A Bridge to the Working World

Badger Bridge

For students and alumni alike, if you want to make the most of your UW education, you need more than what you learn in the classroom. You need a network.

In 2015, WFAA worked to support students and alumni by creating a career-networking tool: Badger Bridge, which launched in early 2016 and now helps students and grads alike make the most of their Badger connections.

If there’s any issue that unites all points on the political spectrum right now, it’s jobs. With the cost of a university education at an all-time high, everyone — Republicans and Democrats, students and parents, new grads and 20-year veterans of the workforce — wants to see graduates land jobs and advance in their careers.

“Good-paying careers typically require more than a high school diploma,” Wisconsin governor Scott Walker said in his 2016 State of the State address. “We need our young people to have as many excellent higher education options as possible to prepare for the workforce needs of the 21st century.”

But there’s more to forging a career than coursework and homework. Finding the right relationships can make an enormous difference. The College of Letters & Science Career Initiative surveyed recent grads and found that 67 percent of alumni in graduate school benefited from mentors, but only 50 percent of employed alumni and 40 percent of unemployed alumni had such relationships. Some two-thirds of those eight to 10 years out of college who are currently unemployed said they lacked a professional mentor.

“Regardless of major, any student who has a network is going to be in better shape.”
David Nelson

The Badger Bridge online networking platform draws information from such sources as the WFAA alumni directory, LinkedIn, and Facebook to help grads find mentors in similar fields or nearby locations.

The plan is to form connections between grads who need advice and those who are willing to be mentors. In its first three months, more than 3,300 alumni signed up for Badger Bridge, and more than 100 open jobs were posted. It opened to students in fall 2016, and the number of enrollees rose to 7,500 by December 2016.

“We want to encourage students as well as alumni to form connections,” says David Nelson, WFAA’s director of alumni professional networks and career resources. “By the time they graduate, they should know people in the cities they want to move to and in the field they hope to work in. Regardless of major, any student who has a network is going to be in better shape.”