Educators, like everyone else!, have been hit hard with the task to redesign what learning looks like in a very short amount of time.  As we move to the other side of this “thing” they have to face the reality of “it will probably happen again . . .” As schools move to distance learning formats and speak to students about protecting our economy in the event of another crisis, how can businesses put forth their skill and technical needs to the future workforce in those classrooms?

With The CDC warning that this winter could easily return us to a new health critical situation as Covid-19 collides with the flu season educators across the country will be looking at how smoothly meet educational needs in the event of a lengthy school closure.  Educators must think like successful business folks. “The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity,”- Peter Drucker.  Now is an excellent time for businesses to work with educators to get needed content into new curricular content that must be considered by schools that want to move aggressively to renew and protect strength in our economy.

Junior Achievement of the Great Lakes has offered free online resources during the Covid-19 crisis.  Junior Achievement delivers “kindergarten-12th grade programs foster work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills, and use experiential learning to inspire students in our community to dream big and reach their potential.”   Their website offered Stand Alone Activities – “Kids K-12 can use these resources on their own with our easy download and print formats. These resources are organized by school level and can be used whether or not you’ve engaged in a JA program in the past.”  They also offer Traditional JA Curriculum which includes “traditional JA curriculum, these facilitator guides, student materials and ancillary resources are now available online.”  With a JA partnership these resources might become part of a package put together as a distance learning package focused on career skills and readiness in the event of snow days or another stay home, stay safe crisis. These resources can be accessed at, https://www.juniorachievement.org/web/ja-mgl/tomorrows-are-important.

The first annual MiCareer Quest Middle Michigan took place in October of 2019.  The event invited about 10,000 middle and high school students to SVSU with up to 100 businesses present to deliver interactive, hands-on, informational and inspiring career opportunities. Lori Flippin of the Great Lakes Bay Regional Alliance STEM initiative and Claire Bunker from MiSTEM East Central Michigan are both MiCareer Quest Executive Committee members that assist with educational outreach for the event.  That committee has been working to include more local Career Education into area school plans.  Xello is a program, formerly called Career Cruising, “that helps students plan their own unique journey whether it involves a trade, college, university, entrepreneurship, or other training.” https://www.benzinga.com/pressreleases/17/09/p10076848/career-cruising-rebrands-as-xello-and-launches-brand-new-future-readin

Xello is, or will be, available to all area students at school and from home.  Schools are not yet making full use of Xello activity and lesson opportunities. The MiCareer Quest Executive Committee has worked to feature key lessons on Xello related to local career needs. Now is a great opportunity to integrate these and other key activities into the distance learning plans of area schools. Xello is designed to assist students with information, inventories, and planning tools for careers.  It provides many links for students to explore.  A unit of suggested home activities could be included in this online, at-home, package of opportunities.

Career Navigators at Gratiot Isabella RESD and Marshall Plan work in Saginaw are in the process of producing videos and other materials related to soft skill instruction.  This is a highly valued goal request from businesses.  Some of these materials, or some produced specifically for the purpose of a distance learning package, should be strongly considered as part of a new plan of action.

There are many other local educational online opportunities being offered at this unique time in our history.  Organizations, institutions, and businesses such as the Chippewa Nature Center, Center for Excellence in STEM Education at CMU, Midland Center for the Arts, Great Lakes Bay Parents, United Dairy Industry of Michigan, MSU Extension, and STEM Pipeline Out of School Time are just few of many I have seen providing access to virtual tours, experiments, pencil and paper packets, etc. for students of all ages.  A partnership with these groups to make their current offerings part of an “emergency” distance learning package prepared for all students to access would go a long way to make this educational effort a wider community effort.

Which brings me to “Who will take charge of such an effort?” It would be a worthy consideration for state government to offer grant opportunities or designate funding for RESDs or nonprofits to spearhead the effort. The integration of many partnerships and consortia between high demand businesses and local organizations and institutions should have high appeal for such funding. This is not an issue that educators should take on alone. To educate a world-savvy student population they need to be influenced by the world outside the school.

“It takes a village . . .”

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