Integrating Promise Programs at Every Stage of Student Life for Career Success: Panels with Experts in K-12, College, and Adult Students
While College Promise programs provide funding for post-secondary education, many are also developing new methods of supporting students beyond financial need. From coaching and mentoring to internships and career exploration, Promise programs are implementing new ways to support student success in K-12, college, and the workforce.
A select group of Promise programs offers high school students seamless dual enrollment educational opportunities in order to accelerate completion of college certificates, diplomas, and associate degrees that lead to college transfers or provide entry-level job skills. These types of innovative programs -- along with wrap around student supports -- can prepare students early for career success.
Brenda Dann-Messier, Senior Advisor for Education Strategy Group, led a conversation about the ways K-12 institutions can begin integrating Promise models to prepare students for postsecondary education and the workforce. She was joined by Michelle Lair, Career and College Promise Coordinator for North Carolina Community Colleges, and Russell Fraenkel, Director of IT Career Pathways and Partnerships for the Minnesota State IT Center of Excellence.
Michelle Lair explained that, like many states across the country, North Carolina has offered dual enrollment programs for a while. “In North Carolina specifically, our legislature very graciously recognized the need for keeping the pipeline from school to career filled with very skilled, very educated folks. So as a way to do that, dual enrollment is one of the opportunities that are afforded to our students in the state to give them that chance to get the skills, credentials, and education they need,” said Lair.
As the workforce continues to change, Lair says programs like dual enrollment will be even more necessary to prepare K-12 students for the future. “We've got roles to fill, quite frankly, and this particular program allows students to begin interacting with those career pathways very early. We work very hard and collaboratively with our Department of Public Instruction partners to offer articulation opportunities so that students can transfer or articulate, rather, the credit they may have earned in high school from career and technical courses over to us, and then just continue on in that pathway, completing that coursework to ultimately earn that credential,” she said.
Russell Fraenkel discussed the IT programs his organization brings to teachers and says the primary concern should be the teachers. “Teachers in the K-12 system are really, really busy, and you have to be able to demonstrate for them or show them that you're going to ideally make their job easier, rather than more complicated. Everything we have done involves them in the creation and in the design, but it also recognizes that we want to put in their hands curriculum resources that they're going to find a great value immediately to work with students,” he said.
As an example, Fraenkel’s team has implemented a low-cost IT exploration curriculum that teachers can access and use. “We provide free training and free support, so there's a variety of things that we have done by design, intentionally, to just make their lives easier. What we recognize, especially in this particular field, is that there are a lot of teachers who are not comfortable teaching, for instance, computer science principles,” he added. Fraenkel says making the design as comfortable for teachers as possible, by teaching components like creative technologists, they will be able to impart to students new skills that will prepare them for future IT careers.
Many Promise programs offer college student supports specifically targeted to career success. From paid internships to labor transcripts to career counseling -- these Promise programs are ensuring that students are ready for hire.
Anjana Venkatesan, Advisor at College Promise, discussed the ways Promise programs are going above and beyond to support college students.. She was joined by Bennie Lambert, Vice President for Student Success at Lone Star College, and David Rust, Executive Director of Say Yes Buffalo.
David Rust explained, Say Yes Buffalo’s approach to student support in three different phases they’ve implemented over the past eight years. The first, he said, was built based on the Say Yes to Education model and embedded wrap-around supports in the K-12 public school system. “In phase one, we started with family support specialists providing social service case work. We added mental health clinics, we worked on extended learning time options including summer camps for kids in pre-K through sixth grade, and then layered in legal clinics for students with civil-legal needs,” he said.
“As we had had success and were able to grow and move beyond that, we added a community-school approach, the signature component of which was Saturday programming,” Rust added. In 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, upwards of 60,000 people went to Buffalo public schools on Saturdays for enrichment programming, structured recreation time, talent discovery, and exploration. “They were really interesting activities to bring kids and families into buildings with hot meals and more. We had parent centers at that point in time, mentoring, and internships, and the final component was an after-school program in all our buildings.”
The support, though, doesn’t end in K-12. In phase three, Say Yes Buffalo began embedding those same supports onto their college campuses. “And that was a big lesson learned,” said Bennie. “Our students that had food needs or transportation needs or mental health supports; their needs didn't end in 12th grade. We needed to embed those supports on our college campuses as well, and we were able to work with our five largest feeder campuses here in Buffalo, which comprises 70 percent of our scholars.”
Bennie Lambert says the programming at Lone Star College is similar in its approaches, agreeing that struggles in high school will follow students directly to college. “One of the things I'm very proud of is that I didn't start [the program] -- faculty did. Over about four years of looking at how to serve students, and that's across the board, we were looking at the success ratios of students. We did random checking of their transcripts and things of that nature.” Lambert says the number of W’s and F’s they found students had on their transcripts was shocking.
“We had to put in some kind of intervention, and it's two words, it's called early alert,” said Lambert. They implemented a program called the empowerment center, which was formed by faculty. "They were working it part-time, making it work, and later we got to see the success of it. As a result, the student life program, or really the student success area, student activities area, has counseling in it. It has a couple advisors that share it and it has a food pantry, but the real crux of it is that we talk about always trying to better communicate with the student,” he said.
Promise programs offer adult learners already in their careers a tuition-free way to earn a high-demand credential or certificate, whether they want to move up the ladder or switch careers.
Martha Kanter, CEO of College Promise, facilitated a discussion about Promise programs for adult learners at Ivy Tech Community College. She spoke with Caroline Dowd-Higgins, Vice President of Career Coaching and Employer Connections at Ivy Tech, Stacy Townsley, Assistant Vice President of Operations and Implementation in Workforce Alignment at Ivy Tech, and Keenan Bates, an adult student at Ivy Tech.
Stacy Townsley says to supplement the workforce, Ivy Tech, Indiana's state-wide community college, offers both non-credit training and learning that leads to industry certifications, credit-bearing technical certificates, and associate degree programs. It does so all within Indiana's high demand economic sectors to directly train and retrain workers.
“And these are advanced manufacturing business supply chain logistics: healthcare, IT, and building and construction. We also offer transfer-oriented programs to bachelor's level study in a number of areas, including engineering and education. That being said, the mix of programs across the state at our 18 individual campuses and locations really is informed by a number of factors and most heavily by local labor market demand,” she said.
Caroline Dowd-Higgins added an important component of Ivy Tech is their collaborative approach. “We're synthesizing the data to look at opportunities for our students around the state and and around the neighboring states as well,” she said. Ivy Tech also has the distinguishing feature of staff that are directly aligned to the work that they do with their employers. “I'm leading a new effort called Career Coaching and Employer Connections, and we actually have our career development staff working hand-in-glove with our employer-connection staff, our external-facing staff, that are outreaching to employers so we can be in the know in real- time,” she said.
“We must constantly listen to learn what our employers need so we can reflect those opportunities in our curriculum and on our training and also be a very direct and seamless talent pipeline to connect the talent to the opportunity,” Dowd-Higgins added. Ivy Tech aspires to connect students to opportunities that are high-demand and high-wage. “We're looking for career opportunities where our students can thrive financially,; where there is upward mobility,; and where they have the benefits of healthcare, retirement, and so many other things.”
Keenan Bates talked about his experience at Ivy Tech and how the institution has connected him with opportunities. “I was looking for an apprenticeship. I'm currently going to school right now in the industrial technology program with the TC of electrical and one of the key points when I was looking for a school, was affordability, which Ivy Tech definitely has. It's affordable, and it's a fast-paced college. It takes two years to get your associate's degree and, it's all high- quality training,” Bates explained.
Bates has also found success with Ivy Tech’s Community Workforce Program, which put him in contact with his local union, giving him the opportunity to join them after he completes his schooling. “All the opportunities that I've had, and reaching out to faculty members and teachers, it's just a great opportunity to go through school and to be able to have that at my fingertips,” Bates said.
This blog post is part of a series of recordings from the College Promise Careers Institute. In November 2020, College Promise held the virtual 3-day summit convening hundreds of our nation's leading practitioners, educators, employers, and thought leaders for sessions tackling the most complex challenges American workers face -- from the rise of artificial intelligence to the role free college plays in maintaining a competitive edge.
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