2022 Nashville Chamber Education Report

Committee Recommendation:

Centralizing Key Functions

Guiding Question:

How are we creating the infrastructure to develop and grow work-based learning and garnering interest from key stakeholders over time?

Recommendation #2:

Create a centralized mechanism to better support coordination and
communication between students, employers, and schools.

Overview & Rationale:

The committee believes that MNPS has made tremendous strides in implementing work-based learning into its curriculum. We recognize the value of starting small to establish best practices and thus are including this recommendation to consider as the district scales the program to reach more students. The committee sought the perspective of an employer with established processes to inform our opinion of what was needed for a successful student and employer experience.

Ellen O’Neal, the community engagement program manager for HCA Healthcare presented to the committee to share that perspective. Employing over 20 students, HCA Healthcare is one of Metro’s largest employers for the program and possesses a wide range of experiences in implementing and managing the program across different locations. Major takeaways from that conversation are as follows:

Because HCA Healthcare employs students through their clinics, they must coordinate across 26 staff members to ensure the success of the students. While smaller employers or employers with fewer student positions might not need to dedicate that level of staff capacity, there is a need to establish clear roles, guidelines, and expectations prior to bringing students on board. The conversation highlighted how much support might be required.
As students apply, onboard and begin to work, they will naturally run into barriers. While relationships with Academy coaches and teachers of record can help navigate those barriers, this continues to be a challenge. Examples include students failing to successfully complete the application and, at times, issues with attendance.
With different timelines, it is difficult to ensure all students who apply for an opportunity can participate. As an example, one student applied to multiple positions within the healthcare field. Because HCA Healthcare had an earlier timeline, the company offered a position to the student first, and that student turned them down hoping to receive an offer from a different employer. That student did not receive the offer they hoped for and ended up unable to participate.
Based on the committee’s research of other school districts with established work-based learning programs, centralizing some key functions of the program enables a more streamlined process from start to finish. Additionally, MNPS’s work-based learning staff capacity is driven by current student participation, but the effort required to match thousands of students with work opportunities would require a more sizeable team than is currently being utilized. The committee sees multiple options of how this centralized mechanism could be designed. For example, there could be additional MNPS resources allocated within the annual budget, or the centralized function could be housed within a partner community organization. Ultimately, we believe centralizing and more comprehensively coordinating critical work-based learning functions would allow for greater scalability.
Opportunities for centralization:

While not intended to be all-inclusive, we believe the following considerations present initial opportunities for centralization and coordination:

Timeline: The time and coordination required among all parties involved differentiates work-based learning from other jobs. To overcome this hurdle, the committee suggests establishing a single timeline for employers with work-based learning opportunities. While there is not one way to accomplish this objective, we recommend allowing a lengthy timeline for the achievement of key milestones such as:

Application Submission
Job Offer & Acceptance
Onboarding & Training

Ideally, the bulk of these milestones would be met by the end of the preceding school year before work-based learning experiences begin in the fall. This would allow several months for employers to prepare for students and would allow students to begin the school year anticipating their work-based learning experience. In some instances, this provides an opportunity for students and employers to begin the relationship over the summer with more time for training and onboarding outside of the confines of the school schedule.

Application: Because students may apply to multiple work-based learning opportunities, providing similar information to a variety of employers, the committee suggests streamlining the process through a common application. While certain employers may need to obtain industry-specific information and background checks, this could be achieved through supplements to the common application. Centralizing background checks could also lead to cost savings.

How data is used and shared should be considered when developing this common application process. The committee suggests using a centralized system which the coordinating MNPS team, students, and employers can all access to manage the application process. This will allow MNPS to have control over the security and transfer of data.

Putting Words into Action

Thoughtful communication with key stakeholders around coordinated and centralized functions and timelines is critical to establish effective processes and procedures for work-based learning.
Communicating consistently with students about the process and timeline can contribute to a higher achievement of key milestones. We see value in incorporating the timeline of the senior capstone into classroom discussions as early as freshman year to minimize surprises as timing becomes more finite.
Similarly, ensuring employers understand and are held accountable to the timeline will create fewer hiccups from year to year. Employers interested in participating in work-based learning should anticipate the effort required to prepare their organization to provide this type of opportunity. Company-wide adoption and legal considerations often take time, as does the preparation needed to identify meaningful work that fits the needs of student workers. It is possible that employers who want to participate in work-based learning may need to wait until the beginning of the next semester to participate, allowing them to prepare their organization and supervisors and post job listings in accordance with a district-wide timeline.

Recommendation #1:

Revisit Policies to Expand

Recommendation #3:

Assessing & Addressing Student Needs

Recommendation #4:

Refined Value Proposition

The Education Report 2022 Commendations

Of course, our committee doesn’t work alone on this project. Without the help of our community and network, the 2022 Education Report would’ve never come together. If you’ve finished reading over our recommendations, please take a minute to appreciate our thanks for those who made this whole thing possible.