Preparing Students for the Workforce 
Every school district will agree our sole purpose is to educate students so that they can succeed in life after high school. This is why, over the past three years, Twin Valley School District has taken a comprehensive look at the skills our students will need, whether attending college, technical school or going directly into the workforce. As part of our research, we studied the job needs of Berks County, by talking to local employers and businesses and getting their input on career readiness for our high school students.   

According to Dan Fogarty, the Director of Workforce Development for the Berks County Workforce Development Board, the Berks County job market is steadily growing. Although this is good news, Dan cautions that many of the available jobs are opportunity occupations, such as healthcare practitioners, skilled production workers and construction managers. And while there are many job openings with above average wages, they usually require an associate degree. Dan further points out that Berks County has an aging population of skilled workers, who will be retiring over the next decade. However, the number of potential workers with the skills and prerequisite education for these jobs is not growing fast enough to meet the needs.  

National Center for College and Career Readiness 

In 2015, we partnered with the National Center for College and Career Readiness (NC3T). This organization assists school districts in developing a career pathway model that emphasizes two critical components for a student's career success. The first task is to organize or breakdown a high school's extensive program of studies into pathways based on the Pennsylvania Career Clusters. This step helps students navigate the course selection process with a career interest in mind. The second component is to partner with local colleges, employers, civic organizations and businesses to provide students with authentic experiences that match their field of interest.   

Developing a Pathways Model 

Twin Valley's development of a pathways model involved more than a year of discussions and meetings between a committee of teachers, administrators, guidance counselors and our NC3T partners. It became evident, during these planning sessions, that a systemic K-12 approach would be necessary for a successful model. The team identified three distinct phases of career development: The kindergarten through 5th grade awareness of careers stage; the middle school years, when career exploration becomes the focus; and the high school stage, when career planning comes to the forefront, and students select a specific pathway, depending on their interest.  

The high school planning phase begins with students visiting colleges and industries during their ninth grade year. These trips are made possible by support from the Berks Business Education Coalition. The director of this coalition, Dr. Solomon Lausch says that these business trips are valuable in giving students a more informed perspective of what businesses expect from employees.  

To help with the career planning component, Twin Valley High School organized our program of studies into two major pathways — science, technology, engineering and math or STEM and the arts and humanities. Students can choose from six career clusters. Some pathways culminate in a capstone course, which is when students apply what they have learned to a real life situation, working with experts in the field. Following a pathway allows a student to gain a more in depth understanding of the career cluster and their own interests and skills.  

According to Twin Valley High School Principal Bill Clements; “aligning our program of studies with various pathways helps students be more purposeful in selecting courses for their schedule and finding areas that really interest them. Once in a pathway, students can indulge their interest by taking many similar courses." Our students also have the opportunity to engage in challenging course work, including sixteen advanced placement courses and many dual enrollment courses with local colleges and universities, some of which are taught in our high school, online, or on local campuses.  

Internship Program 

Our district engages employers in the community through our extensive internship program. This year, over 120 juniors and seniors are serving as interns in nearly 100 different businesses.  Teachers, Angela Morgan and Gwen Werner, are responsible for not only starting the program but also helping it grow. According to Angela, an internship helps students in several ways; “Students’ learning in school becomes relevant when they can apply it to a job. Besides, how are you supposed to know if you really like something until you are actually doing it?”  Gwen added that students can also do a one day job shadow. 
Our internship program has become an innovative template for career programs in Pennsylvania. These experiences give students the opportunity to apply their learning in real- world scenarios, under the guidance of an experienced mentor. Internships prepare our students for future education and employment as well as improving their interpersonal and communication skills, so important in today’s world. Here is what three Twin Valley Seniors have to say about their internship experience. 

Summer Keihl did a full year internship with Wm. F. Hammell Nurseries and earned three high school credits. Her primary job was learning about the various aspects of the nursery business, including payroll, coordinating job flow, besides organizing and processing orders. Summer felt that being President of the Future Farmers of America and taking courses in math and political science helped her with her internship. In addition, working with customers on the job, sharpened her communication skills and made the job fun.  
Sarah Border interned at the District Courthouse with Judge Glass and at the Robeson Township Building. This half-year internship earned her one high school credit. During her time with Judge Glass, Sarah sat in on hearings and arraignments and had extensive discussions with the judge about the law. Her time at Robeson Township Building included learning about the local tax system and police reports. Sarah said that the experience confirmed her choice about majoring in criminology at the University of Maryland and someday working for the FBI.  
Josh Palyan’s one-semester internship, with Mishock Physical Therapy earned him one school credit. He also worked with the physical education teacher at Twin Valley Elementary Center and gained another perspective on how physical movement is beneficial to good health. During his time at Mishock, Josh's interactions with the physical therapy patients reinforced his passion for helping people. He developed better people skills through his internship and plans on studying physical therapy when he goes to college.  

Administration and Teacher Training 

Training our administrators and teachers is also an important part of the framework of the pathways model. By visiting local businesses, administrators learn about a company's employment needs, including necessary skills for the job, as well as required people skills. During our visit to the Reading Area Community College, Schmidt Technology and Training Center, we learned about future job trends, what jobs are currently available and how students can earn associate degrees in skill-oriented careers. Our middle and high school teachers have been doing one-week summer internships with local business and industry partners through the Inside Berks Business Partnership. These visits have helped them gain a more in-depth understanding of what our students require for successful careers in the workplace. 

Advisory Council 

We gathered partners from across sectors to help advise and provide feedback on our programs. This 50 member advisory council meets twice a year and includes representatives from many stakeholder groups, including students, parents, teachers and administrators, as well as board members, area businesses, colleges, career technical centers, and other community business leaders. We value the council's input on the various areas of college and career readiness.  

Evaluating for Career Success 

Evaluating student success is an important component of all programs. Twin Valley School District measures student success through an achievement profile, which monitors their progress throughout high school. The profile examines student performance on various state and local assessments, as well as their involvement in internships, dual enrollment, and capstone courses. A solid profile gives us a way to ensure our students are not only learning, but gaining the experiences necessary for a successful future. 

Any businesses interested in student internships, please contact Angela Morgan or Gwen Warner at 610-286-8600. 
Posted by KHARPLE On February 01, 2017 at 2:45 PM