Image courtesy of Penn Manor School District

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

Penn Manor School District is one of the largest in Lancaster County, encompassing 110 square miles and serving over 5,000 students in grades K-12. Although the district is considered to be primarily suburban, it includes students from Lancaster City as well as the very rural areas of the county, with about 18% of students coming from under-represented ethnic backgrounds. The diversity of the school district reflects the range of opportunities that are offered by local businesses and industries.

Penn Manor committed their entire 2017-18 opening day professional development to fostering a partnership with local businesses, industry owners, and employers. Companies such as Lumsden Corporation, Listrak, and Lancaster Solid Waste Management engaged with teachers in grades K-12, giving feedback about the skills they seek in employees, and the gaps in preparedness.

The school district responded to the input provided by the business community by working with Valarie Hatfield and Cathy Rychalsky of the Lancaster Workforce Development Board to identify 46 Metrix Learning courses offered through SkillUP Lancaster; an online e-learning service focused on helping job seekers improve their marketability to employers.

Ninth grade students participated in this program and completed classes in varied topics with titles such as Time Management: Ready Set… Focus!, Being an Effective Team Member, The Art and Science of Communication, Emotional Intelligence: Owning Your Own Emotions and Being Aware of Others, and many more. The courses chosen comprised the Comet Credential Online Badge that students would earn upon completion.

Students attended an encouraging kick off assembly with keynote speaker Scott Fiore, who introduced the badge and the concept of “essential skills.” Fiore told the students, “When you complete this training, you will be much better prepared for a job than your peers at other schools will be.” Fiore also explained to the students that the very courses they would be taking were the same ones required of adult workers at local and national employers.

Commenting on the benefits of the program, high school guidance counselor Melissa Ostrowski said, “This could give students an advantage as they look for employment, and ensure employers that students are coming into the workplace with a given skillset – which is exactly what they said was lacking.”

After completing the courses, each student received a certificate and their online badge to add to their resumes for future interviews. Out of the 420 students who participated and provided feedback, 67% said it was easy for them to make connections between the skills addressed in the courses and the skills they need to succeed in school and work.