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June 24, 2017

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Ohio high school kids getting work credentials via courses

The Columbus Dispatch/MCT--The principal of Reynoldsburg High School's Health Sciences and Human Services Academy in the U.S. state of Ohio made a commitment to freshmen and their families at last week's orientation:

"My plan is to have all of you walk out of here with a credential in your hand," Dawn McCloud told them.

To give students more options after high school, more central Ohio schools have turned their attention to professional certifications for technical skills that can lead to jobs.

Starting this fall, more than a dozen districts are launching programs focused on four industries in Ohio with jobs that need to be filled: information technology, logistics, health care and advanced manufacturing.

Many of the new programs are part of the Innovation Generation initiative, a joint effort by 15 central Ohio school districts, Columbus State Community College, the Educational Service Center of Central Ohio and various community and business partners. Training and technology for the group's work is paid through a US$14.4 million Straight-A grant from the state.

"The goal we're shooting for is to broaden opportunities for students by providing them a combination of industry-recognized credentials that make them employable right away and meaningful progress toward post-secondary degrees or completing two-year degrees," said Tricia Moore, spokeswoman for Reynoldsburg schools, one the partnering districts.

New this year:

— Pickerington North High School has a health-care lab where students can earn credits through Columbus State and, if they choose, a pharmacy-technician credential.

— Whitehall Yearling High School students can obtain a medical-coding certificate through a partnership with OhioHealth, Columbus State and the Ohio Department of Education.

— Hilliard, Grandview Heights, South-Western and Upper Arlington schools are working with health-care agencies such as Nationwide Children's Hospital, Mount Carmel Medical Group and Cardinal Health for a two-year, medical-services program. Students will receive work experience and college credit and can attain four job certifications, including ones for an EKG technician and phlebotomy technician.

Sherry Minton, director of career transitions at Columbus State, said employers are looking beyond the technical skills: They want people who have a strong foundation in core subjects such as math, English and science as well as a good grasp of soft skills such as problem-solving and critical thinking.

That's why it's so important for districts and career-technical schools to work together.

"As our citizens are being prepared for the workforce and continuing degrees, the pendulum swings on what is considered more critical: Is it the traditional high school? Is it career-tech academies?" said Minton, who works with school districts to develop certification and dual-enrollment programs.

"People are coming to the realization that both are important, and one enhances the other."

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