Starting Young, Aiming High: Preble County’s Career Connections Program is Empowering Future Leaders

Starting Young, Aiming High: Preble County’s Career Connections Program is Empowering Future Leaders Main Photo

13 Mar 2024

In today’s rapidly evolving economy, preparing the next generation for the challenges and opportunities of the future workplace is crucial. And that’s exactly what the Preble County Career Connections program offers.

Provided through the Preble County Educational Service Center (ESC), the program aims to create a comprehensive and innovative approach to career readiness and development, equipping students from kindergarten through high school. Using project-based learning, students get hands-on experience to help grow the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary for success.

Career Awareness Starts in Kindergarten

Beginning in kindergarten – yes, kindergarten – students are introduced to a wide range of career possibilities. Kindergartners learn about careers in administration, administrative support, and professional support services, like counselors, librarians, technology specialists, and bus drivers.

The learning experience continues throughout elementary school, taking students on a career awareness journey through many industries, like law, public safety, corrections, and security (first grade), health sciences (second grade), and agriculture, food, and natural resources (third grade). Once these career fields are introduced, students participate in interactive activities and partnerships with community members and organizations to learn more about workforce opportunities.

Why So Soon?

It’s a common question for young children: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Most children have similar answers based on professions they’ve been exposed to: firefighters, doctors, veterinarians, and teachers.

“We’re already introducing children to the idea of a career at a young age. We want to take it a step further and introduce them to all types of career options,” said Harold Niehaus, Director of Career Connections. “Our programming allows our educational partners to better prepare kids for their future careers and hopefully join our local workforce when they’re ready.”

Career Exploration Starts in Middle School

As students progress to middle school, the focus shifts to career exploration. Interactive experiences, like career clubs, hands-on fairs, and career-themed days, allow students to delve deeper into specific fields of interest. These activities are designed to spark curiosity and inspire a passion for learning and discovery.

Students not only continue to learn about potential careers and career paths; they learn about the importance of preparing themselves for a successful high school curriculum that will support their career choices.

Career Planning Starts in High School

Once students reach high school, career planning begins. Ninth and tenth graders workshop their resumés and cover letters, establish their personal brands, and participate in simulated activities like mock interviews and job shadowing.

As students reach their junior year, they can access courses that offer leadership training, Lean Six Sigma Yellow & Green Belts, Manufacturing Skills Standards Council (MSSC) certification, Ag Business education, and more. These certifications and training courses offer skills that will help them take the next step into a career right out of high school or into a curriculum in college.

And finally, as seniors, students begin to more deeply explore careers. Internships and apprenticeships, service learning experiences, mentorship opportunities, and solidifying their plans for after graduation give them valuable insights into the working world, allowing them to make informed decisions as they officially enter the workforce.

Learning by Doing

The Career Connections program employs project-based learning techniques. Project-based learning is a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects. The ESC provides teachers and support staff with lesson outlines and guiding questions to help them enhance the learning experience for their students.

A key component of these projects is the program’s collaboration with local businesses, educational institutions, and community organizations. These partnerships enrich the curriculum with real-world experiences, mentorship, and guidance, ensuring that students are not only career-ready but also equipped with the life skills necessary for success.

Preble County Development Partnership is Investing in the Future

We recognize the importance of investing in the future workforce. By supporting initiatives like the Preble County Career Connections program, we’re not only enhancing the economic vitality of our community, we’re ensuring that young people are prepared to lead and innovate in the 21st-century economy.

For more information on how to support or get involved with the Preble County Career Connections program, or to learn more about partnering with PCDP, please visit our website. Together, we can build a brighter future for our students and our community.