The world around us is changing rapidly. In Ohio, 43 of the state’s 50 in-demand, high-paying jobs will require a post-secondary education or better by 2018. And, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, 65 percent of today’s students will be employed in jobs that don’t exist yet.
So, how can we prepare our young people to succeed in the jobs of the future?
Recognizing the important connection between strong schools, student learning, and improved economic and workforce development outcomes, a group of forward-thinking school districts in Springfield, Ohio have partnered to address this challenge. The Greater Springfield CareerConnectED Consortium—which includes Clark-Shawnee Local Schools, Global Impact STEM Academy, Springfield City School District, and Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center—committed to increasing student achievement and improving college, career, and life readiness through a shared services approach. The Consortium leverages the strengths of each district to maximize impact for students and communities across the Greater Springfield region.
In mid-2014, the Consortium was awarded a grant through the Ohio Straight A Fund to support renovation of the former Springfield South High School to create an innovation center, home to the
Springfield Center of Innovation: The Dome, an interactive learning hub for educators, students, and community members to build critical skills while they explore their interests. The Dome, which officially opened its doors on August 6, 2015, is also the residence of the Global Impact STEM Academy, specialized food and bioscience laboratories for Clark State Community College, and future manufacturing and computer science training spaces—industries that have seen significant growth in the region over the past few years.
In addition, the Springfield Center of Innovation includes a YOUmedia Learning Lab, an open, flexible learning space where teens can go to explore, create, and express their interests using digital media with the support of mentors and community partners.
“The Springfield Center for Innovation will showcase our community’s commitment to our youth and their teachers by offering the best information and technology available to help them build the necessary skills for the future jobs in Ohio,” said Mike McDorman, President & CEO of The Chamber of Greater Springfield.
While the Innovation Center is an important part of the Consortium’s work, the programming and professional learning opportunities housed within The Dome are what will drive student learning. Through a shared services approach, and using the CareerConnectED Framework as a guide, the Consortium is focused on:
- Transforming the roles of teachers and students to support and encourage academic and personal growth;
- Making learning matter for students and engaging them in relevant, hands-on learning opportunities aligned to their college and career interests; and
- Connecting with community and others to provide students with real-world training and job experiences.
Battelle for Kids provided communications counsel, event planning, and performance management expertise in support of the Consortium’s work.
When students are actively involved in creating and experimenting, they are developing important life-readiness skills, such as problem-solving, adaptability, teamwork, and persistence.
“We realized that many of our students were struggling in their jobs or college,” said David Estrop, former superintendent of the Springfield City School District. “In most cases, it wasn’t the academic knowledge holding them back, but what people call soft skills—time management, working with others, asking for help, sticking with difficult tasks, etc.”
Now, more than ever, students need to see the connection between what they’re learning in the classroom and how it applies to everyday life. Educators in the Consortium are receiving training and access to professional learning resources in priority areas—including academic content, life-readiness skills, inquiry-based learning, experiential learning, 21st century tools and resources, and assessment—to help students learn and grow.
Working in partnership with area high education institutions, businesses, community organizations, and others, the Consortium also connects students with internships and mentorship experiences and offers teacher externships to bring real-world skills to the classroom.
“The Dome in this community has always stood as a beacon of hope,” Estrop said. “I hope we have managed to literally and figuratively rekindle that beacon.”
Learn more about the Greater Springfield CareerConnectED Consortium at www.getcareerconnected.org.