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DHS to collaborate with community to train students for workforce

Dickinson High School aims to better prepare students for the workforce by seeking input and educational opportunities from local businesses for its academy model, which places students into career-based groups. Freshman students will be in an ex...

Dickinson High School aims to better prepare students for the workforce by seeking input and educational opportunities from local businesses for its academy model, which places students into career-based groups.

Freshman students will be in an exploratory academy to learn about various career fields. Their sophomore year, they will choose an academy and will take electives related to their chosen career field in addition to their core classes. These classes will be grouped together, creating small communities within the large school. It is not a restrictive model, however; students may still take classes outside of their academy, such as band or theater.

Because of the academy model's focus on career readiness, community involvement will be essential.

"A lot of times in education, we've sort of created silos that we operate here, businesses operate (over) here, colleges operate (over) here," said Jay Hepperle, assistant principal. "We've just realized that silos aren't effective in an interconnected world."

The separation of high schools from colleges and from businesses has schools struggling to stay up to date on what employers need in their future employees.

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To bridge this gap, Hepperle said the administration at the high school will reach out to local businesses directly for input on the skills they look for in their employees and will use that information to inform instruction.

"For instance, if we had a health and human services academy and we have some doctors or some people in the medical profession that are there that said 'I don't want nurses to do this," he said. "They've been teaching this. We don't want them to do this anymore. We think this is a more valuable skill for an employable nurse.'"

Students will also be out in the community starting as early as their freshman year. They may complete job shadowing at local businesses, and professionals may speak to classes about their career.

When students reach the upper levels in their academies, they will reach CAPS, or Center for Advanced Professional Studies, programming for which they might be asked to solve real-world problems for a business. They would also have internships.

"It's set up so the students who are at the top of our programming would have opportunities to go out into the real world and practice the skills that they've learned in the profession that they're interested in," Hepperle said.

The goal, he said, is to help students develop workplace skills in their area of interest before they leave high school.

In addition to their career-path classes, which are electives, students will still take core classes that can be tailored toward interests they may have based on their chosen academy.

"A large majority of kids that are super involved in tech aren't reading "Romeo and Juliet," (or a) romance novel isn't necessarily their cup of tea," he said. "They may be super interested in 'Lord of the Flies.' "

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They can also tailor the core classes to include or more heavily focus on skills the students may need in that particular career path. For example, Hepperle said an English class in a business entrepreneur academy might assign more presentations to students, since they're likely to need that skill in their chosen career field.

For that specialization, Principal Kevin Hoherz said they will look to local businesses. If a business requires its workers to have a specific math skill, for example, the school may teach that skill.

"We want our school to revolve around our community," Hepperle said. "We want our kids to be an asset to our community and our community to be an asset to our kids."

Related Topics: DICKINSON HIGH SCHOOL
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