‘Col­lege is not the only path to suc­cess’

The Morning Call (Sunday) - - LOCAL NEWS - MORN­ING CALL FILE PHOTO

Penn­syl­va­nia dis­tricts re­ceived grades in Novem­ber that re­flect ef­forts for 2017-18. Of­fi­cials at a num­ber of lo­cal dis­tricts, now that there’s a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of meet­ing the state man­date, be­lieve this year’s grades will more ac­cu­rately re­flect schools’ ef­forts.

Schools are graded on a 100 per­cent scale; 91.8 per­cent is the state av­er­age.

Dis­tricts must pro­vide the state with six pieces of ev­i­dence of ca­reer readi­ness for each el­e­men­tary and mid­dle school stu­dent, and eight pieces for each high school stu­dent.

At the el­e­men­tary level, that can in­clude writ­ing re­ports on ca­reers or out­lin­ing busi­ness plans, like the Wescosville fourth­graders do. Mid­dle and high school stu­dents could ex­pe­ri­ence job shad­ow­ing or de­velop a ca­reer port­fo­lio.

Ide­ally all such ac­tiv­i­ties will be logged with the state as ev­i­dence of meet­ing the man­date.

The Catasauqua Area School Dis­trict was al­ready giv­ing stu­dents on-the-job train­ing with a pro­gram it’s had since 2010 with B. Braun Med­i­cal Inc., Su­per­in­ten­dent Robert Spen­gler said. It in­cludes a tour of the B. Braun fa­cil­ity and mock in­ter­views.

The pro­gram cov­ers many fields, said Christina Lutz-Doem­ling, di­rec­tor of Catasauqua’s cur­ricu­lum and as­sess­ment, of­fer­ing glimpses into dif­fer­ent vo­ca­tions.

“You not only get the chances to fig­ure out what you want to do, but to also fig­ure out what you def­i­nitely don’t want to do,” Lutz-Doem­ling said. “And that’s just as im­por­tant.”

The early start in ca­reer-fo­cused ed­u­ca­tion has paid off for the dis­trict now that the state has be­gun to mea­sure these ef­forts. Catasauqua ex­celled in the ca­reer stan­dards bench­marks, scor­ing an above-av­er­age 98 per­cent.

The dis­trict se­cured a $17,600 state grant to help pro­vide dis­trict staff with a greater un­der­stand­ing of in­dus­try trends, needs and op­por­tu­ni­ties. The em­ploy­ment land­scape changes fre­quently, Spen­gler said.

“Col­lege is not the only path to suc­cess,” he said. “It’s our obli­ga­tion to help stu­dents iden­tify their skills and par­lay that into an un­der­stand­ing to what ca­reers and path­ways are tied to those in­ter­ests. That’s our role and our mis­sion.”

Vo-tech schools, such as Le­high Ca­reer and Tech­ni­cal In­sti­tute, have trained stu­dents in fields for decades. At LCTI, stu­dents typ­i­cally at­tend home­room at their home high school, and then are bused to the vo-tech school for in­struc­tion in ar­eas in­clud­ing busi­ness, en­gi­neer­ing, hu­man ser­vices and tech­nol­ogy.

The state’s new bench­marks means all stu­dents should have that ex­po­sure.

Michael Koch, Eas­ton Area’s di­rec­tor of as­sess­ment and ac­count­abil­ity, said the em­pha­sis on ca­reer readi­ness marks a pos­i­tive shift, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the need for skilled work­ers in Penn­syl­va­nia and across the coun­try in jobs that don’t nec­es­sar­ily re­quire four-year de­grees.

“A bach­e­lor’s de­gree is great, but in some of these spe­cialty ar­eas it’s not nec­es­sary to spend four years on a de­gree when you can learn it in 18 months or get it on the job,” Koch said. “I think that’s a big change in our work­force in the fu­ture. We have to make sure we’re pre­par­ing our stu­dents for the same.”

In Eas­ton, ca­reer readi­ness starts in el­e­men­tary school. Koch said young stu­dents hear from peo­ple in dif­fer­ent ca­reers to see what type job might in­ter­est them and fit their per­son­al­ity. If a stu­dent dis­likes work­ing with peo­ple, for in­stance, hospi­tal­ity might not be the field for them, Koch said.

In mid­dle school, stu­dents use a pro­gram called Xello to do on­line ac­tiv­i­ties that build a pro­file in part by ask­ing them about their in­ter­ests.

“[The pro­gram] will take those in­ven­to­ries and at­tach them to ac­tiv­i­ties to ex­plore ca­reer path­ways that suit their in­ter­ests and their skills,” Koch said.

“A bach­e­lor’s de­gree is great, but in some of these spe­cialty ar­eas it’s not nec­es­sary to spend four years on a de­gree when you can learn it in 18 months or get it on the job.” — Michael Koch, Eas­ton Area di­rec­tor of as­sess­ment and ac­count­abil­ity

Ap­pren­tices at B. Braun Med­i­cal Inc. meet state La­bor & In­dus­try Deputy Sec­re­tary Eileen Cipri­ani in 2017. In ad­di­tion to its ap­pren­tice­ship train­ing pro­gram, B. Braun of­fers a tour and mock in­ter­views to Catasauqua Area stu­dents, help­ing the dis­trict train youths to be ready for a ca­reer.

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