Local Planning and Implementation Guide
There are many helpful tips and techniques to develop a successful Career Prep Certificate Program. Many of the issues that will be faced during implementation may have already been experienced and are addressed in this guide. The following planning and implementation steps are provided to assist with the process.
Establish an Advisory Committee
Since this program must be demand-driven by employers, it is critical that everyone be brought around the table. The role and empowerment of the advisory committee will be helpful in developing the program locally and monitoring its successes. Carefully consider representation from all stakeholder groups: employers, chambers of commerce, postsecondary education, workforce service providers, school administrators, counselors, parents, and students. It might be beneficial to select an impartial or third-party chairperson to facilitate consensus. It is recommended that the local chamber of commerce and regional Workforce Investment Board be contacted to identify resources and coordinate services. Please contact the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Career Education Division at (573) 751-2660 for assistance with this process.
Develop a Planning Process and Timeline
Establish a procedure to develop all components of the program. Utilize a strategic planning approach with committee involvement throughout a clearly defined process. Carefully consider the appropriateness of participation for representatives from each stakeholder group (for example, community leaders might have limited availability to participate). Establish a timeline with sufficient time to accomplish all objectives and make efficient use of committee participation.
Academic and Work Readiness Components
The academic and work readiness components were identified by the state advisory committee. All are cross referenced to Missouri’s Show-Me Standards, Academic Grade-Level Expectations and Comprehensive Guidance Grade-Level Expectations. It is important to carefully review the knowledge and performance expectations underlying each component.
From that review, select and prioritize the components that best meet local or regional needs. Conduct a local or regional survey with different stakeholder groups to identify and/or verify the components and expectations.
Use the assessment summary to identify existing or potential assessments to address the components. A number of assessments and surveys are available commercially or through government agencies. Assessments can be packaged to demonstrate mastery of most components. If an additional assessment is warranted, a thorough analysis of available resources should be conducted.
Alignment with state or national certification will also require additional assessment costs. Employers, groups, or organizations might be willing to defray these costs as an incentive to attract qualified entry-level employees. If the program is truly demand-driven, with employers requiring the certificate for application, the individual test taker may be willing to pay for additional assessments. Similarly, colleges have created a system that drives students and parents to pay for assessments and retakes.
Develop the Certificate and Other Documentation and Participation
It is important that the program make available an easy-to-understand certificate that provides employers with information and documentation of individual accomplishments. The front of the certificate can be formal with general information, seals and signature. The back of the certificate makes it “portable” to employers who might not be aware of the program. This is accomplished by providing any of the following information:
- assessment results
- grade point average and courses taken
- attendance rate
- academic skills and competency
- work readiness skills and competency
- hours of community service, mentoring and tutoring
- participation in extracurricular organizations and activities
- other training and experiences
Align with Existing Programs and Initiatives (as appropriate)
There are numerous state/local programs and initiatives that have been implemented in Missouri schools. Some have similar goals or structures and could be packaged with components of this program. When developing a program, incorporate resources from existing programs and initiatives whenever possible. By capitalizing on existing resources, the amount of new components (requiring additional resources) can be limited.
A+ Schools Program
While schools have limited experience in assessing work readiness components, the A+ Schools program has established requirements for students to demonstrate appropriate behaviors. The positive characteristics demonstrated in the school may transfer over to the workplace.
Students who graduate from a designated A+ high school may qualify for a state-paid financial incentive to attend any public community college or career/technical school in Missouri if the students successfully meet the following requirements:
- enter into a written agreement with the high school prior to graduation
- attend a designated school for three consecutive years immediately prior to graduation
- graduate with an overall GPA of 2.5 points or higher on a 4-point scale
- have an overall attendance rate of at least 95 percent for grades 9-12
- perform 50 hours of district-supervised, unpaid tutoring or mentoring
- maintain a record of good citizenship and avoid the use of drugs and alcohol
The financial incentive is available only after the student has made a good faith effort to first secure all available federal financial aid that does not require repayment through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. (For more information, see What Works!)
Character education encourages schools to create environments that foster ethical, responsible, and caring young people. This proactive effort by schools instills important core, ethical values in students. As a result, students become more aware of their own personal values and how these values relate to the world outside of school.
Missouri’s program, CHARACTERplus, provides a framework and an opportunity for home, school, and community members to positively influence students’ character development. Because the community selects and defines the traits, business leaders have a voice in determining what traits they would like to see developed in their future employees.
Results from high-implementing schools indicate that students have an increase in personal responsibility, accountability, self-management, and ethical behavior. These schools also experience a decrease in disciplinary issues, an increase in attendance, an increase in academic skills, and a decrease in the drop-out rate.
With this process, schools are more likely to provide students and adults with increased opportunities to carry out moral actions. There is an emphasis on adult role modeling, student leadership, service-learning, recognition of good character, peer mentoring, and positive behavior. Because traits are integrated throughout the school day, throughout the community, and at home, students have multiple reinforcements of the traits. Thus, the standard of behavioral expectation increases.
Align with State/National Certificates (as appropriate)
A number of national credentials (academic, occupational licenses, professional-skill certificates) are already in use in Missouri. However, there is limited use of a credential that contains both academic and work readiness components. There are several benefits (i.e., standardization, portability) in aligning a local program with a national certificate. There are two national certificates receiving a lot of attention: the National Career Readiness Certificate and the National Work Readiness Credential.
Determine Parameters of a Guarantee
Incorporating a guarantee into the program can be a useful tool that assures stakeholders of a specific outcome. Schools can strengthen an existing partnership with employers by defining and identifying components of a guarantee, which at a minimum is limited to the documented assessment of knowledge and skills.
Schools may use standardized assessment results to document mastery of specific academic and work readiness skills. Both criterion- and norm-referenced assessments provide valuable information related to individual knowledge and skill levels. However, the retention of knowledge and the application of skills may or may not be transferable to the workplace. It is important for employers and schools to pay careful attention to the duration of any guarantee of performance beyond the time that skills are assessed.
Promote the Program and Build A Demand-Driven System
In developing a demand-driven system, it is critical to determine strategies to increase awareness and encourage interest in the program. Focused efforts to target audiences are recommended. (For more information, see What Works!, Pages 16.) Program promotion starts with increasing awareness throughout the community. Consider the following when promoting the program.
- Determine for each audience, “what’s in it for me?”
- Focus on clearly defined goals and activities that address each audience’s needs.
- Develop a list of stakeholders through personal contacts and organizations.
- Develop a succinct tagline (i.e., Ready to Work, Guarantee) that will assist in branding the program.
- Target materials and messages to different audiences.
- Follow up in person or by phone
The process will be more successful by involving stakeholders throughout the planning and development of the program. Establishing an effective partnership takes patience, commitment, open communication, and an investment of time. An existing partnership can be strengthened by building an environment where businesses and schools collaborate and share resources.
Monitor for Continuous Improvement
Demands for the certificate from employers and postsecondary institutions will drive the success and longevity of the program. There are ways to monitor the success of the initiative and determine the impact on meeting local and regional needs. The following data and information provide results to assist in making adjustments and improvements to the program:
- employer satisfaction survey data
- certification required for entry-level positions
- employment and education follow-up data (180-day, one year, and two years after graduation)
- return on investment data (unemployment, vacancies, turn-over, training, etc.)
- postsecondary remedial education
- participation data (number of certificates, number of employers)
The key to success is listening to all stakeholders on an ongoing basis. It is essential to learn from feedback and use it to improve the process, performance, and results.