Monday, August 7, 2017

Workforce Development Center

Paul Bailey

“We have openings for technician level jobs in [West Virginia] but cannot find employees who routinely show up for work, pass a drug test, and can possess a positive work ethic,” states a business/industry report by the West Virginia Department of Education. One major goal of a secondary education is to prepare students career, not a job but a career. Acquiring job skills during the educational process will allow students to have the ability to obtain a job until a career is identified and obtained.  

Throughout all years I have been in education, I have worked with at risk students through online programming due to credit deficiencies from course failures and/or high absenteeism. With online courses I have known 
  • many students that memorized the material long enough to pass a test but never retained the information. 
  • a student that burrowed inside his bedroom for 4 days to complete one online class. 
  • many students that find ways to beat the multiple choice lessons, quizzes, tests, etc. without even reading the questions.

I believe that an educational system should utilize technology for learning. I implemented a flipped mastery classroom with great success to teach students more Algebra in a school year than I had instructed previously using the traditional lecture method.

From my experiences I believe that online learning can be beneficial for the students to have flexible learning opportunities both online and in person. The learning opportunities will be designed to provide students with pride and satisfaction of learning and for the community. The local community will grow as students learn to become productive members of society and provide helpful change to the area.

“Shared ownership drives positive culture
dedicated to ongoing improvement.”
Big Picture Learning

Many students I have interacted with that complete learning online have little sense of community. Online learning has individuals focusing on completing personalized courses at the pace of each student. Many job skills are not learned through online learning such as learning to work with others, meeting deadlines (or missing a deadline but working diligently to get the job completed), and caring about  job well done for the neighbor or friend. In order to give back to the community, local members would need to provide assistance to students. The local community would provide students with mentors, career advisors, internship opportunities, community services projects, and support with physical and behavioral health.

Denzel Washington stated, “Show me a successful individual and I’ll show you someone who had real positive influences in his or her life. I don’t care what you do for a living – if you do it well I’m sure there was someone cheering you on or showing you the way. A mentor.” Mentors would be selected by each student to provide guidance throughout the remainder of the child’s secondary education.  The mentor could meet the student for lunch or drop in for a few minutes of conversation during the school day. The mentor and student would complete the large class community service projects together to continue building their relationship.

“It takes a caring community to raise a child
that will be a whole person and a contributing citizen.”
Jessye Norman

Local entrepreneurs would participate on the career advisory committee for the online learning class. The local businesses would create and/or identify unpaid internship opportunities that the student could participate in for credits towards earning a diploma. The internship opportunities would provide students with an understanding of the type of career he/she would like to pursue, but also, and maybe more importantly, the type of job that is not satisfying. Ideally the student would complete multiple internships throughout the year in a few different vocations to identify the field of interest or with a few different businesses to gain a variety of experiences in one field.

“Small acts,
when multiplied by millions of people,
can transform the world.”
Howard Zinn

To complete the sense of belonging, students in an online environment would complete community service projects. “Without community service we would not have a strong quality of life. It’s important to the person who serves, as well as the recipient. It’s the way in which we ourselves grow and develop,” expresses Dorothy Height. Individual and whole class community service would be completed. The individual student project would be determined based on personal interest. The whole class would discuss various community needs and determine the community service that would be completed by the entire class. The whole class project would be a larger scale project that would include mentors, parent/guardian(s), and other members of the local community.

“Every kid is one caring adult
away from being a success story.”
Josh Shipp

Students at risk of dropping out of school can have his/her life greatly affected by one caring adult. Building relationships with students by mentors, career advisors, teachers, school administrators, and other members of the local community will greatly increase the likelihood of at risk students graduating and graduating in 4 years. However, involving parent(s) and guardian(s) in the educational process for at risk children would be a great benefit for the child to earn a high school diploma. Conducting frequent parent/guardian meetings will create a relationship between the teacher, parent/guardian, and student. During the meetings online learning progress, internship reports, and community service efforts will be discussed. Parent/guardian(s) will be invited to participate in the large scale community service project.

Involving students at the local career technical center would be beneficial for students to obtain specific job skills. Career technical programs can be utilized during the school day to provide students with hands on learning, collaboration with peers on projects, and learn how to communicate and interact with clients and customers.

“Physical fitness is not only one of the most important 
keys to a healthy body,
it is the basis of dynamic and creative intellectual activity.”
John F. Kennedy

The physical education requirement for graduation should be completed either in a classroom or through independent study. Online physical education class provides the theory behind being physically fit. However, online physical education does not increase heart rate or burn very many calories. Many kids are consuming foods and drinks that are harmful to the body. Many studies have shown that overweight or obese children have a higher risk for Type 2 Diabetes and other health concerns. Routinely showing up to work requires people to be in good health. Schools that choose to teach habits for a healthy lifestyle, provide students with the knowledge to be in good health and the opportunity to be physically able to go to work every day. The physical education requirement for online learning should be in busting out reps in a workout facility, stepping over fallen trees on a hiking trail, pedaling fast enough on a bike to feel a cool breeze hit the face, stretching and sweating on a yoga mat, and/or many other possibilities.

A mastery approach to grading would be utilized for earning credit for online courses. Skills learned early in the school year would continually be assessed for retention of knowledge. If a student masters the skill early but fails to obtain mastery later in the year, the student would be required to relearn the material, complete a reassessment opportunity, and retain mastery of the skill throughout the entire online course.

“Test scores and measures of achievement tell you where a student is,
but they don’t tell you where a student could end up.”
Carol Dweck

Teaching students to ‘possess a positive work ethic’ involves students to possess a positive, growth mindset. Involving the local behavioral health agencies to teach strategies to students for managing social, emotional, and behavioral health will be beneficial for students. Students that live in poverty and/or have had one or more adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) will benefit from learning positive and healthy coping mechanisms to prevent or decrease the possibility of disease, disabilities, and social problems.

“The only thing worse than training your employees
and having them leave
is not training them and having them stay.”
Henry Ford

The school day for online learning would also emulate the workplace. The name of the online learning facility would have ‘Workforce Development Center’ or other similar phrase added to the title. Every time the name of the facility would be said it would highlight that the main goal would be to develop students for the workforce. Students would complete an application process that would include a cover letter, resume, references, and an interview process. The interview team would involve a combination of career advisors, current students, teachers, and/or administrators. Students at the Workforce Development Center would be required to wear uniform clothing and participate in drug testing. The drug testing would be required to enter the Workforce Development Center as required by most jobs and random drug testing would occur throughout the remainder of the child’s education at the online learning facility. If a student has a negative drug test, then the student will enroll in drug counseling with the cooperating local behavioral health agency to stop using drugs. The students enrolled in the Workforce Development Center would be separated in an organizational structure of small teams. Each team will be led by a team leader and assistant team leader. Each student and team will have progress goals for online assignments completed, skills learned at the internship, hours of community service completed, attendance rates, and behaviors. The students will create a portfolio that will include an updated resume, certificates earned, and letters of recommendation and evaluations from internships. The portfolio will be a guide for each student to monitor his/her progress towards being a career ready graduate. Mentors, parents, teachers, and school administrators will use the portfolio in discussion with each student.

“Developing skills is as important as training.
A larger effort is needed to create a skilled workforce
with employment potential.”
M.M. Pallam Raju

Given that learning can be completed online, a flexible schedule would be utilized to provide students with opportunities to learn necessary job skills. For example, online learning can occur four out of the five weekdays with the fifth day being utilized for an internship opportunity, whole class field trip for physical education, community service, or to explore a workplace environment. Any students interested in an educational opportunity at the Workforce Development Center would plan to complete the requirements of the program five days a week for all 52 weeks during the year. Students would have the opportunity to earn ‘vacation time,’ ‘sick leave,’ and ‘personal days’ similar to those earned at local employers. Traditional brick and mortar schools occasionally have days off due to inclement weather, teacher professional development, parent teacher conferences. However, each student at the Workforce Development Center would be provided with a personal device, therefore, online learning, internships, and community service would occur even if local schools are not in session. National holidays would be observed by the Workforce Development Center.

The Workforce Development Center would strictly be utilized to develop job skills for students. The facility would not be used by schools as a disciplinary consequence for inappropriate behaviors in the traditional brick and mortar school. Students that struggle to follow the procedures and policies of the traditional brick and mortar school would have the opportunity to apply for enrollment at the Workforce Development Center and complete the application process as positions (or seats) became available.

Through the collaboration of school, community, and family, every child can learn the skills needed to be a responsible and productive member of society that will grow and give back to the community and future generations of children in the neighborhood.   

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