One of the takeaways from the Elevate Northeast Florida strategic plan was that the region’s residents weren’t necessarily aware of all the career options in their own backyard, nor were they familiar with the educational pathways required to achieve their goals.
“That work really demonstrated that individuals in this region were lacking a deep understanding of career pathways,” said Julie Hindall, director of workforce development for JAXUSA Partnership, who added the region is currently in Year 2 of its five-year strategic plan.
“It’s not just our students in the region, even parents are unaware of the opportunities,” added Anna Lebesch, vice president of talent development for JAXUSA Partnership. “When we discovered the lack of awareness, we wanted to be thoughtful in how we approach clear pathways and getting the information in the hands of the people who need it most.”
JAXUSA Partnership is the backbone organization for Earn Up, the local college access network (LCAN) serving the seven-county region in Northeast Florida. The organization’s website features a Career Pathways page highlighting key, in-demand industry sectors in the area while giving all students access to downloadable information related to each field, including average earnings, local employers who are hiring within that sector, and nearby institutions that offer the necessary credentials.
To make it easy for educators to share information about the region’s workforce needs with students in the classroom, Earn Up now offers Educator Resources that provide teachers with eight different assignments to assess and foster students’ understanding of career pathways in the area. The resources can be found at the bottom of Earn Up’s Career Pathways page.
“The information is not only specific to our region, but the data available on the Earn Up page is also timely as there is nothing on the site more than a year old,” Hindall said. “Students can feel confident using the website and tools when they make decisions about career pathways.”
The assignments within Earn Up’s Educator Resources are also designed to reach individuals with various learning styles — activities include a scavenger hunt, informational interview and career vision board. The resources include clear directions and a rubric/answer key to allow for easy implementation of career pathway materials into classrooms.
“The resources are designed to give teachers almost a plug-and-play opportunity to have a lesson plan with students who are exploring careers in general or in a particular industry,” Lebesch said.
To create and promote the new online tool for educators, Earn Up relied on its various workgroups, including its Talent Advancement Network (comprised of human resources professionals), Talent Advancement Partnership (which includes representatives from all seven school districts the LCAN serves), and Earn Up’s own Steering Committee.
Hindall said Earn Up leverages those groups to help explain the LCAN’s work, fuel interest and get them in front of the stakeholders they are trying to reach.
“Rather than saying, ‘Go to EarnUp.org and figure it out,’ we offer a virtual or on-site presentation to share this information and show (stakeholders) the value of keeping the people we are educating in this region,” Hindall said.
Additionally, Earn Up is creating deep-dive videos highlighting different industries in the area, including advanced manufacturing. It’s another way of sharing information with all students in the region so they can make more informed decisions about their future.
“It’s really hard for a teacher to know what might be happening in the manufacturing or health care sectors, for example,” said Lebesch, who added that Earn Up is also creating shorter “hype” videos for each industry. There are currently hype videos for manufacturing and health care, with more to come, that can be shown in the classroom.
“We can’t do the face-to-face tours we’ve done in years past,” Hindall said, alluding to COVID-19-related restrictions during the current academic year. “We wanted to make sure we had other resources instructors could use.”