Students at Crestwood High School recently participated in a career exploration exercise with Guard Insurance Company, courtesy of Partners In Education –a nonprofit organization that forges partnerships with the business and education communities to enlighten teachers students and parents about the courses and skills necessary to be successful in a career.
Partners in Education was started thirteen years ago when current Executive Director, Dr. Ed Lyba, realized as a school administrator in the Hazleton School District, that there were many industries locating to the area and looking for skilled employees. The partnership focuses on career selection and career readiness, especially the “soft skills” that students need but often don’t graduate with. Students learn interview preparation, the importance of being on time, professionalism in the workplace, and other things that typically are not taught from a textbook, as well as the opportunity to explore what they may be good at.
Right now, the partnership includes approximately twenty area businesses along with Crestwood, Weatherly and Hazleton school districts. Leadership of the organization falls to the Board of Directors, which includes representation from both the business and education communities from area school districts. Higher Education partners include LCCC, McCann School of Business, PSU Hazleton and the Keystone Job Corps. Students who are recommended by their guidance counselors are also involved in the leadership process, sitting on an advisory committee as non-voting members and are provided with various projects and activities throughout the school year. One project is the “Career Linking” activity that Crestwood Students are doing with Guard Insurance.
Guard Insurance Company happens to be the newest business member in the partnership. A select group of 10-12th grade students from Crestwood were charged with the task of researching the company and then conducting interviews to confirm the accuracy of their information. The business profile that the students created will now be placed on the Partners In Education Website. The Crestwood students will also present the Guard Insurance business profile on the Service Electric Cable Channel 99, during one of the programs on the series that typically features employment opportunities in the area, along with employability skills and other valuable information relevant to the students’ career future.
The afternoon at Crestwood High School consisted of two assemblies for students in grades 9-12, each incorporating a question and answer session from Guard Insurance. During their day at the high school, the company provided unique insight to students as it employs 350 staff members with backgrounds in health care, the legal profession, underwriting, sales and data analysis. They spoke to the students about what an employer looks for when hiring, as well as the general traits of flexibility, dependability, and “common sense” that students don’t always consider when applying for a position. Guard representatives also helped students connect how the classes they are taking now relate to the skills they will need later to be “employable”.
“It’s important for students to understand what a company like this does and what courses they need to take or skills they need to develop to work in a company like that,” explains Lyba, who attended the event on February 26.
Later, teachers followed up with the students in the classroom with research activities that went beyond the assembly. There were approximately five hundred students who attended the event and if one judges a favorable response by the amount of questions garnered, the students at Crestwood certainly took to the presentation.
There are a number of other programs that PIE has developed to promote school to work readiness. “Career Awareness Day” is meant to inspire middle and high school students by providing information about the opportunities that await them after graduation, and counsel them on what they should be doing now to help prepare for a career. Courtesy of the Partnership, fifty business professionals talk to 8th grade students in participating schools every November for Career Awareness Day.
“For kids in 8-9th grade, it is a critical time to make good decisions about what they are going to do and the courses they are going to take. The emphasis is on middle school and making career decisions; Anything to enhance student knowledge in the workplace,” says Lyba.
Crestwood also participates in the “Attendance Matters Program” which rewards students for perfect attendance in an effort to promote that same kind of systematic attendance in the workplace later as professionals. Crestwood students being honored for that achievement will attend a breakfast and receive certificates.
PIE also offers a “Teacher Internship” program that provides teachers the opportunity to learn about different business careers over the summer so they can better counsel their students, as well as offers area teachers several services for professional and course development.
For more information on Partners In Education, you can visit their website at www.partnersined.org