tight deadlines throughout the day in the XBA, so it’s a lot more like the workplace,” said Olson in Bloomberg Businessweek.

These programs, however, can also be beneficial for students who already have some business or quantitative knowledge. Take Reid McCann, a strong job candidate who majored in statistics at Harvard, for example. As The Wall Street Journal noted, McCann was anxious about competing with other candidates for interviews with private-equity and consulting companies so enrolled in the Fullbridge Program for a crash course in finance and to better prepare for the corporate environment. Now a senior, he landed a full-time job after graduation at private-equity firm Audax Group.

As The Wall Street Journal noted, it is difficult to measure the benefits of business boot camps. Similarly, Bowdoin College president Barry Mills pointed out that although the school teamed up with Fullbridge to offer a winter session program, most students were able to find jobs without taking the program. Mills, however, did point out that it could be invaluable to learn from experts in both the academic and business world. At the very least, students can brush up on some important corporate skills and gain a boost of confidence.

“I can look at a balance sheet. I can look a [sic] cash-flow statement and know what’s going on,” boasted Chelsie Dias, an art history major at Smith College who participated in a Fullbridge session in January.


Compiled by Heidi M. Agustin

Sources:

“Guide to The Best Summer Business Programs,” poetsandquants.com, June 26, 2012, John A. Byrne

“The Business of Boot Camps,” online.wsj.com, March 7, 2013, Melissa Korn

“XBA Aims to Fill a Hole Left by an ‘Outdated’ MBA Model,” businessweek.com, March 5, 2013, Francesca Di Meglio

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