Tag Archives: Career Readiness

Press Pause: Redesigning an Existing Program

In January, we kicked off our Exercise Your Impact campaign. Throughout 2019 we’re sharing tools and resources that highlight critical phases of organizational planning. During Quarter 2, we are focusing on program development. An important aspect of program development is knowing when to redesign an existing program.
Too often, organizations operate on “auto-pilot” and keep running their programs in the same way because that’s how they’ve always done it. Programs can start to feel stagnant or stuck in a rut, but the effort involved in making a big programmatic change can keep programs in this place. Staying on auto-pilot can cause staff to feel overworked and stressed, especially if a program is not having the desired impact. Instead of forcing an ineffective program forward, it may be time to pause, reflect, and redesign the program.

In a previous blog post, we provided a few tips on how to know when it is time to redesign a program. For example we suggest you reflect on the following three questions:

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  1. Are we making the impact we hoped to make?
  2. Is our program aligned with the latest research?
  3. Is our program meeting the needs of the target population?

Transform Consulting Group (TCG) is currently working with La Plaza to help them redesign their Tu Futuro college and career readiness program. They evaluated their program a couple years ago and the data showed them that they weren’t making the impact they set out to make. They realized that they needed to better align their program with best practice research and narrow their target population by working with fewer schools and narrowing their focus to high school students instead of high school and middle school students.

Here are three steps they engaged in during the redesign process that may help your organization during the redesign process:

1. Engage Stakeholders

A key part of the redesign process is engagement of stakeholders, including staff. This is a great opportunity to talk to staff at all levels involved with a program for their feedback on what is and is not working. Including staff in this collaborative process is reinvigorating and creates a renewed sense of purpose.

It’s important to also engage other stakeholders impacted by or interacting with your program. For example, in their previous program evaluation, La Plaza collected stakeholder feedback from students, parents, school partners, and funders. This information was crucial during the redesign process.

What Works Image2. Identify and Engage Key Partners

Redesigning a program is no easy task. It is time intensive and, depending on the subject matter, may require bringing in experts. La Plaza identified partners to help them accomplish their new goals and make their vision a reality. Their key partners included TCG to help design a new curriculum based on best practice research and a philanthropic partner to fund the project.

3. Pilot the Program

Once you redesign your program, it is helpful to pilot it on a small-scale. This allows you to catch potential problems and fix them before full implementation. Piloting a program can also help test the efficacy of the redesigned program. By piloting the program with a smaller target population, you mitigate the risk of overstretching your staff.

When launching the first year of their redesigned Tu Futuro program, La Plaza decided to partner with one local high school. While they will expand to more schools in the future, this pilot period allowed staff to learn and successfully implement the new curriculum and form deeper relationships with students.

We know that redesigning a program is a daunting task that can disrupt your day to day operations. If you want help assessing your current program or beginning the process of a redesign, contact us today. We would love to learn more about your programming goals to see how we could support you!

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Why You Should Consider Implementing STEM Curriculum

It’s all the buzz right now, so what is STEM? The acronym STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It’s an approach to education that’s designed to revolutionize the typical teaching of subjects like math and science by incorporating technology and engineering into regular curriculum.

STEM Education shifts the typical teacher-centered classroom by encouraging a curriculum that is driven by problem-solving, discovery, exploratory learning and hands-on activities. Some programs have added “A” for art making the acronym “STEAM”. By adding art, educators are promoting creativity and flexible thinking among students in a science and mathematics context.Screen Shot 2018-01-16 at 9.47.29 PM

Workforce and economic development experts strongly support the need for a STEM/STEAM focus, which may be why it’s such a hot topic right now:

  • According to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economics & Statistics Administration, career opportunities related to STEM over the past ten years have grown three times as fast as non-STEM jobs.
  • In 2018, there are projected to be 2.4 million STEM jobs in the U.S that could go unfilled due to the lack of qualified workers.
  • STEM occupations have wages significantly above the national average wage for all occupations. The national average wage for all STEM occupations was $87,570, nearly double the national average wage for non-STEM occupations ($45,700).

In a recent project, our team worked with an organization to apply for a 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) grant. This non-profit organization offers after-school programming for middle school and high school students. Part of their grant application included implementing STEAM in their weekly curriculum and connecting students to local STEAM career pathways. As we worked to implement this curriculum shift, the organization saw four major benefits.

Benefits of STEM / STEAM:

  1. Help students accomplish their postsecondary education attainment and career goals.
  2. Address the community’s career pathways gap.
  3. Pave the way for new partnerships.
  4. Open doors for securing additional funding to sustain the program.
1. Help students accomplish their postsecondary education attainment and career goals.
 

By offering STEM / STEAM focused curriculum, you are supporting students’ development of skills, knowledge, and experiences necessary for success in postsecondary education and economically viable career options. This focus encourages strong community partnerships, which allow students to participate in internships and apprenticeships. It also provides additional opportunities for creative and innovative academic enrichment that support students in developmental areas such as academic, social/emotional, civic engagement, wellness, etc. By exposing students to various STEM / STEAM careers, it helps them identify their postsecondary education and career pathway.

2. Address the community’s career pathways gap.

By offering a STEM / STEAM program, you can help set your community up for success by encouraging skills needed for the local workforce. In our example regarding the 21st CCLC grant application, we found that a STEM / STEAM focus for students could really pay off for the entire county. In one school district included in the program, 55% of the students enrolled in college within a year following graduation. Unfortunately, the students are not persisting through completion. Currently, only 29% of the county adults hold an Associate’s degree or higher. That is less than half of the students who enrolled in postsecondary education and the state’s projected goal and need for 60% of adults to have postsecondary education. In this same community, manufacturing jobs – high-skilled and high paying jobs – represent almost half of the employment in the county. Expanding students’ knowledge of STEM-related careers and creating stronger partnerships as well as career pathways will be a game changer in this county!

Boy Assembling Robotic Kit In Bedroom

3. Pave the way for new partnerships.

With a structured STEM / STEAM curriculum, organizations can pull in local partnerships to enhance programming. With the organization mentioned above, we had numerous businesses in the community agree to facilitate field trips, presentations, and hands on activities to enrich the programming for students while also educating the students about local career pathways available. This is invaluable experience for a student who is trying to figure out what their options are after graduation. It is also a beneficial partnership for businesses who need to maintain their workforce pipeline.

4. Open doors for securing additional funding to sustain the program.

Because STEM / STEAM is all the hype right now, there are numerous funding streams available to support your work. Funders see this as a significant need in our education and workforce systems and are looking to support organizations who can successfully address this need. For the 21st CCLC grant, priority points were given to organizations who included STEM / STEAM in their programming. There is ample data available to convince local businesses and philanthropic partners to invest. Having a clear, focused curriculum in place can open NEW doors for additional funding streams.

As education and technology continues to transform the way we live, work, and learn, STEM / STEAM is something to consider for organizations serving young people. If your organization is ready to take the plunge and shift your curriculum focus, we’d love to work with you. We can help find funding, research programs, write your grant, evaluate existing efforts, and more. Contact us today and let’s chat!

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America’s College Promise Initiative

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This year, President Obama has unveiled a program to help combat the rising college costs for students across the nation, America’s College Promise Initiative. America’s College Promise Initiative would allow responsible students to go to a community college for two-years, free of charge.

It is estimated that by 2020, approximately 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree. The 1,100 community colleges across the nation give an affordable education at convenient locations for students, making it easier to go to college.

America’s College Promise Initiative will create federal-state partnerships to give students access to a college education. Federal funding will cover three-quarters of the cost of tuition, while state funds are expected to pay the remaining one-quarter cost. If every state participates, approximately 9 million students would benefit from this plan.

To participate in the initiative, students will have to complete the following requirements:

  • Attend community college at least half-time
  • Maintain a 2.5 GPA, while making progress towards completing a degree

Participating community colleges must offer credits that can be transferred to a four-year university or college, giving students the ability to complete a four-year degree; or offer occupational training programs with high graduation rates. The occupational training programs must lead to high demand degrees and certificates.

Transform Consulting Group applauds programs that give students a chance to further their education. Transform Consulting Group has experience helping organizations across the state prepare students for success in college and beyond. Contact us today for a free consultation!

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Protecting Students, and Holding College Programs Accountable

blogStudents pursuing education beyond high school have several different paths to choose: attend a trade school, community college, baccalaureate program, or for-profit institution – all of which can either be public, private non-profit or for-profit. Unfortunately, student outcomes and costs vary tremendously depending on the path pursued.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, attending community college is one-fourth the cost of attending two-years at a for-profit institution. This causes 80 percent of students attending for-profit institutions to borrow, while less than 50 percent of students at public institutions have to borrow.

The Obama Administration has announced new regulations that will go into affect on July 1, 2015 to help improve outcomes for students and also protect them from massive amounts of debts. These new regulations will hold colleges accountable as they prepare students for “gainful employment in a recognized occupation.” If colleges are unable to meet these standards, then they will lose access to federal student aid.

The new regulations consider “gainful employment,” to be when a student’s loan payment does not exceed 8 percent of his/her total earnings, or 20 percent of his/her discretionary income. These regulations are geared to meet the following goals:

  • Provide transparency about student success
  • Improve student outcomes
  • Increase accountability standards

The U.S. Department of Education estimates that 1,400 programs will not meet the new accountability standards. Without the financial aid, it will become increasingly difficult for students to afford career training programs and thus pursue attending these programs.

Transform Consulting Group works to stay current with the latest research and policies that impact our clients along the cradle to career continuum. Contact us today for a free consultation about how to align your programs and services with this current information!

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Transformational Organization Spotlight: Wabash County Promise

wabashThe Wabash County YMCA is “planting seeds of hope,” in its youth through a new initiative: Wabash County Promise. Wabash County Promise is a community-wide initiative to promote college and career readiness in students in grades K-12.

The initiative includes four key college and career ready components:

  1. Educational Savings: At school registration, families enroll in a CollegeChoice529 college savings account and may receive help in doing so. Students with a college savings account are more likely to enroll in and complete college.
  2. College & Career Discovery: All students participate in college and career discovery in the classroom throughout the month of September. In the younger grades this includes lessons such as: “What do I want to be when I grow up,” and “Who are the champions in my life who will help support me along the way?”
  3. Walk into My Future: “College Go Week” in September provides college visits for students in Grades K-3 to Manchester University to participate in hands-on activities, experience a college campus and participate in a mall walk that symbolizes walking into the future.
  4. Engaging Champions: Students are encouraged to identify champions in their life who will encourage them and contribute financially to their college savings account. Students in grades K-4 who raise at least $25 receive a matching gift of $75 for their college accounts.

In the first year of the Wabash County Promise:

  • Over 1,600 youth visited the campus of Manchester University for the “Walk into My Future Event.”
  • 9 out of 10 teachers observed increases in students’ hope for their futures.
  • Parental awareness of 529 plans increased from 41% to 82%.
  • Students with 529 accounts in grades K-3 increased from 6% to over 72%.

Transform Consulting Group applauds the community of Wabash County to work together in facilitating college and career readiness in all of its youth. Transform Consulting Group supports college and career readiness programs in having clear outcomes and tracking progress on the attainment of their post-secondary education goals. Contact us or visit our website to learn more!

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Federal Program Spotlight: Job Corps

 

This post is part of Transform Consulting Group’s blog series highlighting federal programs that provide education opportunities and/or youth development services in communities.

jobcorpsJob Corps is a free education and vocational training program administered by the U.S. Department of Labor. The program is designed to help low-income young people ages 16-24 gain experience needed for a career or higher education.

The Job Corps was initiated in 1964 under the Economic Opportunity Act by President Lyndon B. Johnson as a part of the war on poverty. Since then, the Job Corps has offered resources to young adults looking for meaningful careers. Last year, the Job Corps budget was $1,691,923,000.

Job Corps offers career planning, on-the-job training, job placement, residential housing, food service, driver’s education, health and dental care, and a basic living and clothing allowance. Students receive academic training that includes basic reading and math, college preparatory courses, and Limited English Proficiency courses. Other courses offered include independent living, employability skills, and social skills to help transition to the workforce. All of the 100+ occupational training programs are designed to meet the requirements and align with industry standards.

Some of the occupational training areas include:

  • Automotive and machine repair
  • Financial services
  • Hospitality
  • Information technology
  • Construction

Job Corps students will be trained at one of 125 Job Corps centers around the country. (Click here to find a job center.) Job Corps centers are set up similar to college. Male and female students are separated and most students live at the center. Generally, each student will have anywhere from one to seven roommates. Some centers even offer childcare programs for single parents. All family members are encouraged to visit the students at the training centers.

Job Corps is a self-paced program. This means each student works at his or her own pace. Depending on the career path of a student, training can last from eight months to two years. Before graduation, a Job Corps staff member will work with each student to conduct a job search. Additionally, for six months following graduation, staff members will keep in contact with graduates for any follow-up support.

Transform Consulting Group has helped many organizations increase the impact of college and career readiness programs within their local communities. Contact us today for a free consultation!

 

 

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