Allison Ricket, from Athens High School, continues her guest blog about the benefits of partnering with local businesses and having them become part of the classroom experience for students. Allison is an English teacher that participated in the Problem Scenario Project last summer and fall. She is highly motivated to create career development programs for students in Athens County. In her own words....
One reason for the lack of engagement in school is the lack of connection between school curriculum and the "real world."
Recent studies like the 2015 study conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities continue to report employer dissatisfaction with entry-level employees' abilities to think critically, problem solve, and work both collaboratively and with independent initiative. We could blame this lack of career readiness - both from high school and college grads - on Google, Sponge Bob, or Helicopter Parents, but the result is the same: Businesses don't think recent graduates are ready for the workforce.
Further, school engagement across the grade levels declines with every passing year. Robert Putnam, Harvard researcher and author of the book Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis, found alarming declining participation in extra-curricular activities and other school related activities across the country and at all socioeconomic levels. Similarly, colleges and universities struggle with retention rates, as a number of students drop out after one or two years of undergrad.
What BB2C and I have found is that the best solution to help students increase engagement and focus in school while also building the soft skills needed to excel in a business environment is to partner the classroom and the community. Bringing local businesses - their problems and their expertise - into the classroom pays dividends, and not only on test scores.
Cindy and Brent, owners of the Market on State in Athens, returned after my students worked for two weeks analyzing the problem of how to attract more foot traffic to The Market on State ready to hear the students pitch their creative, research-based solutions and give authentic feedback to the students. I required my students to craft a traditional marketing "pitch" complete with an engaging presentation and a written plan.
Some student groups came up with traditional ideas for new stores or events to draw people to the mall, others thought more outside of the box, drawing from experiences at other retail locations about how to enhance the mall's appeal for multiple demographics. One group honed in on the Market's current advertising and made suggestions for improvement.
I had 100% participation from all of my students - even my at-risk and hard to reach students. As any teacher knows, this statistic in itself is a victory. Furthermore, Cindy and Brent were so excited about one of the solution proposals that they created a paid internship position at their business and opened it to a high school student.
Both businesses and students benefited from the experience as I was able to teach not only writing, research, and grammar skills, but also business etiquette, collaboration, and team-building skills. In the thank-you notes I required my students to write to the businesses at the conclusion of our Problem Scenario Project, the resounding ethos from the students was: "Thank you for taking our ideas seriously. We are happy that we were able to make a difference to your business and the community through this project."
Building Bridges to Careers will offer the Problem Scenario Project again this summer and will be recruiting teachers and local businesses to participate. Look for flyers in May...and you can always contact us for more information.