Note: I published this article previously in Small Business Monthly.
SMALL BUSINESSES CAN ORDER SUCCESS WITH SCHOOL TO CAREER PROGRAMS
Facts about these programs open your access to improving current employee morale and securing qualified new talent.
School to Career programs structure links between companies and students that result in improved performance for business owners and schools while increasing levels of employability for students. Connecting activities such as mentoring, internships, job shadowing, and teacher externships are reshaping the relationships between employees, employers, students and educators. These programs extend beyond the ususal “manual” skills that some businesses have historically used and beyond the usual “co-op” arrangements between schools and a few select businesses. STC is the potent, state-of-the-art way to tap into the people small business needs to maintain competitive profitability.
Return on Investment $$$$$$$$$$$
The Learning Exchange reveals that three of four companies studied experienced cost benefit ratios of .40 to 3.21 with their School to Career (STC) programs (dollar value of benefits divided by dollar value of program costs). A National Employer Leadership Council report considers these partnershps “intelligent investment of resources” rather than “risky business.” Programs are flourishing nationally, from Miami to New York. Philadelphia programs, for example, have resulted in a 10% increase in grade point averages (GPA) of students, over 8% decrease in dropout rates, over 8% increase in attendance and a higher percentage of students employed and continuing education. Similiar results have been achieved locally. The Grain Valley, KS district believes the STC programs have contributed to an 8% reduction in dropout rate. Their persistence to graduation rates have increased as well. Employers cite reduced training, recruitment and supervision costs, increased retention, productivity and morale, favorable publicity, and increased workplace diversity.
Traditional hiring computes the cost of benefits, wage, and training. STC programs change that equation by reducing training, recruitment, supervision, turnover rates and increasing productivity through investing in students while in school programs. Business owners have known that academic achievement translates to better employees, but a direct vehicle for making that translation has not been structured until the STC movement. Youth apprenticeship, for example, can reduce costs by 50% through tax credits and set asides. Additional savings have been measured in lower absenteeism and increased loyalty. The employer has a chance to “prove” the candidate for a longer period prior to hiring than the normal 60 days. In addition, the employer gains an advocate not on his or her payroll: STC liaisons.
Harmon Industries in Independence, MO is excited about the benefits. Harmon has been able to recruit exceptional talent, improve their own in-house engineering training, provide low-cost professional development, improve worker image and obtain state reimbursement for training costs. Their many programs include internships in shipping, machine tool, computer programming, drafting and other skills. One student actually designed the floor plan of the new corporate headquarters off I-70; another helped ease a drafting vacancy. Harmon has used job shadowing, mentoring, teacher externships, and internships along with a Career Institute. The company collaborates with Grain Valley, Independence, Raytown and other districts. Students who formerly may have shown a lack of engagement or a sense of belonging now report as seniors that the business principles and team training they received in the STC programs invaluable. Harmon hires directly from these proven participants.
Other smaller companies report similar results. Pat Meyer of Meyer Music has participated in shadowing. Small businesses have been able to interview better workers who know about business manners, customer service, communication and calculation skills. Claridge Court, General Reinsurance, Interim Technologies, Goldblatt Architecture, Timberlake Care Center, and Platte Woods Animal Hospital are just some of the companies who have participated in teacher externships and other connecting activities. Technical assistance is available for business owners.
The win-win STC partnership between schools and companies provide low or no cost training for employers. The Business and Technology College (BTC-part of the Metropolitan Community College system), Johnson County Community College, Kansas City Kansas Community College as well as professional associations such as the National Tool and Machining Association have developed articulation agreements with schools. These agreements provide for credit for coursework and experience while in high school. The BTC cooperates with small businesses to assist in recruitment and customize training of these prospective employees. Every articulated credit means training that the business owner does not pay for. These students are often hired in full time jobs before they complete the courses because of demand. They then finish their coursework on a part-time basis. Because there is a clear path between high school coursework and employment, between student and employer, these students are motivated to perform and will continue to improve through advanced coursework and training.
The Business & Technology College (BTC) is a local leader in STC initiatives and a variety of career development professionals. Martha Boyd, Director of Training for the BTC, can introduce employers to job and task analysis, organizational needs assessments, hiring, promotional and gap analysis or one-person, as-needed training. Blue Bunny routinely sends one support person every year or year-and-a-half for software training. The Center offers one day seminars with an open entry and exit lab for certain skill needs. A big advantage to small business owners is an applicant screening service which complies with ADA, EEOC, and other legal requirements. The BTC also offers ISO training.
A sampling of high school coursework in area school districts and area vocational technical schools (AVTS) shows the broad range of skills being provided with tax dollars. This exclusive survey attempts as accurately as possible to cue employers into specific skill programs and students. Small businesses can begin to develop mentoring, job shadowing, internships and other programs in the skills they need by working with the STC Coordinator or designated liaison in the district. For a list of contact persons at area districts, contact the district or the author. The Institute for Workforce Education in Columbia and the American Federation of Teachers also provide informational materials. Employers who want more business than usual take initiatives that are more than usual. Order your success soon by plugging into STC programs!