By MORGAN MANNS
Community leaders are working together in an effort to turn Fostoria students into young professionals.
Fostoria City Schools hosted a luncheon Wednesday, inviting business and community representatives to witness the unveiling of Redmen Career Connections.
Officials said the program, designed to help students recognize and learn about career options they may be interested in, will be implemented in the upcoming academic year; however, they wanted the business community’s input.
“We want to be a career-focused high school, giving students exposure and experience before going out into the workforce,” Fostoria Junior/Senior High School Principal Drew Bauman said Wednesday. “We’re focusing on what the students’ interests are and what our business and community leaders’ needs are. We pair those two things and get a more conducive experience for both.”
The idea stems from a collaboration of school and Fostoria Area Chamber of Commerce officials. Together, they created four “schools” — the Redmen schools of Business & Manufacturing, Health & Human Services, Public Service & Administration and Science & Technology — made up of 16 career clusters, which each include about 40-120 occupation options.
“We always think young kids know of all the employment opportunities that exist. They say, ‘I want to be an engineer’ but there are a lot of very specific occupations in the engineering field,” Bauman said. “And even if they do know exactly what they want to do, this is a way we can share what the process is to help them get there.”
As students enter their freshman year of high school, they will take two surveys — a personality profile and a career interests questionnaire — available through OhioMeansJobs to provide suggested occupations for students to focus on. However, if they decide the suggestions are not for them, they will have the option to choose a different career focus.
Students will then be placed in one of the four “schools” where they will learn more about the career they’ve chosen. Rather than a curriculum or course, the students will have opportunities to explore their career choice through speakers, research, and conversations with professionals in the field during their weekly Success class.
Success is a class period where students take interest-based, quarterly courses offered by teachers such as stress management, adolescent psychology, figure drawing, sign language, life after high school, origami, building wealth and finance, book club, archery, baking fundamentals and more.
In 2017, the district included the implementation of LEAD, a Leader in Me program, during Success classes. LEAD requires students to identify three goals each quarter — grades, attendance and personal development — and track those goals weekly.
At the start of their junior year, students, if they haven’t already, will start digging into the career clusters, choosing a more specific career focus so that by the time they are seniors, they have a better idea of what they want to do — or at least what they definitely do not want to do.
“We’re thinking we’ll take it semester by semester so students get a feel for the school or field they’ve chosen and if they decide, ‘That’s not for me,’ they are able to try something else,” Bauman said. “We’d rather them change their minds now as opposed to when they’re in college, paying for a degree.”
For this first year of implementation, which will include all grades 9-12 taking the surveys, Bauman said he hopes to have a speaker from area businesses and organizations speak to students in each school about once a month.
Each student’s leadership notebook will include a career piece, identifying specific goals they need to accomplish to achieve their overall goal of getting into the career field they desire.
“We don’t want any student to leave our school without having a clear vision of what that next step is,” he said. “We want them to be ready for something; we don’t want it to be unknown.”
As the years go on, officials hope the program will grow, giving students the opportunities to take field trips to a business or company within their school of choice as well as opportunities for job shadowing or internships.
“We want students to work on building a resume in their field,” Bauman said. “How awesome would it be to send a kid to a college of business at a local university after they spent the last few summers interning at Edward Jones? They would have references and experiences before they even step foot on campus. That’s where we’d like this to go.”
And those in attendance Wednesday agreed.
Representatives from NSI Crankshaft expressed their industry’s concern of an aging workforce and the need to “replenish our ranks.” They said this program was a “great idea” in the efforts to help students not only be aware of what’s after high school but also to give them some experience.
A representative with AGC (Associated General Contractors) said they were interested and willing to come into the school and talk to students about the trade.
Some asked questions about expanding the program into the summer months, the potential for coursework at area colleges or technical schools and options to help students learn soft skills such as communication and interview experience while others noted this type of program is what students are asking for.
“It addresses life after high school in all aspects — college, job and family,” someone said with an audible agreement from many others.
Business leaders in attendance Wednesday were asked to sign up if they had an interest in being a part of the program or sharing ideas.
Creating awareness, exploring interests and opportunities, providing students with field experiences and producing career-ready students are major goals of the Redmen Career Connections. But networking is just as important.
“We want really strong relationships between our business leaders and our students and our school overall,” Bauman said. “We’re really hoping we can create these relationships to give students a chance to see what we have available to them in the community and what opportunities exist for future careers.”
“A lot of college-bound kids don’t know what they want to do, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing,” he added. “We want to give them experience on what is out there so that they are more aware when they leave our doors.”