An initiative by Administrative Technologies is providing a roadmap for engaging and training student workers in Endpoint Support.
A combination of full-time staff and student workers, Endpoint Support provides services and support for computer users across several units on campus. Students must be able to process calls for assistance as well as provide insights on problem-solving. The relatively new Student Employment Experience (SEE) training program combines a standardized training module with an emphasis on team-building.
“We strive to give the students an opportunity to achieve beyond what they think they can do,” said Endpoint Support Manager Bart Lytel, who helped design the SEE program.
Started in 2016, the SEE program replaces the mentor/mentee experience with student workers training with multiple full-time team members. “We were looking for a more structured approach to our student workers,” Associate Vice President for Administrative Technologies Charles Edamala said, who spoke with Lytel and Assistant Director of Administrative Technologies Dan Taube about their ideas for training. They pitched the SEE program, and Edamala approved it.
Though many Endpoint Support student workers have an interest in computers, Lytel said the SEE training program is empowering students from across disciplines to become active agents in support. “We’ve had students who majored in history, art, biological sciences. Just about every college here on this campus,” said Lytel. “We’ve been able to turn them into very effective, well-trained, and disciplined technicians. And quite honestly, it complements what they’re doing.” Lytel noted the SEE program works well with any major because it is more than a simple training module. It is a comprehensive approach to successful team building.
Ryan Kraft, a junior from Towanda, Illinois, came to work at Endpoint before the SEE program began. “It was great to get to know my mentor, but I didn’t know anybody else,” he said. “That could be isolating, and I realize now that what we were learning wasn’t really standardized.” Kraft watched students going through the new SEE program quickly adjust to working in the Endpoint Support environment. “The new people can train with four to five people a week, so they get to know more of the team and are comfortable asking questions,” said Kraft, who added that students advance only when they are ready. “They are learning a lot quicker, and able to focus on what challenges them.”
As a senior member of the student workers, Lytel and Taube requested Kraft provide input on the online training module developed for SEE. It is part of another pillar of the program designed with long-term student success and retention in mind. “We’ve built a path for student promotion,” said Lytel. The path, referred to as a “knowledge tree,” creates opportunities for more senior students to advance to higher levels of leadership.
Lytel, who spent 12 years in the U.S. Marines, calls it “coming up through the promotion ranks.” Several terms of Endpoint Support reflect a soldier’s discipline. “We do use words like ‘deploy’ and ‘mission,’ though the whole feel of the office is very upbeat,” said Lior Rafalovitz, a sophomore from Homewood, Illinois. “It’s just a positive, team-oriented place to work.”
“Responsibility, reliability, punctuality, professionalism, and integrity are core components of the SEE program,” said Lytel. “And these are key ideas taught in team building.”
Junior Jackson Stutzman of Roanoke, Illinois, noted the team philosophy has helped him develop as a newer technician. “Everyone seems to be able to find their specialty,” he said. “Whether it was intentional or not, I handled a lot of monitor problems my first month here, and people saw that and started giving me more monitor work. It’s a good fit.”
The need for flexibility and good communication skills are also emphasized in training, said Stutzman. “You really don’t know if you are going to be troubleshooting someone’s computer problems for three hours, or moving an office for a computer replacement,” he said. “It’s a changing environment, and you are constantly interacting with people.”
“There is no point in training the students if they cannot communicate with people,” said Lytel. “Being able to throw out technical terms is not the point. They have to be able to provide an excellent customer experience. It is about the customer experience.”
Over the years, several students who worked in Administrative Technologies went on to become alumni working in technology at places such as Disney, Discover, and Caterpillar, Inc. Edamala is noticing new alumni are also looking for an additional place to work—Illinois State. “I say this with confidence, we no longer have any problems hiring for entry-level positions,” he said. It’s often out of Bart’s SEE program that we hire our entry-level, full-time employees. And they hit the ground running because they’ve worked with us for at least a year.”
Other institutions are taking notice of the SEE program. After a poster presentation at the recent EduCause Conference, people have reached out to Lytel from as far away as Tasmania and as close as the Town of Normal. “I knew the ideas of SEE were universal, but now we can think of idea from Illinois State as global as well,” said Lytel.