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5/8/2019

In-Demand Jobs and Career Exploration: Critical Lessons that Help Ohio’s Economy and Your Students

By: Cassandra Palsgrove

IDJW_logo.jpgOhio is an amazing place to live, partly because it also is a great place to work. As we move closer to graduation season, we are reminded that students across Ohio are making important decisions about their futures. The learning experiences, exposure and relationships they have built throughout their educational journeys inevitably influence those decisions.

Beyond graduation, students have many opportunities. Ohio’s One Goal for Education in Each Child, Our Future is to increase annually the percentage of its high school graduates who, one year after graduation, are:

  • Enrolled and succeeding in a post-high school learning experience, including an adult career-technical education program, an apprenticeship, or a two-year or four-year college program;
  • Serving in a military branch;
  • Earning a living wage; or
  • Engaged in a meaningful, self-sustaining vocation. 

As students are making their decisions about what is next, it’s important to know that Ohio's manufacturing industry leads the country in production of plastics and rubber, fabricated metals and electrical equipment. Our state’s agricultural industry covers 13.9 million acres of land and leads the nation in the production of swiss cheese. We also are home to great careers in other major industries including information technology, transportation and trade, business services, real estate, education and health. Fortune 500 companies headquartered in Ohio include Cardinal Health, Nationwide, Marathon Petroleum, Macy’s, Procter & Gamble and Kroger.

What do these stats about Ohio’s economy have to do with school? It’s important for us as educators to understand how the role we play contributes to the economic viability of our state. Educators help develop students who have foundational and well-rounded content knowledge and skills and are strong communicators, creative, and collaborative individuals who will contribute to our state’s growing economy.

In-Demand Jobs Week is an opportunity to engage and inspire those students. It also is an opportunity to help younger students begin developing career interests, so they can explore pathways toward these interests while they are still in school. During In-Demand Jobs Week, we encourage communities to partner and plan events and activities that will inspire students and job seekers.

Wait, what are In-Demand Jobs? In-demand jobs are those that pay a sustainable wage and offer a promising future based on the projected number of openings and growth. Ohio has in-demand jobs in more than 200 occupations across a wide range of industries. Ohio’s In-Demand Jobs List is developed and updated using labor market information, job postings on OhioMeansJobs.com, JobsOhio regional forecasts and employer forecasts.

As educators, we can help students and their families make informed choices about their futures by having conversations about these opportunities. Using the In-Demand Jobs resources and data provides us a common way to communicate about professions available in Ohio.

In-Demand Jobs Week is an opportunity to increase student career exposure and provide experiential learning and engagement about careers. My role at the Ohio Department of Education includes strengthening business and education partnerships across our state. This includes developing resources for schools to provide students early opportunities to experience careers. To get started, look at our In-Demand Jobs Week classroom toolkit. This toolkit houses simple activities that can jumpstart these opportunities for students!

Coming from the classroom, I have seen firsthand the significant influence teachers have in the career choices of their students. We must more closely embrace this important role we play. Our students need positive mentors who are willing to help guide them through this important choice they are making about their futures. We also can help them decide what education and training pathways they take to get there. 

As educators, we have many responsibilities. We are asked to teach, supervise and support the academic and technical content that students are charged with knowing and performing. We make sure they are safe at lunch and on the playground. We are asked to ensure that parents and guardians are well informed. We volunteer for after-school events and manage extracurricular activities.

It is easy to think of providing career awareness, exposure and planning activities for students as “just one more thing” and in some respects — it is. But I suspect that helping students make an informed choice about their futures, and preparing them to take those next steps, is at least partially what attracted us to this profession in the first place.

Career advising is worthwhile and rewarding and can be an excellent way to get to know what motivates the students in your classroom. This is no easy feat, and luckily there are many online career planning systems that can assist students, parents, guardians and educators in thoughtful career advising. Ohio's no-cost, career planning system is OhioMeansJobs.com. The K-12 backpack function allows students to learn more about their career interests and in-demand jobs, build résumés, take practice ACT and WorkKeys assessments, search for college and training programs, create a budget based on future expenses, and develop meaningful academic and career plans for high school and beyond.

Want to hear from other schools and districts doing this work? Come check out our Career Connections conference on July 29. Want even more resources on how schools and businesses can partner to provide students with more opportunities to get a head start on their futures? Visit SuccessBound.Ohio.gov.

I look forward to continuing this conversation with you! Let’s connect on Twitter @cpalsgrove, or you can email me at Cassandra.palsgrove@education.ohio.gov.

Happy In-Demand Jobs Week!

Cassandra Palsgrove works in the Center for Teaching, Leading and Learning. She oversees programs that help connect Ohio’s business and education sectors, including Ohio’s Career Connections and SuccessBound programs. You can read more about Cassandra by clicking here

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12/13/2018

25 Things I’ve Learned from Nearly Four Decades in Education

By: Steve Gratz

Editor's Note: Our colleague, Steve Gratz, is retiring after many years in education. Steve’s blogs have challenged many education concepts and provided sage advice for innovation in education. Thank you, Steve. We wish you luck as you transition to your next opportunity.

GettyImages-1035083424.jpgI’m retiring from the Ohio Department of Education on Dec. 31, 2018, after 36 years in education and 10 state superintendents of public instruction — including two interims. Seven of those years were spent as a teacher of agriculture, and the remaining 29 were with the Department in various capacities — the last five serving as one of the agency’s senior executive directors.

When I started my career as a teacher of agriculture in 1983, I never envisioned the path my career would take. I’ve had the opportunity to teach thousands of students at the secondary and postsecondary levels and coach more than 200 Ohio FFA state officers. I love the teaching and learning process and will always consider myself a teacher and learner.

During my 29 years at the Department, I visited hundreds of schools — mainly high schools and career centers. I enjoyed visiting with students, teachers, administrators, board members and community members. Coupled with my teaching experience, these visits helped frame and solidify my teaching philosophy. At one time during my career, I thought I wanted to be a school administrator and went back to the classroom, but I soon realized I could have a greater impact back at the Department.

I have delivered hundreds of presentations throughout my career, including a few commencement speeches. During some of my recent presentations, I’ve shared a list of items those looking to redesign a school should consider. A few people asked for my list, so I felt it would be appropriate to share in my final blog.

These are not in any particular order of importance sans the first one. This list is not meant to be exhaustive but rather thought-provoking. This list is fluid, and I’m sure I’ll revisit it often.

  1. Transition all students to something and not out of high school. For too many years, we have been focusing on transitioning students out of school simply because they have met graduation requirements. It is time for us to adjust how we envision student success, and graduation alone is not the right measure. Graduation rates out of high school are not nearly as important as student success rates out of high school.
  2. Make your district the economic driver for your community and region by identifying in-demand sectors in your region — keep your talent local but don’t prevent students from pursuing their career aspirations. Some students may need coaching on differentiating a hobby and a vocation. The recently released OhioMeansJobs Workforce Data Tools website is an excellent resource to help start the process.
  3. Develop in-demand pathways beginning no later than grade 7, and show the progression of advancement. These begin as broad pathways and narrow as the student progresses. At a minimum, start a Personalized Professional Pathway program. This can be a quick win for students and the community.
  4. Blur the lines between technical and academic content. I firmly believe this will result in more meaningful teaching and learning. The burden shouldn’t fall on educators alone to make these connections. Employers, communities, and industry leaders should reach out and support educators in making academic and technical concepts real for students.
  5. Increase the number of integrated courses offered so students receive simultaneous credit. Integrated coursework and simultaneous credit can redesign the school day. If you don’t believe me, ask any STEM school.
  6. Increase the percentage of students completing Student Success Plans through OhioMeansJobs. Currently, this is only required for at-risk-students, but I encourage all students to have Student Success Plans.
  7. Ensure every school employee knows the career aspirations of every student. By knowing students’ career aspirations, teachers can contextualize their teaching to students’ interests during the “formal” teaching and learning process and help advise students during the “informal” teaching and learning process. I believe this would have positive impact on the ethos of the school.
  8. Embrace personalized learning for ALL students. Coupled with competency-based learning, personalized learning will allow students to progress at their own pace. The Future Ready Framework is a great resource to assist with developing personalized learning.
  9. Provide ALL students with the supports they need to succeed. This will look different from district to district; school to school; and student to student. A good place to begin is the Department’s webpage for Ohio’s Social and Emotional Learning Standards.
  10. Utilize the Literacy Design Collaborative and the Math Design Collaborative to ensure students are learning literacy and numeracy skills across all disciplines.
  11. Increase the percentage of students earning industry credentials, where applicable. Please make sure the credentials being earned align to students’ career aspirations.
  12. Increase the percentage of students participating in work-based learning experiences. There’s ample evidence-based research on the benefits of experiential learning not to mention the embedded work readiness skills.
  13. Increase the percentage of students earning the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal. The OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal is for ALL students, and research indicates that students who have the attributes aligned with the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal are more persistent in their postsecondary endeavors.
  14. Provide counseling to students for two years after graduation. I realize there are additional costs associated with this concept, but I truly believe this strategy would be extremely impactful to student success. This should be combined with the Career Advising Plan required of every district.
  15. Work with the Business Advisory Council and regional partners. Students need to learn skills that businesses require, so they can get well-paying jobs as adults. And who can do this better than business? Be sure to involve teachers with the Business Advisory Council too.
  16. Blur the line between secondary and postsecondary education. Schools need to increase work toward a system that eliminates grades, both student grades and class grades. Competency-based education is an excellent model for school redesign to help accomplish the elimination of grades.
  17. Encourage participation in all advanced standing programs when students are ready. College Credit Plus is one of the most robust dual-enrollment programs in the country. Districts with limited access to Advanced Placement (AP) courses can encourage student participation in Modern States' “Freshman Year for Free” program, where students can enroll and take tests in AP and CLEP courses for free.
  18. Start collecting longitudinal data on high school graduates. This data will prove invaluable when sharing the success of graduates. Data should include, but is not limited to, uninsured employment data and college persistence and graduation rates (National Student Clearinghouse).
  19. Establish metrics with your local board of education that define school and student success. These should be the metrics that are most important to the community.
  20. Continuous improvement is fundamental to ensuring students are prepared when they transition. This is imperative at all levels of the educational system.
  21. Communicate ad nauseum with school employees and the community members on the school’s or district’s vision and progress toward that vision.
  22. Maintain outreach to school and district alumni. One of my favorite ways to engage alumni came from a district that has a class reunion every year, including a parade spotlighting classes in five-year increments. After the parade, all alumni enjoy a picnic together at the community park.
  23. Share quick wins and promising practices on the SuccessBound webpage.
  24. Think big, start small, scale fast.
  25. Move forward with a sense of urgency.

No one should look at this list and feel compelled to try to implement too many at one time. Ideally, school leaders would collaborate with instructional staff to prioritize new initiatives.

Those familiar with Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Education will see a strong correlation with my philosophy, especially with Strategy 10, and that makes me smile.

It has been a great and rewarding career in education, and I am looking forward to transitioning to my next career. Starting in early January, I will be helping a good friend with a program he founded — AgriCorps. AgriCorps focuses on ending generational poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. We’ll be traveling to Ghana, Liberia and Kenya to kick off 2019. Additionally, I’ll be assisting a few educational service centers and districts with school improvement and redesign.

I’m active on LinkedIn, so please reach out and stay connected.

Dr. Steve Gratz is senior executive director of the Center for Student Support and Education Options at the Ohio Department of Education, where he oversees creative ways to help students in Ohio achieve success in school. You can learn more about Steve by clicking here.

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11/15/2018

National Apprenticeship Week...A Fresh Look at a Classic Career Path

By: Steve Gratz

GettyImages-878440230.jpgNational Apprenticeship Week is a national celebration that offers leaders in business, labor, education and other critical partners a chance to demonstrate their support for apprenticeship. Gov. Kasich proclaimed Nov. 12-18, 2018, as National Apprenticeship Week in Ohio.

National Apprenticeship Week gives apprenticeship sponsors the opportunity to showcase their programs, facilities and apprentices in their community. The weeklong event highlights the benefits of apprenticeship in preparing a highly skilled workforce to meet the talent needs of employers across diverse industries. We’re seeing a resurgence of pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship opportunities across Ohio and the nation. Once considered a secondhand career path, today, pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs are providing excellent pay and benefits. Many apprenticeship programs provide a salary of $30,000 or more with full benefits throughout the training program. On average, apprentices who complete their training programs earn $60,000 or more per year after graduation. You can learn more about apprenticeships by visiting AprenticeOhio.

There are 19 National Apprenticeship Week events in Ohio this year. Most events are centered around apprenticeships in advanced manufacturing and construction. For example, the Toledo Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee is hosting an event to bring awareness to SkillsUSA. SkillsUSA is a national membership association serving high school, college and middle school students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations. Schools can participate in SkillsUSA and have students compete at the regional level. The event also includes information about the Toledo Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee and the programs offered, along with a tour of the campus.

Near my hometown of Bluffton in Allen County, GROB Systems, Inc., is hosting an open house for individuals interested in advanced manufacturing. GROB is a family-owned company and has been a leader in designing and building highly innovative production and automation systems. GROB has apprenticeship opportunities for individuals interested in manufacturing, computer numerical control, robotics, automation, machining and engineering. The company will hold an informational presentation describing the program in depth with a question and answer session to follow. After the presentation, GROB apprentices will take attendees on a tour of the very clean, state of the art, highly technical and temperature-controlled facility. Apprentices at GROB gain hands-on knowledge, a great hourly wage, a free associate degree from Rhodes State College, free health, vision and dental insurance, and a 401k match.

Ohio has many pre-apprenticeship programs that partner with companies like the Toledo Electrical Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee and GROB. Some of the most successful programs are located at Miami Valley Career Technical Center and Upper Valley Career Center. You can learn more about Ohio’s effort in establishing pre-apprenticeship programs by visiting the Ohio Department of Education’s webpage on apprenticeships and internships.

Dr. Steve Gratz is senior executive director of the Center for Student Support and Education Options at the Ohio Department of Education, where he oversees creative ways to help students in Ohio achieve success in school. You can learn more about Steve by clicking here.

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5/17/2018

Personalized Professional Pathway (P3)...A Modern Spin on Classic Work-Based Learning

By: Steve Gratz

GettyImages-534722625.jpg“Those Were the Days” was in heavy rotation on the school bus radio when I boarded during the 1969-1970 school year. I was in elementary school and my big brother, Kevin, was a senior. We went to Bluffton, a small school in northwest Ohio in Allen County. I remember that Kevin would leave school early to go to work at Lima Lumber as part of his DCT program – Diversified Cooperative Training. You see, Bluffton was a small agricultural community, and vocational agriculture, home economics and shop class were still a strong part of the curriculum. I don’t know when the DCT program started, but it was for students whose interests were outside of the vocational agriculture, home economics and shop classes.

DCT taught students job readiness skills in class and then all students were released early to go to their places of employment. My brother and his friends worked in various job sectors. While I don’t remember much about the program or when it ceased to exist, I do recall that my brother really enjoyed the class and the work experience at Lima Lumber.

I’ve shared this memory with Department staff on numerous occasions. In fact, the more I shared it, the more I thought, “Why not consider bringing this program back?” This past September in Cincinnati, we had a team attend the fall convening for our New Skills For Youth grant. During our “team time,” we dusted off the DCT program from years gone by, gave it a face lift, added a few new dimensions and started thinking through how we could roll it out for the 2018-2019 school year. Our creative staff came up with a modernized name to replace the DCT moniker – Personalized Professional Pathways or P3.

I sat down with staff and we started to flesh out the P3 program to ensure it would be successful. Parallel to the development of the P3 program, staff also were working on developing the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal, and it was a logical decision to blend the two together.

Similar to the DCT program, the P3 program will consist of a class on employability skills, with the foundation of the course aligning to the 15 professional skills that are part of the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal. All students will be required to have work-based learning experiences. Ideally, the work-based learning experiences will be aligned to students’ career aspirations. Leveraging Ohio’s Credit Flexibility program, students’ work-based learning experiences will require training plans aligned to one of Ohio’s 39 career pathways. As a result of this alignment, students will earn career-technical education credits and possibly postsecondary credit.

Developing a traditional pathway program can be a little daunting as you consider which pathway will meet the needs of a majority of your students. Once the pathway is decided, you need to select a sequence of courses, determine classroom and laboratory space, purchase equipment and recruit enough students to make the program feasible. Many schools find this challenging due to the diverse interests of their students – especially smaller schools. Instead of choosing one or more pathways, the P3 program meets the needs of students’ various career interests and has very little startup costs.

Department staff are working with educators to develop a course outline for the P3 program that embeds the 15 professional skills on the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal. This course outline will serve as the foundation of the in-school program. The essential part of the program hinges on student work-based learning. The P3 program requires the student, along with coaching from the instructor, to find employment in a sector aligned to his or her career aspirations. The instructor then works with the student and the employer to develop a training plan (resources can be found here) aligned to a career pathway course. This training plan ensures that the work-based learning experience is more than just a job – it is an authentic, work-based learning experience aligned to the content standards of the course.

A student enrolled in the P3 program will earn credit for the in-school class and credit for the work-based learning experience aligned to the student’s training plan. The employer ensures that the student is learning the technical content standards, so the student can earn course credit and be prepared to earn industry-recognized credentials aligned to the program. Students even have the ability to earn postsecondary credit through Ohio’s robust statewide articulation program (Tech Prep). The magic of the program is that it allows one teacher to help students earn credit in a variety of courses. Schools no longer have to choose which pathways they want to implement in their schools.

Staff still are finalizing plan details such as teacher qualifications, EMIS requirements and accountability aspects. I expect that to be available within the next few weeks. You can fill out this interest form to receive information about P3. Feel free to contact Cassie Palsgrove or Leah Amstutz should you have any questions on the P3 program.

And my brother, Kevin? He still works at Lima Lumber, but today, he owns the company!

Dr. Steve Gratz is senior executive director of the Center for Student Support and Education Options at the Ohio Department of Education, where he oversees creative ways to help students in Ohio achieve success in school. You can learn more about Steve by clicking here.

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5/10/2018

STAFF BLOG: Developing In-Demand Graduates Begins with Early Career Planning — Tisha Lewis, Career Connections Administrator

By: Staff Blogger

IDJW_logo.jpgIt’s graduation season and finding the answer to the age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” is becoming critical for many students.

How exactly are schools preparing students to be ready for their first steps after graduating? Do students have the tools to move through the fog of decisions and challenges that await them after high school?

For me, these questions are more important now than at any other time in my adult life. My daughter is about to graduate high school, and I want her to be confident in her next steps!

If we expect our high school graduates to walk confidently across the stage at graduation, we need to prepare them in advance to make sound decisions about their futures. This preparation takes time and support from parents, teachers and community members. You can encourage students in your life to begin exploring careers and evaluating their talents well before graduation. OhioMeansJobs K-12 is a free, online resource that students can use to help them explore careers that match their interests and start conversations about their futures.

You also should know that this week is In-Demand Jobs Week. This is a celebration of jobs, industries and skills that are in-demand in Ohio. In-demand jobs pay well and have a high rate of growth projected for the future. Schools, colleges, universities, businesses and communities are working together to highlight and celebrate the many pathways to success our students can follow right here in Ohio. During this week, talk to your kids about the jobs and skills they think will be important to their futures. You can use OhioMeansJobs K-12 as a starting point.

Beyond just opening the discussion about in-demand careers, many schools are providing opportunities this week to help students understand how their interests and abilities can lead to careers. Students are exploring what careers are growing, identifying the problems they could help solve in their careers and learning how to prepare for those careers.

Schools are doing this through special events, but many also are making career planning a regular part of the school culture and academic programming. Check out these districts and schools around the state that are routinely incorporating career planning in their schools.

Our kids don’t need to have every decision made when they graduate, but they should be actively working toward long-term goals and know the next steps along their paths. They also should know what jobs will pay well and have openings when they graduate from high school or higher education.

I will be forever grateful to the school, community and business people that provided my daughter with the opportunities and experiences she needed to be able to make plans for her future. She will graduate confidently with a plan for her future in place. With tools like OhioMeansJobs K-12 and exciting events like In-Demand Jobs Week, other students in Ohio can have that same advantage.

Tisha Lewis is the administrator for the Department’s Career Connections office. Click here to contact Tisha.

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1/17/2018

GUEST BLOG: Identifying Which Goals are Critical for the Success of Your Students — Stephen Fujii, Marion City Schools

By: Guest Blogger

GettyImages-493334040.jpgI currently serve as a school administrator. Before entering education, I served as a military officer in the Armor Branch of the United States Army. I am extremely proud of my service to my country. And now I am extremely proud of my service to my community.

Thankfully, the roles of a military officer and a school administrator have many, many differences. But surprisingly, there are some similarities. For example, in both environments, being successful in meeting your goals is critical. My internal ongoing dialog in both worlds has been "How do I know that I am meeting my goal?"

As an educator, I often wonder how we know we are meeting our objectives in terms of teaching and learning. The classroom teacher has learning targets. These are informed by curriculum maps and formative and summative assessments. The building principal has evaluations of staff members and numerous tools for measuring student and teacher growth. District administrators have Ohio’s School Report Cards, the data used to create the report cards, parent input and state guidance to help them determine if they are making progress.

Even with these resources, how do the classroom teachers and building and district administrators know they are consistently setting the right goals each day? In education, there are so many efforts aimed at improving outcomes for students. You hear leaders talk about the importance of improving attendance rates, graduation rates, literacy rates, ACT scores, college placement rates, college readiness scores, increasing dual enrollment credits, improving Advanced Placement scores and improving state assessment scores — just to name a few. Meeting any one of these goals is challenging and rewarding work. But how do we decide exactly which one we should focus on? We cannot afford to miss our goals. How do we know precisely which adjustments to make to better serve our students and communities?

One indicator that educators are setting appropriate goals is that students are fulfilling their potential. In Marion City Schools, we have learned that simply asking students to graduate high school is a vague goal and a disservice to our students. To clarify that goal and do what is best for our students means that we must focus on students beyond the time they are in our classrooms and schools. There is a lot of evidence that shows students are not persisting in higher education. Our graduates are changing their majors two or three times before settling on where they finally want to focus. Not enough students are graduating with credentials and relevant ways to apply their knowledge.

To set the right goals for Marion, we created our Portrait of a Graduate. This process was collaborative and intentional. We invited 20 community leaders and 20 influential school leaders to develop our vision. The Marion City Schools’ Portrait of a Graduate identifies the key skills, beliefs and knowledge students must have to be successful and gain acceptance to 1) a two- or four-year college or university; 2) the United States Military; 3) a high-paying, in-demand job in our city or region; or 4) an adult apprenticeship program. We call this High School Diploma PLUS Acceptance, and it is the goal we ask our students to aim for. Diploma Plus Acceptance helps students be better prepared for life after high school and prevents some of the pitfalls that many high school graduates face.

Posters hang in the hallways of each elementary, middle and high school in Marion City Schools to remind students of the traits we outlined in our Portrait of a Graduate. The posters remind students to strive to be "responsibly engaged in the community," "taking initiative," having "civic awareness," "focusing on growth" and "persisting to overcome adversity." And yes, we remind students to be “proficient on required curriculum and assessments in the state of Ohio." 

I am proud that our program has been featured as a SuccessBound program. You can watch the SuccessBound video about our accomplishments here. I am even prouder that identifying these traits and focusing on our students in these ways is one way our district ensures college success...if that is what our students desire. Emphasizing these traits and focusing on our students in these ways helps ensure career success! This is our most essential goal, and this is our greatest point of pride. This is #FutureReady. This is success in today’s world of education.

Stephen Fujii has a diverse background. He served in the military, taught in the classroom and currently is the superintendent of Marion City Schools. To contact him, click here. 

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1/3/2018

Ohio Students Are SuccessBound with the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal

By: Steve Gratz

OMJ_ReadinessSeal.jpgNearly a year ago, Ohio’s efforts to strengthen and expand career pathways got a boost thanks to a $2 million grant from the Council of Chief State School Officers and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Ohio is one of 10 states to receive a New Skills for Youth grant, which directly aligns with many of Gov. John R. Kasich’s Executive Workforce Board’s initiatives. It also aligns with many Ohio Department of Education activities geared toward making sure Ohio’s students are ready for the workforce of the future. To help schools and families better understand the needs of future employers, Ohio launched the SuccessBound initiative. The SuccessBound webpage includes resources to help make students aware of the different career-focused opportunities available to them.

Students who are SuccessBound take active roles in planning their futures by exploring career interests early and considering how to align their interests to careers. They consider what education and training are needed to reach their goals. They respond to financial concerns by earning free college credits in high school. And, they follow pathways that allow them to work in related fields while continuing their education. These students dedicate themselves to long-term goals and commit to continuous lifelong learning.

Aligned to the SuccessBound initiative is the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal. The seal was established as part of the sweeping workforce initiatives passed in House Bill 49 and outlined in Building Ohio’s Future Workforce. The OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal will be printed on students’ diplomas and transcripts once they meet certain requirements. The requirements include demonstration of work-readiness and work-ethic competencies. Students submit a form that records evidence of meeting the requirements. The form is validated by at least three individuals. These individuals are mentors to the students and can include employers, teachers, business mentors, community leaders, faith-based leaders, school leaders or coaches.

We know Ohio’s students must be ready to engage in a rapidly changing workplace. We also know that businesses are seeking talented workers who demonstrate professional skills, such as being reliable, drug free, personable and able to solve problems and handle conflict. To meet the needs of business, our current education system must identify and teach the professional knowledge and skills all Ohioans need to be job ready. The OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal will signify to employers that students have the professional skills valued by business and industry. These skills are essential in the 21st century workplace.

When this language was introduced in HB 49, I immediately thought about how I would approach helping my students earn this valuable credential if I was still in the classroom. The OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal requires students to demonstrate proficiency in the following professional skills to be deemed ready for work.

  • Drug Free - The student commits to being drug free.
  • Reliability - The student has integrity and responsibility in professional settings.
  • Work Ethic - The student has effective work habits, personal accountability and a determination to succeed.
  • Punctuality - The student arrives to commitments on time and ready to contribute.
  • Discipline - The student abides by guidelines, demonstrates self-control and stays on task.
  • Teamwork/Collaboration - The student builds collaborative relationships with others and can work as part of a team.
  • Professionalism - The student demonstrates honesty. He or she dresses and acts appropriately and responsibly. He or she learns from mistakes.
  • Learning Agility - The student desires to continuously learn new information and skills.
  • Critical Thinking/Problem-Solving - The student exercises strong decision-making skills, analyzes issues effectively and thinks creatively to overcome problems.
  • Leadership - The student leverages the strengths of others to achieve common goals. He or she coaches and motivates peers and can prioritize and delegate work.
  • Creativity/Innovation - The student is original and inventive. He or she communicates new ideas to others, drawing on knowledge from different fields to find solutions.
  • Oral and Written Communications - The student articulates thoughts and ideas clearly and effectively in written and oral forms.
  • Digital Technology - The student has an understanding of emerging technology and leverages technology to solve problems, complete tasks and accomplish goals.
  • Global/Intercultural Fluency - The student values, respects and learns from diverse groups of people.
  • Career Management - The student is a self-advocate. He or she articulates strengths, knowledge and experiences relevant to success in a job or postsecondary education.

As a teacher of agriculture, I had the fortune of teaching students throughout their high school careers. I reviewed the list of professional skills, I reflected on how I, as their teacher, could integrate these skills into the classroom experience for students.

For example, to be in the program, all students were required to have supervised agricultural experiences. During these experiences, students apply what they learn in the classroom in real-world settings. Today, supervised agricultural experience programs include entrepreneurship, placement, research, exploratory, school-based enterprise and service learning. Successful supervised agricultural experiences require students to demonstrate reliability, work ethic, punctuality, discipline, learning agility, critical thinking and problem-solving, professionalism and more.

During my time as a teacher, I made sure all my students were members of the Future Farmers of America (FFA). For those of you not familiar, FFA is the youth development organization for agricultural education students. It provides life-changing experiences for its members. FFA programs and activities allow students to further demonstrate the professional skills listed above. This is evident in the FFA’s Code of Ethics.

FFA members conduct themselves at all times to be a credit to their organization, chapter, school, community and family. FFA members pledge to:

  1. Develop my potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success.
  2. Make a positive difference in the lives of others.
  3. Dress neatly and appropriately for the occasion.
  4. Respect the rights of others and their property.
  5. Be courteous, honest and fair with others.
  6. Communicate in an appropriate, purposeful and positive manner.
  7. Demonstrate good sportsmanship by being modest in winning and generous in defeat.
  8. Make myself aware of FFA programs and activities and be an active participant.
  9. Conduct and value a supervised agricultural experience program.
  10. Strive to establish and enhance my skills through agricultural education in order to enter a successful career.
  11. Appreciate and promote diversity in our organization.

This blog is not intended to focus on the FFA — it’s merely my point of reference based on my personal experience as a teacher. There are numerous other programs and activities in schools and communities (band, choir, drama club, faith-based clubs and activities, 4-H, Invention Convention, science fair, robotics competitions, etc.) that can help students learn and demonstrate these professional skills. The key takeaway is to realize that many, if not all, of the professional skills required to earn the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal can be learned and demonstrated as part of a student’s total school experience and should not be considered additional work.

Supporting this initiative is the Business Advisory Council Operating Standards that the Department will be posting guidance on later this week. Strong relationships between education and industry are essential. The Business Advisory Council Operating Standards guidance document includes examples of how education and industry can partner together. The Department plans on sharing examples from districts that have successfully implemented business advisory councils.

Finally, here’s a great article I read on LinkedIn that speaks on Industry’s Role in a New Education System. The article addresses what is needed from the next generation of employees, including the following:

  • Problem-solvers;
  • Innovation and the ability think for oneself;
  • Resiliency;
  • Passion to design and create;
  • Collaborative team members;
  • Good communication and presentation skills 
  • Individuals who successfully can transition from school to the workplace. 

Of course, these should sound familiar as they align with the OhioMeansJobs-Readiness Seal, which should help all Ohio’s students be SuccessBound.

Dr. Steve Gratz is senior executive director of the Center for Student Support and Education Options at the Ohio Department of Education, where he oversees creative ways to help students in Ohio achieve success in school. You can learn more about Steve by clicking here.

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11/29/2017

ENCORE: Teaching Students to Think for Themselves, Solve Problems and Think Critically

By: Steve Gratz

Editor's note: This blog was originally published on December 21, 2016, but some things are so good they deserve another look! We are re-running the post so everyone gets a chance to read this staff favorite.

I spent most of my teenage years working on the farm. My experiences there naturally taught me how to solve problems, and we referred to this as “common sense.” We would even use the term to describe our more astute neighbors and friends who used good sense and sound judgment in practical matters.

As I think about my days working on the farm, I realize the agricultural way of life was built on a solid foundation of solving problems. Confronted with a unique problem, I could engineer a solution or temporarily jerry-rig it until I could get back to the shop for a permanent solution. I also remember the time one of my friends made a delivery of construction materials to a client and during the delivery he realized that he forgot a large box of nails. Instead of driving 30-miles back to the company, he simply purchased the large box of nails at a competitor’s store. He used good sense and sound judgment – common sense.

Like many of my friends, I developed my problem-solving skillset through work-based learning experiences throughout high school. In fact, I can’t remember a time during high school where I wasn’t working and serendipitously honing my ability to solve problems in the context of real-world situations.

In my 30+ years of education, I have participated in my fair share of philosophical conversations. Most of these conversations focus on the teaching and learning process, but the conversations often bleed over to a more holistic discussion on education. Some of those conversations focus on how to teach students deeper thinking skills and the ability to solve problems.

One of the most authentic ways to help students develop deeper thinking skills and the ability to solve problems is through work-based learning experiences. Recently, I was meeting with education and business leaders at the North Central Ohio ESC. A local physician shared that one of his recent hires earned her medical assistant credential through her work experience and not through the traditional path of attending medical assistant training program.

Absent of the ability to have work-based learning experiences, educators can help students develop deeper thinking skills and the ability to solve problems by requiring them to solve realistic problems. This can be done easily by using the project-based learning approach promoted by organizations like the Buck Institute. Another example is the Southern Region Education Board’s Advanced Career model. Most project-based learning approaches call for designing and implementing challenging, authentic projects and assignments in the context of realistic problems, ideally with employer and business involvement.

The passage of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) marked a major step toward ensuring all students are prepared to graduate from high school ready for college and careers. For example, districts may support efforts to integrate academic and technical content in the classroom that lends itself to students developing deeper thinking skills and the ability to solve problems. This can be done simply by developing and implementing coordinated instructional strategies that may include project-based learning and experiential learning opportunities for in-demand careers and occupations.

Here’s an example that provides a real-world application using the Pythagorean theorem. The picture below shows the formula for the Pythagorean theorem. In the picture below, side C is always the hypotenuse. Remember that this formula only applies to right triangles.

Picture1.png

Students may be taught the Pythagorean theorem as illustrated, or the lesson could be enriched by making it a real-world application or, better yet, as part of a project-based lesson.

And here is how the theory is applied to roof framing in the construction industry where the Pythagorean theorem is referred to as the 3-4-5 rule.

Picture2.png

This example is overly simple, but it is used to illustrate how connecting academic content standards to real-world applications can make the teaching and learning process more engaging and relevant for students. By helping students solve more real-world problems, students should begin to think more deeply about the standards they are learning.

One of the tenets of project-based learning is that the teacher helps students navigate through the learning process and assists students in solving problems, allowing them to take more responsibility for their learning – effectively teaching them to think for themselves. Teaching students to think more critically and to solve problems is a life skill that is immeasurably valuable to students.

I’m indifferent if it is called common sense, good sense and sound judgment, or the ability to solve problems; it is a life skill that needs to be integrated into all aspects of student’s education. It can even instill a sense of confidence in students, especially as they learn to apply this life skill to other aspects of their life.

Let’s teach students to think for themselves, solve problems and think critically.

Dr. Steve Gratz is senior executive director of the Center for Student Support and Education Options at the Ohio Department of Education, where he oversees creative ways to help students in Ohio achieve success in school. You can learn more about Steve by clicking here.

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9/28/2017

GUEST BLOG: Using Virtual Backpacks to Help Students Explore Their Futures — Andrea Richison, Zanesville City Schools

By: Guest Blogger

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As an Ohio school counselor, one of my favorite roles is the promotion of college and career readiness. Currently, I serve a high school population where college and career awareness is on the forefront of many of my students’ minds. However, I previously served a kindergarten through sixth grade population. There was nothing more exciting than watching third- or fourth-graders explore their strengths for the first time and talk about what kinds of schooling could be in their future—whether that be a four-year college or a career-technical program. If you couldn’t already tell, I’m passionate about planting the seeds of career planning in our students. Witnessing a student light up with excitement when she tells you about her plans to be an engineer, a cosmetologist or a physician is one of the reasons I chose my own career as a school counselor.

However, there are always those students who are harder to reach. The ones that you ask, “What are your plans?” and they just look at you and shrug their shoulders. This used to frustrate me to no end. Surely, they must have some idea of what they want to do with the rest of their lives? But the reality that I have found is that some students have no idea where to start when it comes to college and career planning. That’s when, as a counselor, it’s time to step in and help them explore their interests and what may be a good fit for their skill sets. Last year, as the freshman and sophomore counselor at Zanesville High School, I got the opportunity to use the OhioMeansJobs backpack tool in ninth and 10th grade English classes.

Once my students set up their accounts with OhioMeansJobs, they quickly got started on the first step of building their backpacks, the “career cluster inventory.” Students indicated how well they enjoyed certain activities, such as fishing and drawing. At first, there were some complaints about the number of questions, but after a while, the once bustling room was hushed except for the sound of clicking from their computers. It was interesting to watch students’ faces as they read over activities and decided their levels of interests. And, as they began to finish their inventories, they started chattering about the “career clusters” that showed up on top of their lists.

A large number of students in one ninth grade English class received “Agricultural and Environmental Systems” as their top cluster. The term agriculture was new to some students. When one student asked questions, I directed him to click on the cluster. The nice thing about the inventory is that each cluster contains a hyperlink to different explanations and occupations within that category. In this case, when the student clicked on the agriculture cluster, it pulled up the field of “mining, oil, and gas.” The student was actually very familiar with oil work because many of the parents in our school are employed by the oil industry. The student was introduced to new vocabulary and able to make a real-life connection to the career cluster.

For me, the backpack is refreshing because of the interactive, real-life application that students have the opportunity to explore. What’s even more convenient is the ability to save their results to refer back to and further engage in activities. In the span of one class period, we were only really able to fully explore the career cluster tool. However, once this result is saved, a student can log in to the account and complete other activities that stem from the cluster of interest. For example, a student can later go back and see the saved top career cluster and then pick a career to build a career plan from.

The backpack is an excellent tool for a student who needs a starting point. While it’s exciting when a freshman already has a career path in mind, it’s not always a reality. Also, even those who do have plans may discover career clusters that are better in line with their interests and strengths. While the backpack may not lead to a concrete career choice, it gets the wheels turning and allows students to have hands-on experience with career assessments, which are valuable for both the counselor and the student to spark conversations for future college and career planning. I feel like I’m just getting my feet wet with the backpack tool because there are so many different aspects to explore. But, I’m excited to keep learning and hope to spark my passion for college and career planning in my students.

Andrea Richison is a high school counselor for Zanesville City Schools. Currently she works with grades 9-12 as a student success counselor.

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7/27/2017

GUEST BLOG: Ohio’s In-Demand Jobs List: Preparing Your Students for Successful Careers — Emily Modell, Governor's Office for Workforce Transformation

By: Guest Blogger

ThinkstockPhotos-638787162.jpgOne seemingly insurmountable challenge that students and their families face is determining where to start when researching, and ultimately pursuing, a career. Students today have so many options, pathways through which to pursue opportunities, and qualified individuals to look to for advice. What they don’t always have, though, is an abundance of data to help guide that decision-making process.

Educators and parents — as you work diligently during the summer months to prepare your students for success in the upcoming school year, consider Ohio’s In-Demand Jobs List as your resource to keep track of the current and projected hiring needs of your students’ future employers.

Ohio’s workforce needs are evolving quickly due to emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, drone technology and autonomous vehicles. Chances are, you already know and think about this on a regular basis. As some of the most influential individuals in the lives of Ohio’s youth, you have the power to help prepare the next generation for the changes they will inevitably see in their lifetime.

The effort to prepare our youth for a dynamic workforce environment must be collective — by reaching into our communities and collaborating, we can ensure that our youth have access to resources of all kinds to reach their career and life aspirations. Schools and businesses across the state are collaborating to build a workforce prepared for in-demand jobs.

One real-world example of a business with a workforce need collaborating with a school district is the Marion City Schools and OhioHealth partnership. When OhioHealth built a new healthcare facility in Marion, they realized they did not have enough nurses, lab technicians and medical assistants to support the doctors. OhioHealth collaborated with Marion City Schools to create a career pathway program that prepares high school graduates to work in these fields.

Jon Smith, a Marion Harding High School English teacher notes, "Our job as educators is to prepare our students the best that we can to move forward when they leave our building, and in many communities across America, credit accrual is just not enough and students need something more. The idea behind the career pathways initiative is going to be crucial to the development of better students and, therefore, better communities across our state and our country.”

Recognizing the need for collaboration and leading by example, the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation partnered with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and employers across the state to release a list of more than 200 of Ohio’s top occupations.

Ohio’s In-Demand Job List was created using data and input from the following sources:

  1. Results of a survey sent to more than 2,100 businesses in Ohio, asking them to forecast the top five most critical hiring and certification needs over the next one, three and five years;
  2. Ohio labor market information;
  3. Job posting trends and data from OhioMeansJobs.com;
  4. JobsOhio regional forecast.

The In-Demand Jobs List aims to provide insight for all stakeholders into the current and evolving needs of Ohio employers so that students, parents, educators, workforce professionals, legislators and employers alike can be aware of workforce needs. For teachers, it can help guide classroom instruction and provide opportunities to link lessons to workplace skills. For counselors, it can help guide career counseling discussions; for administrators, future decision-making; and for parents, curiosity and learning at home. While we cannot predict what’s next, we can take steps together to prepare the next generation for success now and in the future.

Emily Modell is the Outreach Coordinator at the Governor's Office of Workforce Transformation. You can reach her at Emily.Modell@owt.ohio.gov.

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