It’s exciting to announce that the Northwest Career Ready (NCR) education and workforce development initiative for Seneca and Sandusky Counties is ready to enter its next phase. NCR is part of the national Pathways To Prosperity model launched in 2012 by Jobs For the Future, a Boston-based think tank and facilitator connected to the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The goal is to help high-school students become career ready through work-based learning and other initiatives. Ten states now have regional or statewide programs, including Ohio, where the Central Ohio Compact has been making tremendous progress since 2012.
The first phase – “Laying the Groundwork” – is coming to an end. Since summer 2019, we finished our Asset Mapping, attended the national conference in Boston, held a launch meeting in both counties, and established three committees around the following three goals:
- Work-Based Learning – develop and implement effective work-based learning for all students;
- Leadership & Governance – align career-ready initiatives and create an overarching leadership and governance structure that coordinates efforts; and
- Communication & Buy-In – communicate with and engage educational, government and business stakeholders in the work and foster community buy-in.
In Phase I, Work-Based Learning (WBL) and Leadership & Governance (L&G) took center stage. Three themes have dominated the last twelve months:
- Pandemic & Change – the coronavirus pandemic, as well as changes in educational leadership (Tiffin City Schools), Jobs For The Future (our facilitator), and staffing changes (Vanguard-Sentinel) have caused delays but have also driven innovation and partnership.
- Strategic Formation – the mission and vision were finalized; WBL strategic plan and initial L&G structure have been developed.
- Funding – funds have been procured by Vanguard-Sentinel, Terra State, and other sources to support a WBL coordinator as well as program marketing.
This (academic) year’s Phase II (“Beginning to Implement”) will have the Communication & Buy-In (CBI) Committee ramping up activity, as the other committees begin to implement what they’ve worked so hard on over the last several months. Three of the focus points for the next 12 months will be the following:
- Communication & Engagement – branding and a communication infrastructure with internal updates, external newsletters, and periodic reports will be developed and implemented.
- Work-Based Programming – a WBL Coordinator will be hired and the BRAG (Building Readiness After Graduation) program will be strengthened, supported, and scaled.
- Coordination & Cooperation – the various stakeholders, business advisory councils, and strategic planning groups will connect, coordinate, and collaborate more.
We look forward to communicating more in the months to come. I try to keep in mind that this is a marathon, not a sprint…and that other successful programs are in their sixth, seventh, or eighth year. We’re excited to start year two.