Students’ future is schools’ business
State adds emphasis on career training, starting in the elementary years
At Wescosville Elementary in the East Penn School District, fourth-graders are in charge of running a doughnut shop.
It’s all pretend, but as part of the assignment, the students have $5,000 to start the business from the ground up. They’re responsible for paying rent and utilities, buying baking supplies and paying employees’ salaries.
The 9- and 10-year-olds discuss what people look for during the hiring process, research wages in food services, write interview questions and conduct mock interviews. They focus on eye contact, smiling, speaking clearly, posture, appropriate greetings and strong, confident handshakes.
It’s not new for districts to expose students to skills needed to find and land post-education careers. But nationwide, districts now are graded on how well they do it. The first report card came out in November. Another one — set to a higher standard — comes out in the fall. Schools, including charter schools, need to show the state that students, starting in kindergarten, are learning such job skills as making resumes, writing reports on industries and job shadowing.
After the Wescosville fourthgraders are done with their assignment, East Penn officials will log each student as having received career readiness and send that information to the state Department of Education.
The new accountability system is called Future Ready Pa Index and documents on a state website how well schools prepare students for careers.
Bethlehem Area Assistant Su-
“We feel getting ready for after school is critical.” — Doug Povilaitis, East Penn assistant superintendent
perintendent Jack Silva sees the benchmarks as a positive step.The state has tracked how students do academically on standardized tests, so it should also monitor whether schools are putting students on a career path.
“The career standards have the ability to be more suited to what the district’s goals are and that relates to the local economy and existing programs,” Silva said.
The career readiness benchmarks address feedback from industry leaders about recent graduates.
“We’ve heard very loud and clear from businesses and chambers of commerce they’re finding gaps in skilled workers,” said Matt Stem, deputy state education secretary.
Employers have reported young employees’ not showing up on time or lacking communication skills, said Alex Halper, director of government affairs at the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.
“We are encouraged by the renewed focus on the federal and state level on incorporating career readiness into educational instruction at a young age,” Halper said.
Fourth-graders Caleb Brown and Graham Lovett practice firm handshakes in Kendy Schiffert’s Wescosville Elementary class.