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

The Cheltenham School District, from Intermediate Unit (IU) Region 1, is pursuing a unique three-tiered approach to career development as it relates to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. When Dr. Raymond Realdine, Supervisor of Counseling for the district, heard about the mini-grant opportunity from his Assistant Superintendent, he immediately thought about the importance of having employability skills and how those skills can be developed. In collaboration with the Director for Secondary Education, the Supervisor of STEM programming and Jenn Butler from the Montgomery County Workforce Development Board (MontcoWorks), the Cheltenham team devised a three-tier program that would capitalize on the school’s close proximity to companies and universities in the region with a focus on STEM – a popular industry with growing demand for a qualified workforce. 153 students will be participating in this program; 60 are 9th graders and the remaining 93 students are in grades 10-12.

The 1st tier of the program, to be completed by November 1st, is focused on students becoming aware of and building employability skills. Students will travel to the King of Prussia Mall to visit the Microsoft Store. While at the Microsoft Store, students will participate in a workshop facilitated by Microsoft developers and discuss benefits of working in the STEM field and the steps they will need to take to get there.

The 2nd tier of the program will involve the students visiting either the University of Pennsylvania or Drexel University in order to gain insight into engineering experiences at the university level. Dr. Realdine believes “college visits are tools for kids to conceptualize and visualize themselves being a student on that campus.” Students will meet professors, tour the campus, explore engineering facilities and develop a deeper understanding of the nuances associated with applying to and enrolling in higher education.

At the 3rd and final tier, students will participate in activities looping in industries not typically associated with STEM. In order to loop in manufacturing, students will attend ManuFest in the Spring of 2018. ManuFest is an effort of the Montgomery County Commerce Department, MontcoWorks, the Bucks/Montco Manufacturing Alliances, the Bucks County Workforce Development Board, and the Montgomery County Community College in partnership with the MidAtlantic Employers’ Association. Students will also be exposed to IT and computer programming careers by additional visits to local businesses, such as PCS or Vanguard.

This project will culminate with a final trip to the Pennsylvania State University to attend the university’s end-of-the-year engineering showcase hosted at the Bryce Jordan Center. There is a lot of enthusiasm surrounding this career readiness program, both on the part of the educators involved with implementation as well as the students who will be participating. Dr. Realdine and the Cheltenham School District are looking forward to exploring further ways to continue to partner with MontcoWorks with hopes of expanding the reach of this program beyond the initial 153 students identified in this grant.

If your district received a mini-grant and you are interested in sharing your story with our stakeholders, please e-mail Elizabeth Arias to arrange a time to talk further.