Nearly 200 Edison High School students are setting their sights on the future by determining their career pathways in an initiative through Harvard University.
Leah Eft, EHS career pathways coach, kicked off a career mentoring program on Oct. 7 to gain insight as to what the group of freshmen through seniors may choose as their vocation. An assembly was held in the school auditorium featuring special guest Tricia Maple-Damewood, president of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, and students completed a survey based upon their interests with the goal of holding monthly sessions with local professionals tailored to the youths’ feedback.
Maple-Damewood tested students’ knowledge and provided prizes for her interactive presentation. She told the crowd that Jefferson County currently had plenty of work opportunities and provided a list of businesses which were chamber members, as well as details about internships and job shadowing programs.
“There are 2,000 businesses right here in Jefferson County that would make great places to work,” she said.
She continued that the area included many large and small companies such as Timet Corporation in Toronto, which is the fourth-largest producer of titanium in the world and supplies materials for aircraft. Maple-Damewood suggested the students consider careers that matched their interests and skillset and offered advice on how to research and make a plan.
“A perfect way to figure out career planning is to see what you like. Are you passionate about the environment or animals? Would you prefer to work alone or with a team? Your extracurricular activities show your interests and passions, but employers want to see jobs on your resume,” she noted. “Think of your likes and dislikes and if you want to do one thing every day, all day.”
Maple-Damewood said students should also think about their income, if they want flexibility to work in shifts and where they want to live. One major plus is Jefferson County’s close proximity to larger metropolitan areas such as Pittsburgh, New York and Washington, D.C. to seek employment and live. Most importantly, she said students should be knowledgeable of soft skills such as giving firm handshakes, speaking confidently, being able to use Microsoft Office and other technology, following up with others and following through with tasks.
“If an employer sees you are taking the initiative, you’ll instantly set yourself apart from everybody else,” she concluded.
Eft then guided students through an online survey to discern their interests, skills and other information to help shape the mentoring program. It is all part of Edison’s ongoing collaboration with Harvard University and one way to address post-secondary pursuits among the high school set. The district is currently in its third year of a five-year process and Harvard utilizes the Proving Ground model of evidence-based improvement to address chronic absenteeism, career readiness and college enrollment. Edison is among 50 rural schools in Ohio and New York that are part of the National Center for Rural Education Research Networks (NCRERN), an initiative of the Center for Education Policy Research (CEPR) at Harvard, and the study is funded by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education.
Eft said Harvard officials selected which students would be involved in the program.
“We sent surveys to the students to get data on what’s important to them, their career interests and the level of importance on the educational process. [Harvard] found that students didn’t see a value in a school setting and they thought this would be a good intervention.”
The initiative has emphasized building school attendance while the second part hones in on college and career readiness. Eft said the monthly meetings would educate pupils on not only college or trade programs in their particular field of interest, but also other skills needed to help them find success in the workplace. The surveys simply provide a roadmap to plot their course.
“We will match the students with two careers they will focus on and their interests and go from their answers to match them with mentors,” she commented. “We. will have monthly meetings and a professional will come in to speak on careers and career pathways. We want to get kids more motivated to be in the know and this is a huge part of it.”
Another aspect of Eft’s role concentrates on underclassmen and incorporates the district’s vision on the three E’s –enroll, enlist and employ. She works closely with EHS, John Gregg Elementary and Stanton Elementary to coordinate activities and get students in grades 5-12 interested in enrolling in college, enlisting in the military or employed in the workforce. She also implements professional skills from work ethic to punctuality to give kids a purpose in career planning and to be prepared with college and career readiness.
Assistant Superintendent Julie Kireta thanked Eft for her work and Maple-Damewood and the chamber for their involvement, saying the ultimate goal is to help students achieve success in the future.
“We started working with Proving Ground for attendance and are continuing to work with attendance intervention, but we also moved on with career readiness. The project we are working on this year is career exploration and Mrs. Eft will take groups of students and have meetings with community members with careers that students have interest in,” Kireta said. “It is interest-based career exploration. We are glad that Mrs. Eft organized it because it was a lot of work. I also thank Mrs. Maple-Damewood for talking to the students about career readiness and what employers expect out of employees, and I am glad the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce can be a part of that.”