Career Pathways is an initiative that supports education with the purpose of exposing students early in their schooling to career possibilities so they will graduate from high school with a direction. The Lawton Public Schools will collaborate with local employers to identify skills shortages and workforce opportunities in businesses and industries. Educators will raise awareness of students and parents to consider possible career fields where they can make a living after high school and how to develop skill sets and post-secondary degrees and technical certifications for those career paths and ladders in line with what industry needs. The goal is to have students gain 23 credits of career education courses as electives through work/study, mock interviews and workplace tours and then possibly internship, mentorship, apprenticeship or job shadowing experience as was enabled by Oklahoma House Bill 2535 authored by a local legislator.
The launch event was attended by over 100 community and business leaders, educators and the public held at Cameron University. Presentations included the State Superintendent of Public Schools, the State Educational Quality & Accountability Executive Director, the Governor’s Oklahoma Work Keys Economic Network manufacturing champion, the personal journey of an aspiring artist who became a mechanical engineer, and panel discussions by young engineers from local manufacturing plants and senior leaders from those plants. About 50 high school teachers, counselors, principals and administrators were transported by buses to tour and to listen to briefings at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber, Silver-Line Plastics and Republic Paperboard manufacturing plants.
ABOUT THE CAREER PATHWAYS INITIATIVE
Career Pathways initiative began after the 2009 Southwest Oklahoma Manufacturing Solutions Summit and subsequent focus groups attended by 75 manufacturing professionals who gathered to address specific challenges impacting their success. The Southwest Oklahoma Impact Coalition (SOIC) gathered resources from universities, colleges, career technology centers, economic development organizations and the Oklahoma Manufacturing Alliance. This group of resources collaborated to promote, support and participate in Dream It Do It, Manufacturing Day, and local/regional demand-driven training initiatives. Grant funding was obtained to adopt a national Adult Career Pathways (ACP) Manufacturing and Logistics Benchmark Study. Involvement in this study was an initial step in determining participation in a pilot program, Adult Career Pathways: A Second Chance at Education, which was designed to identify, enroll, educate, and prepare underemployed adults for high-demand career opportunities with local industries. The Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD) was hired to facilitate the process. In 2012, the Duncan Public Schools adopted Career Pathways and became Oklahoma’s pilot project. In 2016, the Lawton Public Schools adopted and launched its Career Pathways initiative together with its Lawton’s Promise initiative and school-to-work partnerships to provide career education courses as electives with internships and mentorships. SOIC is funded by membership fees and by grants. SOIC’s mission is to reinforce and grow wealth in the Southwest Quadrant of Oklahoma by maximizing and coordinating workforce and economic development opportunities.