Educators left our Future Ready Partnerships Conference earlier this month with leads on opportunities for their schools and new contacts to help put them in place.
Just the number of businesses and organizations willing to work with schools surprised Daniel Pounds, a Personalized Learning Coach in Burrell School District. “It just blew my mind that all of this is going on.”
The Monroeville event offered more than a dozen breakout sessions on school-business partnerships ranging from a small corporate network of volunteer tutors that Big Brothers Big Sisters organized, to ALCOSAN’s Scholastic Outreach program.
Attendees also heard thoughts on the regional employment picture from Keynote Speaker Vince Jordan, who heads the U.S. Navy’s Pennsylvania Talent Pipeline program, and listened to a panel discussion among business representatives and educators who gave tips on creating successful partnerships.
The April conference, which took place at a large training facility that Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers Local 9 operates in Monroeville, was the second in 2023. In March, we co-hosted this year’s first event with Intermediate Unit I at IU 1’s McMurray Campus. In previous years, the Consortium has offered only one Conference, but expanded to two because of the event’s growing popularity.
The event’s appeal underscores the growing understanding that school-business partnerships can enrich learning. Not only can they offer avenues for students to explore careers and connect with working professionals, they also can increase academic engagement because they connect classroom learning to the real world.
Making those connections also took on added importance this year as the Pennsylvania Department of Education implemented Act 158, which provides pathways to graduation other than passing the Keystone exams. Among alternatives that can help students demonstrate graduation readiness are industry certifications, work study programs, pre-apprenticeships, and the like.
Providing options through partnerships was of interest to Burrell’s Personalized Learning Coach both because his district is trying to “reimagine our senior year” to provide all students with more post-graduation pathways and because, like most schools, it has students who will need alternatives to passing the Keystone exams, he said.
The Conference offered “some things that we can professionally borrow and then tailor to meet our own needs,” Pounds said. “Just learning about organizations like the German American Chamber of Commerce (GACC) was huge for me.” He said that he’d love for Burrell’s students to be able to get the kinds of pre-apprenticeship training that GACC helps schools access.