A growing number of schools and districts throughout the country are grappling with an ongoing challenge: how to prepare students to succeed in an increasingly complex and ever-changing world of work.
The challenge stems, in part, from the growing divide between our nation’s historic approach to career readiness and the demands of a labor market having to confront globalization, automation, and technological advancements. For too long, career readiness was viewed as an alternative path -- an option for students who lacked the academic credentials to succeed in college, and it placed students in career and technical education (CTE) programs that were often viewed as secondary to the district’s main goal of preparing students for college.
Thankfully, this view has started to change. Today’s district leaders know that the fastest-growing jobs today didn’t even exist 10 years ago, and that as the shelf-life of skills continues to shrink, all of their students - even the college bound - must be equipped with a tool kit that unlocks opportunities beyond high school and prepares them for tomorrow’s world of work.
The challenge of connecting school to work begins with building student awareness through a journey of career exploration. Providing students with opportunities to discover their unique skills, talents and interests and connect to the world of work not only puts students on a path to success in their careers, but also leads to better academic engagement and success in school.
Odysseyware has created tools that allow students to go on this journey -- to explore their career interests, identify and build upon their strengths, and develop and apply newly discovered skills. The three levels of Career Exploration Courses expose students in middle school and early high school to diverse industries from health sciences and STEM to manufacturing and agriculture. The courses also introduce students to career development skills that will translate to post-graduation success whether they go to college or decide to pursue a career.
The next challenge is to provide them with sufficiently comprehensive coursework that addresses the breadth -- and depth -- of topics and disciplines that today’s students (and tomorrow’s employers) are looking for. Identifying and supporting qualified instructors for the CTE coursework and preparing students for internships that develop workplace readiness skills, including soft skills, can present a heavy lift for districts due to competing priorities, capacity, and resource constraints.
Pamela Lopez, Curriculum Specialist in Miami-Dade County Public Schools was seeking an online curriculum and a learning platform to prepare CTE students for 5-week summer internships, and turned to the Odysseyware curriculum and services. “The abundance of career-related curriculum was immensely helpful. We were also looking for an easy way to customize a course converting previously-developed material from traditional format to online lessons. The Odysseyware customization capabilities made this very easy to do.”
The ability of Odysseyware to provide comprehensive and aligned tools for educators is informed by over three decades of experience in the education industry, which has resulted in the development of curriculum for both middle and high school students for career exploration and planning. With over 80 CTE courses aligned to each of the 16 national career clusters -- such as manufacturing, marketing, or information technology. Each of the Odysseyware CTE courses also includes project-based assessments that allow students to apply their learning in real-world situations.
One way that savvy districts such as Shelby County, located outside of Memphis, Tennessee, are keeping pace with the rapidly changing demands of the economy is by using Odysseyware CTE coursework -- which is able to be offered fully online or as part of a blended learning model. Odysseyware is helping the district expand the number of high quality, accessible, and research-based offerings available to all of its students. Shelby County is now scaling an approach to CTE and comprehensive college and career readiness that draws on the expertise of certified teachers and digital content to help students navigate a multiplicity of career clusters or pathways that extend what they’ve been able to do in the past.
“In the 8 schools I have the pleasure of serving, we know that students need access to high-quality and relevant courses across a variety of domains to help them succeed after graduation,” says Charnel Smith, College, Career, and Technical Education (CCTE) Advisor in Shelby County. “With Odysseyware, we are able to engage our students with courses from business and marketing to automotive design and even cosmetology and barbering.”
Linda Williams, Business Technology Instructor at Cordova High School in Shelby County and a 2018 Winner of the Odysseyware Educator Impact Award for CTE appreciates the vast array of lessons available in Odysseyware. “A teacher’s most precious resource is time, and with the extensive amount of embedded content and ability to give students immediate feedback with Odysseyware, I find that I’m spending less time finding projects for students or grading their work and I have more time to enhance lessons to make them more relevant.”
Odysseyware recognizes that beyond the technical knowledge students need to enter the workforce, they also need skills preparation for success in the workplace, such as how to prepare for an interview, workplace etiquette, conducting business meetings, and effective communications. Districts can work with Odysseyware to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment and create a customized workplace readiness or internship preparatory course that tailors the experience of students to the industry sectors in their local economy.
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