This is a continuing series of stories in which we are highlighting the winning Career Readiness Mini-Grant projects.

The Philipsburg-Osceola School District is in a small, rural community. Over 50% of students are economically disadvantaged. Despite this fact, the proposal team saw great potential in the thriving business community in the immediate area. They chose to partner with those businesses, some they knew existed and some they learned about during their proposal process, in order to showcase the abundant career opportunities available locally. The district’s program seeks to connect 10th graders with local businesses so they can investigate various career pathways and tailor their educational plans to one(s) that appeal to them. The district is looking to empower students to be ambitious and not discount their rural community as a great place to live, work and thrive.

The benefits of this program are two-fold: students will be introduced to various careers they can pursue and businesses get exposure to local talent. Traditionally, all 10th graders meet with their guidance counselors once to engage in a career planning session. The mini-grant will allow the counselors to expand their reach and get into a classroom setting with these students to lead a 9-week course in exploring career opportunities. After the course, students will visit the Moshannon Valley Regional Business Park, an economic development “tool” utilized by the Moshannon Valley Economic Development Partnership – a collaborator on Philipsburg-Osceola’s proposal.

The business park is currently home to 11 different businesses, including popular Diamondback Truck Covers. Some businesses are global and some are locally headquartered. They cover a wide range of industries, including manufacturing and logistics. After visiting these businesses and getting a sense of skills they will require to pursue a career in any one of these industries, students will then reassess their four-year plans and decide their path. They can eventually transfer to the local Career Technical Center (CTC) for specialized trade instruction, or they can decide to take up AP classes to prepare for college. Students have an invaluable opportunity to personalize their educational plans in order to end up in a job and industry they are qualified for and passionate about.

According to high school principal, Justin Hazelton, “This grant is an opportunity for us to spearhead some career readiness activities for the students in our building.” When asked about how they would measure success, Hazelton explained he would like to see every senior with a viable post-secondary plan mapped out. The school performs exit interviews and ideally, two years from now, every 10th grader that has participated in this yearlong exploration will have a plan for their next step. Some, he hopes, will even leave high school with the certification(s) they need to immediately enter the workforce. They are hoping it becomes a staple course for the 10th grade students. The entire district is placing a larger emphasis on career readiness from grades K-12 and these activities at the high school level are a great opportunity to catch students at an older age and still get them to think about their post-secondary plans.

One of the requirements of applications was that the districts partner with their Local Workforce Development Boards (LWDBs). Philipsburg-Osceola did just that, and is very much looking forward to establishing a strong working relationship with them.

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