Monthly Archives: March 2019

Exploring opportunities for school-business collaboration

Our upcoming Future Ready Partnerships Conference will feature two of the region’s foremost proponents of collaboration between businesses and schools. Also on the agenda are speakers who already have engaged in the kinds of school-business partnerships that are helping better prepare students, while strengthening the region’s workforce.

PNC Financial Services Group’s Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Demchak will give the morning keynote and The Grable Foundation’s Executive Director Gregg Behr will speak after lunch.

The Conference takes place April 2 at the auditorium in the Tower at PNC Plaza. Attendees are invited to share insights via social media using the hashtag #FRPC .

With workforce challenges looming, Mr. Demchak, who also chairs the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, has been quoted as saying that businesses must become investors in talent as well as consumers of talent.

Mr. Behr, who chairs the Allegheny Conference’s K-12 Business Engagement Committee, has championed the kinds of innovative learning experiences needed to prepare students for a world where the velocity of change is greater than ever and where technology is profoundly changing both lives and livelihoods.

Among other speakers, John Mascaro, President and Chief Executive Officer  of Mascaro Construction, will discuss his own experience in a partnership that connected him with educators as a means of conveying information about in-demand jobs to students. Greensburg Salem School District’s Coordinator of Secondary Education, Dr. Ken Bissell, will talk about the ways business engagement is benefiting students in his community. And addressing conferees via video will be state Rep. Austin Davis (D-McKeesport) who plans to share his own story of a job-shadow that put him on his political career path.

The day also will feature breakout sessions designed to help educators and businesses learn how they can tap the power of partnerships themselves.

 

TFIM Conference features new site hosts and workshops

Some 300 students will converge Downtown when our career exploration program, The Future Is Mine, holds its annual two-day Student Leadership Conference April 10th-11th.

The Conference, themed “Cheers to 19 Years” in celebration of TFIM’s  19th anniversary, gets underway as it traditionally does with career explorations hosted by 16 different employers. Following the workplace visits, students will visit Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum to take in a little history then head over to the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center for dinner, a dance, an overnight stay and a second day of career-related workshops.

“We’ve got some new worksite hosts this year as well as some returnees that haven’t hosted visits for at least several years,” said TFIM Program Director Gina Barrett. “We’ll also be offering some outstanding workshops, including a number that were student-driven and organized by TFIM teams.”

The Conference is TFIM’s culminating event for the school year, bringing together students from nearly 30 high schools.

New to the event as career exploration host sites are Covestro, a polymers manufacturer and HDR, an engineering and architecture firm. Returning after a number of years are the clothing retailer, American Eagle Outfitters; filmmaker and post-production services firm, PMI and Duquesne LIght Co.

Also hosting visits are: ALCOSAN, Allegheny County, Allegheny General Hospital, Carnegie Museum of Art, Dollar Bank,  Google, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Jefferson Hospital, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Urban Design Associates and the Waterways Association of Pittsburgh with Gateway Clipper Fleet.

Among more than a dozen different workshops will be sessions using: an Escape Room to build STEM skills; Human-Centered Design techniques to improve organizational and collaborative skills; research from Carnegie Mellon University’s BrainHub to build social and emotional skills; mock-interviews and other activities to improve job search skills and business etiquette.

As in past years, the Conference has a blue chip roster of sponsors including: American Eagle Outfitters Foundation; Comcast; Covestro; Dollar Bank; Duquesne Light Company; Highmark Casualty Insurance Co. HM Insurance Group; Huntington National Bank; NCDMM; NexTier; Pittsburgh Marriott City Center; Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation; Pittsburgh Pirates; Schell Games; Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall; UPMC; Wells Fargo Foundation and individual benefactor Amy Winokur.

 

 

 

Special tributes to be given at 2019 Champions of Learning Awards celebration

Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild founder William Strickland will receive the Consortium’s Special Tribute for his lifetime contributions to education at this year’s Champions of Learning Awards celebration.  United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, our partner in the awards, also plans to announce a Special Tribute at the presentation ceremony on May 2. 

The awards ceremony will honor individuals who have gone above and beyond to support youth in our region, whether in their professional lives or as volunteers. Awards will be presented to winners in six categories: Community Partners & Providers; Educators, K-6; Educators, 7-12; Leadership; School Staff; and Volunteers.

Earlier in the year, we announced three finalists in each category. The deadline for making reservations  to attend the awards ceremony is April 19. Tickets can be ordered online via Eventbrite.

TFIM Conference features new site hosts, innovative workshops

Some 350 students will converge Downtown when our career exploration program, The Future Is Mine, holds its annual two-day Student Leadership Conference April 10th-11th.

Themed “Cheers to 19 Years” in celebration of TFIM’s  19th anniversary, the Conference gets underway as it traditionally does with career explorations hosted by 16 different employers. Following the workplace visits, students will visit Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum to take in a little history then head over to the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center for dinner, a dance, an overnight stay and a second day of career-related workshops. 

“We’ve got one new worksite host this year as well as a couple of returnees that haven’t hosted visits for at least several years,” said TFIM Program Director Gina Barrett. “We’ll also be offering some outstanding workshops, including a number that were student-driven and organized by TFIM teams.”

The Conference is TFIM’s culminating event for the school year, bringing together students from nearly 30 participating high schools.

New to the event as a career exploration host site is HDR, an engineering and architecture firm. Returning after a number of years are the clothing retailer, American Eagle Outfitters and filmmaker and post-production services firm, PMI.

Also hosting visits are: ALCOSAN, Allegheny County, Allegheny General Hospital, Carnegie Museum of Art, Covestro, Dollar Bank, Duquesne Light Co. Google, Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, Jefferson Hospital, United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Urban Design Associates and the Waterways Association of Pittsburgh with Gateway Clipper Fleet.

Among more than a dozen different workshops will be sessions featuring: an Escape Room to build STEM skills; Human-Centered Design techniques to improve organizational and collaborative skills; research from Carnegie Mellon University’s BrainHub to build social and emotional skills; mock-interviews and other activities to improve job search skills and teach business etiquette.

As in past years, our thanks go to a blue-chip list of sponsors for making the Conference possible, including: American Eagle Outfitters Foundation; Comcast; Covestro; Dollar Bank; Duquesne Light Company; Highmark Casualty Insurance Co. HM Insurance Group; Huntington National Bank; NCDMM; NexTier; Pittsburgh Marriott City Center; Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation; Pittsburgh Pirates; Schell Games; Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall; UPMC; Wells Fargo Foundation and individual benefactor Amy Winokur

 

 

 

Employers give insights on skills students need

Learning about career paths available at ALCOSAN was “eye opening” for Clairton City School District’s Tom McCloskey, as were visits a week earlier to PNC Financial Corp. and several others last year that he made through Educator in the Workforce.

As Principal of the district’s Cyber School. “All I know is education,” he said. But as a regular participant in the Consortium’s Educator in the Workforce program, McCloskey feels he’s not only broadened his understanding of employers and jobs in the region, he’s learned to his surprise, “how much on-the-job training is available,” including for students with only a high school diploma.  “We heard about it here at ALCOSAN, we heard about it at PNC and we heard about it at NEP Group.”

Clairton City School District Principal Tom McCloskey works with his team to organize learnings from visit to PNC

McCloskey participated in two program sessions in March—the one at ALCOSAN, where he took time between activities for a brief interview, and another at PNC Financial Group. He also had participated in several sessions last year, including a daylong immersion at NEP Group.

Like McCloskey, most participants in Educator in the Workforce are looking to increase their knowledge of employers outside of education so that they can support students in learning what they’ll need to know as they enter the workforce. In some cases, the participants are teachers who want to be able to connect the subjects they’re teaching with real-world needs and applications. Others, whether counselors or classroom educators, want to be able to serve as sounding boards for students trying to connect their own interests and skills to possible occupations.

At both ALCOSAN and PNC, human resources specialists and others on staff took pains to point out that even entry-level jobs can be stepping stones to many opportunities that not only provide on-the-job training, but in some cases, tuition reimbursement for obtaining degrees.

PNC employs 56,000 and “on any given day, there are 3,000 jobs open in this bank,” said Executive Vice President Caitlin McLaughlin, who oversees the financial firm’s talent and compensation programs.  “Just because you don’t have a finance major doesn’t mean you won’t be a good fit for PNC,” she said.

In fact, even lack of a degree doesn’t rule candidates out at PNC, where jobs might range as far from finance as information technology or human resources, or ALCOSAN, where many of jobs are technical, involving water testing and the like.

“You can start here as a janitor,” in the unionized segment of ALCOSAN’s workforce and use seniority to hopscotch through a spectrum of jobs and training opportunities, said Tara Prince, an analytical chemist who has gone through several job changes there, including to one that enabled her to earn her degree. She noted that there are numerous apprenticeship opportunities within ALCOSAN that teach skilled trades like plumbing and HVAC maintenance as well as other opportunities for students “who don’t see college as part of their future.” Additionally, ALCOSAN offers a range of administrative and managerial opportunities.

PNC staffers also emphasized the importance of soft skills. In addition to the 4Cs—communications, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity—that schools increasingly are trying to incorporate into lesson planning, students also need to gain an appreciation of constructive criticism, McLaughlin said. PNC interns facing mid-summer reviews often misinterpret the process, she adding that some who haven’t ever been through it “melt down.”

Like all performance evaluations, the summer review process entails discussion of areas where employees “need improvement” as well as areas where they’re meeting or exceeding expectations. Learning that the process is intended to assist professional development, “is a huge skill,” McLaughlin said.

As valuable as the insights offered by employers during some Educator in the Workforce sessions are those offered from an employee perspective, especially when the employees are just starting out. Participants at the PNC’s session, for example, heard from recent PNC recruits, including one who joined the firm just out of high school as an alumnus of PartnerUP, a pre-employment training program that PNC organized with help from the Consortium.

Among other things, these young people gave attendees the benefit of their hindsight on what gaps high schools might fill in curriculum. One young woman said she wished she had had a chance to learn and practice PowerPoint. Similarly, another said she found that during and after college, she had to catch up with and learn from peers who had apparently had had more opportunities to practice presentation skills. Yet another said she wished she had learned some coding and almost all the young people said they wished they had learned more about personal finances.

 

 

 

 

 

Self-exploration is critical to student career planning

Now that Pennsylvania public schools are tasked with helping all students create career plans, they need to go a step further—have them create three.

While they’re at it, schools also should make sure that kids don’t begin career planning without having first explored their interests and assessed their skills, said Boston University Professor V. Scott Solberg. PhD. Solberg spoke in March to a group of educators gathered at the Consortium for a workshop presented in partnership with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Educational Laboratory. 

“Interest inventories often go straight to careers, but we want kids to find first out how they relate to the world,” Solberg said. When they connect careers to personal interests and goals, they’re much more likely to “take ownership of their learning.”

Identifying more than one career plan not only gives students a fallback, it also makes them think more deeply about their interests and skills. The magic number seems to be three because research suggests students with three different plans both do better in school and are happier later in life, Solberg said.

With schools relying too heavily on test scores as benchmarks of progress, too many students go off to college with no plan, or plans that didn’t adequately take account of who they are. It’s why too many drop out or change majors, Solberg said. “We need educators to realize they’re not just teaching subjects. We need to think about those next steps, not just subjects.”

To ensure that kids have the chance for self-exploration, Solberg suggested they do written reflections on what they’ve learned about themselves and what tentative career and life goals they can envision.

Additionally, he said the interest of a caring adult can be critical in starting the process. One common way of ensuring this access is pairing students with adult mentors in their schools. But some schools even are bringing in retirees to help kids, he said. Additionally, schools can bring business people in for career explorations, panel discussions and other activities.

Among the highest priorities for many educators at the workshop was helping students connect with real-world experiences and role models outside the classroom.

Baldwin Whitehall School District’s Assistant Superintendent Denise Sedlacek, M.Ed., for example, said her team would like to see more job-shadows for students in middle school and, at higher grade levels, more internships and cooperative education arrangements, in which kids combine classroom time with jobs.

“Our bullseye is face-to-face,” agreed South Allegheny School District Superintendent Dr. Lisa Duval. “For our kids, career exploration has to be more than logging onto a computer and researching a career. We have to get them onsite.”

Duval said families in her district can’t necessarily provide exposure to the kinds of careers that their kids might want. “We have to be the catalyst to say, ‘If you want more, you can have more’.”

 

 

 

 

Alliance presentation sheds light on teen behavior

Remember the billion-dollar, 1970s advertising campaign warning young people about the dangers of drugs—how they’d fry your brain like an egg, among other things? It had no effect. Drug use didn’t decline at all.

Despite reaching millions of people, the campaign likely failed its intended purpose because of the way our brains work, Carnegie Mellon University Professor Julie Downs, PhD. told educators gathered for a Future Ready Alliance session in March.

Instilling fear ultimately isn’t a strategy for changing teen behavior, she said. “You can’t live in a state of fear.” Instead, the brain responds more to actionable information.

With support from The Heinz Endowments, Dr. Downs gave special presentation on social and emotional learning as part of a series of Alliance “target” sessions, when participating teams and others focus on a topic related to their ongoing work improving college and career readiness in their schools. Dr. Downs talk covered a range of troublesome teen issues, ranging from risky behaviors like drug use to not studying enough.

Although it may not seem so at times, teens are just as capable of making rational choices as adults, Dr. Downs said. And they make bad choices for many of the same reasons as well. But they’re also more susceptible to what she terms “hot states,” when actions are driven more by the primitive, limbic regions of the brain that are responsible for feelings.

In cooler states, she explained, teen decisions are driven more by reason. Feelings still play a role, but a proper one—augmenting judgement.

Because kids have feelings of wanting to be liked and accepted, peer pressure often influences them to engage in risks that reasoning would tell them to avoid. A dire warning might not help them resist, because it’s not actionable, Downs said. “It doesn’t give them any tools. It’s not behaviorally useful information.”

Downs illustrated the emotional pull peer relationships can have on youngsters with the story of a young woman who’d been the victim of cyberbullying so severe, she received death threats. To escape her tormentors, the girl withdrew from social media.  But ultimately, “safety and wellbeing felt less important than being left out,” so she went back, Downs said.

To help kids avoid being pulled into behavior they know they shouldn’t, it’s best to talk about coping strategies in “cool” states, before the need arises. Contingency plans are among the “tools” that help kids avoid risks, Downs said. Other aids in in resisting temptation include environmental cues. For example, putting salad at the beginning of a buffet table can encourage more healthy eating.

For adults to understand teen behavior and guide decisions, it’s also helpful to understand the drivers of intuitive choices. Among these, people tend toward overconfidence and toward an “illusion of control,” both of which can play into taking chances like driving too fast or not studying enough for a test.