21 Jun 2017

Linking High School Students with Businesses

Linking High School Students with Businesses

Most public high schools in America have a disconnect between curriculum rigor and the relevancy of how traditional leaning practices transfer to 21st Century workforce demands.  Linking high school students with business must become a mandate for all graduating high school students.  In fact, structured relevant activities must occur well before high school.  The need for this transformative shift in public schools is necessary for all schools.  There is an exciting regional collaborative initiative kicking off in rural Northwest Colorado that is linking high school students with businesses to prepare them to enter an every evolving college or career pathways.

The Northwest Colorado Region Student to Career Opportunity Initiative (STCO) is being implemented in partnership with educators and counselors, employers and small businesses owners, non-profit and civic organizations, local government and civic leaders, high school and postsecondary students and graduates over a two-year period.  This initiative builds upon the youth engagement and entrepreneurship work initiated over the past three years with the leadership of DiAnn Butler, Grand County Economic Development and extends to include in the counties of Clear Creek, Jackson, Routt and Summit.  It also builds on the innovative post-secondary career pathways work underway through the leadership of Scott Springston, Grand County Higher Education, and the Youth Engagement Framework by Craig Schroeder also implemented in other regions of rural Colorado and nationwide.  Linking high school students with businesses is the goal.

The primary goals of this Initiative are to create opportunities for young people to stay or return to Northwest Colorado to pursue career and entrepreneurial business opportunities; and to develop civic leadership skills through the completion of youth-led projects in their communities with the support of adult mentors, community organizations, educators and local government.

This initiative is vital to our region as employers and business owners are increasing concerned about the availability and readiness of young workers and entrepreneurs to sustain and grow our economy.  Meanwhile, many students indicate that they are not aware of the variety of quality career options available locally and what skills are needed to secure these opportunities.  The Student to Career Opportunity Initiative is focused on addressing these gaps and creating opportunities with our youth and young adults to grow our economy and attract young people to stay or return to pursue their future in our communities.

In particular, we are pursuing opportunities for employers and community leaders to come along side our schools to enhance career and technical education, and career readiness of students through high school internships, post-secondary apprenticeships, entrepreneurship education, and community service projects where youth work with adults to improve their communities. The Student to Career Opportunity Initiative will also address student retention, high school graduation, college enrollment and completion, and academic achievement disparities due to demographic, geographic and economic factors.  These will be addressed though engagement of our students in pursuit of their passions and abilities in ways that develop the skills they need to be successful in a 21st century workforce and as entrepreneurs mentored by successful business owners and managers in our region.

The Student to Career Opportunity Initiative will include seven key components.

Engagement of junior high, high school, college students and graduates pursuing local career and entrepreneurial business opportunities. Students will be identified through school counselors using career aptitude assessments and activities where students can explore potential career and entrepreneurial business opportunities.  Students involved in the initiative will also participate in civic leadership and community improvement projects to develop the amenities and resources important to young people seeking to live and work in our region.

Determination of workforce demands and specific skill needs of area employers and small businesses seeking to grow and hire talent in the next 2 to 5 years utilizing employer interviews and data from Northwest Colorado Workforce Center. The career opportunities and workforce data gathered will be provided to school counselors to help match student career interests with internships, and applied learning activities with educators working with employers and small businesses to prepare students for the opportunities they seek to pursue.

Inventory of certification and degree requirements for job opportunities identified through the employer and small business assessment; inventory current certification and degree programs available and identify where gaps exist to be addressed by the initiative partners for program implementation.

Engagement of the post-secondary education, technical training and resource partners to provide programming to address the workforce and skills requirements of employers, including necessary certification and degree requirements. Activities will include working with educators and employers to enhance articulation between academic programs and curriculum with workplace-based training and preparing employers to be effective student mentors.

Enrollment of students in relevant career training, certification and degree programs, with post-secondary apprenticeships with employers seeking to hire initiative graduates, thereby helping students to apply their learning in real world settings and to be prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation. Activities to enhance career training, certification and degree programs will include; 1) resume writing support and preparation for interviews with employers providing student internships and summer employment, 2) opportunities for students to gain work experience and develop their skills through internships and summer employment in career fields they are pursuing academically, and 3) evaluation with employers and students of learning gained through these experiences with feedback to students regarding their performance and areas for improving their skills and career readiness as part of their academic and career plan.

Evaluation of the results of the initiative through data collection and interviews with employers, small business owners, students and educators, and make needed adjustments. Engage local foundations, business partners, local government and regional program partners with local school districts to sustain and enhance the initiative.

Celebration of the success of young people and partners in the initiative to reinforce the value of their contributions and to encourage additional students and partners to become involved; and to share the learning gained from the initiative with additional communities and schools in Northwest Colorado seeking to address similar challenges and opportunities.

This regional collaborative initiative is linking high school students with business.  More accurately, it is building an intricate network between students, teachers, parents, businesses and non-profits that will purposely expose graduates to their desired career paths and the workforce skills required of them.  For more information please contact Dr. Scott Springston, Director of Grand County Higher Education, at springstonsec@gmail.com or at http://grandfoundation.com/


Bringing higher education to Grand County, first steps

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