A new work-study program at McClain High School is helping more students get the opportunities for career exploration and experience in the workforce.
Officially, it is called the McClain High School Work-Based Learning program. In short, it’s a work-study program, but unlike the work-study program the school has participated in for years, this one is specifically for students who are a part of special programs through the school.
According to Mark Bihl, an intervention specialist at McClain, the program was initially presented last year by intervention specialists to the administrative team as a potential career exploration opportunity for those students.
The new work-study program serves not as competition to the established program, but as an additional option that provides greater flexibility, Bihl said. Additionally, the program is not just for seniors, as is the other program, but also for juniors and some sophomores.
Bihl said that based on the Ohio Department of Education’s (ODE) work-based learning regulations, any student who receives special services and is at least 16 years of age is eligible for the program.
Currently, participation has been with juniors and seniors, but the program has provided the option to a few students with sophomore standing with the credits to allow them to work based on the number of years they have been enrolled in high school and their age of at least 16.
There is a half-day and full-day option with the program. The half-day option requires a minimum of 15 hours per week of work, and the full-day work option a minimum of 25 hours per week. Bihl said the hourly requirements are based on the number of weeks in a school year multiplied by the number of hours worked divided by 130, which gives the number of potential credits awarded for the career exploration opportunity. He said several surrounding school districts provide similar programs to their student populations based on the same ODE Work-Based Learning program formula.
The program is coordinated by Heather Dratwa, the district director of special programs, who works along with the McClain guidance counselors to determine that all of a student’s needs are being met, including them having core credits completed.
This is the first full year for this type of program at McClain with the availability to a larger percentage of the student population. Bihl said the program was piloted last year with one senior student and one junior, who each participated in half day work-based learning.
“The unique aspect of our work-based learning program is that the team can look at each student’s individualized situation and determine the best means of actions, number of credits that could be earned and/or awarded through the deficit credit program and weekly number of hours required to work,” Bihl said.
There are currently eight students enrolled in the program who are either employed or in unpaid internships in and around the community. There are three students who are in the process of being hired in paid positions.
Bihl said the students are employed at places including Corvac, McDonald’s, The Dairy Nook, Burger King, Long John Silver’s and Garman Feed and Supply. There have also been unpaid internships within the school in the cafeteria and maintenance department.
One of the benefits of the program, Bihl said, is that students are able to gain real-life work experience and earn core credits for these experiences through their career exploration. The job specific training and certifications that students earn can go toward receiving the Industry-Recognized Credential and the OhioMeansJobs Readiness seals on their high school diploma.
As part of the program involvement, students complete a balance sheet, similar to that of a checkbook, to maintain a running record of their hours worked, gross income, and net income. Students are also challenged to build a resume that includes not only job-related skills and experiences, but also certifications earned through their specific job training. Additional requirements include a monthly journal where students are prompted to answer questions about their specific careers and how anything they have learned throughout their years in school applies to this career.
“What they are learning at their job applies not only directly to what they actually do, but it also helps them with meeting ODE graduation requirements,” Bihl said. “Our goal for the program at McClain is not only for students to be provided the option to work and earn money, but also to receive mentorship and support through their first work-based learning experience.”
If a business is interested in possibly employing a student or would like additional information, contact Dratwa at email@example.com.
Angela Shepherd is a correspondent for the Greenfield Exempted Village School District.