For five years, Trumbull Career & Technical Center (TCTC) in Warren, Ohio, struggled to find a learning management and career exploration partner to fulfill their "Three E's" philosophy of "Enroll, Enlist, Employ."
TCTC’s stated goal is for every student to enroll in an apprenticeship or postsecondary institute, enlist in a branch of the military, or be employed in a living wage job upon graduation. "We try to present them on an equal playing field, " says Career Development Coordinator Rachel Gensburg.
"We don't want to pigeonhole a kid into anything... The amazing thing about the philosophy [the Three E’s] is it meets students no matter where they are." TCTC set out to find a college and career readiness platform that could not only tackle the Three E’s, but could also take career exploration to the next level for the student body. While they found separate platforms that focused primarily on college readiness, jobs and careers, or life skills, they struggled to find one solution comprehensive enough to satisfy all three.
"There are programs that are purely for postsecondary students," says Gensburg, “but the Three E's are broader." Their frustration compelled them to consider allocating resources to build their platform.
"At one point, we had a group of teachers who took the CTE standards from the state of Ohio, divvied up the competencies, and were trying to find the right resources to write our own lessons. I still have the lessons!” says Gensburg.
They quickly found that developing a technology platform from the ground up would be an overwhelming undertaking. It wasn't just the curriculum to consider, because critical technical criteria also had to be met. Gensburg specifically wanted an intuitive, user-friendly solution that was both fully secure and iPad compatible.
"We needed something that spanned everything," says Gensburg.
When the staff finally discovered VirtualJobShadow.com, TCTC knew they had found the right platform.
"As soon as I was on it, I was surprised by how easy it was to navigate and how visually appealing it was," says Gensburg.
The staff appreciated that VirtualJobShadow.com’s engaging job shadowing and life skills videos would appeal to all TCTC students, regardless of learning style or plan for postsecondary success. The staff also credited the FlexLessons tool as a key differentiator, giving them the ability to assign pre-built lessons or create their own.
"We now have one product that meets the needs of our entire range of almost 1000 students,” says Gensburg.
She continued by stating that the scalability factor of allowing teachers to create individual lessons for a classroom or for the entire student body resonated with the staff.
As a former zoology teacher, Gensburg typically tests career exploration searches with the term "veterinarian."
She was immediately pleased by the VirtualJobShadow.com results. “I didn't just get 'veterinarian,’ I also got 'veterinarian tech' and 'veterinarian assistant,’” says Gensburg. “Right then, I knew this would appeal to our kids because we can give them all the options in the field they love."
TCTC teachers have full access to utilize VirtualJobShadow.com with 11th and 12th-grade students, but Gensburg also likes to create one FlexLesson that she can assign to all grade levels on a monthly basis. The lessons she creates vary in nature, covering material to help determine career interests or develop personal growth. She monitors progress using built-in reporting features to check on student completion rates.
Gensburg has quickly learned how to adapt the platform to meet her specific needs. She personalizes each FlexLesson by recording a short video of herself or her colleagues for the students. This video presentation provides context to students by explaining the lesson’s benefits. She often uses this spotlight moment to also provide important career development announcements to the entire student body.
Since adopting VirtualJobShadow.com, the staff at TCTC remain enthused about the future of their program. They set clear and measurable goals with deliverable outcomes to track success on the platform. For example, one goal is to have each student take a full set of interest assessments. A second goal is to better prepare every student for the job market by creating a professional resume and cover letter.
Gensburg is excited to finally have partnered with a platform that fits her school's progressive philosophy and diverse range of needs. More importantly, VirtualJobShadow.com helps level the playing field to support TCTC’s mission of Enroll, Enlist, and Employ.
"VirtualJobShadow.com has exceeded my expectations," says Gensburg. "There is absolutely no question about that."