Classroom(Flint, MICH., Feb. 18, 2014) – Expectations for today’s high school graduates are higher than ever before, but those expectations do not necessarily require a college degree. Rather, young adults must be ready to meet the demands of the new economy with Career Readiness, or, the fourth “R,” and the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce (FGCC) is helping them do just that.

In the new economy, college degrees are not needed to land 18 of the 20 jobs with the highest projected growth, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Of the jobs on their list of “20 occupations with the highest projected numeric change in employment,” only registered nurses and general and operations managers required a four-year degree.

While post-secondary “Readin’, ‘Ritin’ and ‘Rithmetic” may not be necessary for economic success, being prepared for the workforce is. Whether their goal is college, professional certification or entering the workforce after high school graduation, the FGCC helps 10,000 to 15,000 area K-12 students to build a bridge between school and their personal career objectives through its Career Preparation Program, a free in-school training initiative.

In a record-breaking fall term, the Chamber served 5,309 students between September and December 2013, providing 184 workshops in nine school districts throughout Genesee County. This is the largest number of students served in the fall semester since the program began in 2002.

“Not all students will go to college after high school,” said Rhetta Hunyady, Vice President for Education & Training at the Chamber. “The Career Preparation Program enables all students to learn the skills necessary to successfully get a job and keep a job in the highly competitive 21st Century job market.”

“The Chamber is committed to working with K-12 education to prepare our students for the expectations of the modern workforce,” said Hunyady.

The workshops are designed to address state academic requirements related to career preparation. Prior to high school graduation, students are required to establish an Educational Development Plan (EDP) through their local schools.  The Career Preparation Program supports the EDP, helping students connect what they are learning in their middle school or high school classroom to the expectations of the workplace.

“The EDP requires students to do career planning and update their plan every year,” according to Nancy Burkhardt, Mott Adult High School Teacher/EDP Coordinator. “One of the basic requirements is that they attend seminars and report on what they learn.”

“The state highly recommends schools use an outside source to provide these seminars,” said Pamela Colon, Career Preparation Coordinator for Westwood Heights School District in Mt. Morris Township. “If we didn’t have the Chamber Career Prep program I don’t know where we would get these high-quality workshops, especially at no cost to the District.”

Colon said she is able to redirect EDP grant monies, normally budgeted for speakers, to help students visit colleges, or buy computers for the lab instead of paying outside speakers to address all the topics covered by Career Prep presenters. “This program is so valuable to us,” she added.

“Without the Career Prep speakers our students wouldn’t have the opportunity to learn about the workplace, what is expected of employees and how to succeed. Oftentimes, colleges present to students, but most talk about college – not about careers. Career Prep prepares students for the future, not just the next class or grade,” said Burkhardt.

On average, 10,000 to 15,000 students participate annually in Chamber workshops presented during the school day, and there is no cost to the schools or students participating in the workshop program. Most students attending the workshops are in grades 9 through 12, but workshops are also offered, and tailored to accommodate, students in grades 6 through 8.

School districts coordinate with five professional Career Preparation facilitators to offer all seven workshops, or combinations thereof. Topics covered include Business Etiquette, Application/Resume Preparation, Job Search Preparation, Interview Preparation, Keeping a Job Preparation, Networking/Job Search and Social Media/Networking.

So far this year, programming has been presented in multiple school districts including: Linden, Flint-Mott Adult, Bendle/Carman, Flushing, Lakeville, Genesee Intermediate School District- Genesee Early College, Goodrich, Mt. Morris and Westwood Heights. Additionally, workshops are offered through Jobs Corps, a free education and training program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.

In the second half of the 2013-14 school year, Fenton and Swartz Creek school districts will also offer the Career Prep program to their students.

The Career Preparation Program works in partnership with Genesee County K-12 schools, the Genesee Intermediate School District, and other educational institutions. It was started in 2002 as a program of the Genesee Area Focus Council, coming under the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce in 2006.

More information about Career Prep. To bring Career Prep to your school district, contact Amy Watts at awatts@flintandgenesee.org.