On Friday, March 31, United Way's Counseling for Career Success (CCS) special initiative hosted a showcase meeting, which concluded its five-year, cross-county effort to help local school districts create comprehensive K-12 guidance plans.
As of the showcase, 15 districts in Westmoreland County, all six districts Fayette County and three area career and technology centers have completed plans. The plans detail each districts’ counseling program, including how they will address college and career readiness for every student, plus their families.
“These plans are designed to outline exactly what each district is doing to educate and train our youth and their parents or caregivers,” said United Way’s education program manager Jesse Sprajcar. “In essence, they’re a tool for driving each district’s counseling program and for addressing relevant and up-to-date needs of the region.”
Plans also include traditional school counseling activities, such as conflict mediation, job preparedness, standardized testing administration and class and college registration.
Although Friday’s showcase marks an important accomplishment in guidance planning for districts, it’s only a first step.
“These plans are not finished on Friday. They are live documents that need to be revisited and continually updated as the needs of the community and region change,” said Sprajcar.
And changes will come sooner than later. According to the Allegheny Conference’s Inflection Point Study, Southwestern Pennsylvania’s workforce will fall short by over 80,000 workers in the next 10 years.
Thanks to CCS, Sprajcar thinks schools are prepared to help offset the shortfall. In addition to guidance plan aid, CCS worked “to change the narrative within schools and the community about college and career options, stressing the need for workers at all levels right here in our back yard.”
“If we can’t educate our students about the jobs that are available to them and provide the training to fill those jobs in the future, we won’t be able to fill the workforce need,” he added.
Plans also include other components to help counselors react and adjust to future community workforce needs. They stipulate formation of an advisory council within each district, which will incorporate key community stakeholders, including district administration, school counselors, parents and local business representatives.
Advisory councils will meet a few times per year to discuss ongoing maintenance, improvements and additions to plans. Some districts have already started coordinating their councils.