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NEDC hopes to bridge gap between business, education

By HEATHER HOROWITZ • Apr 22, 2017 at 10:00 AM

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the second installment in a series of stories provided by Norwalk Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Heather Horowitz, outlining the organization’s forthcoming Conduit U program.

 

In a world where the majority of jobs are technology-intensive and require some level of technical knowledge and skills, career training is more important than ever to occupational success.

Research suggests that embedding contextual learning (in the context of a career) helps students to better apply their knowledge and to see the relevance of what they’re learning. Evidence shows that hands-on learning and real world applications are more effective at engaging pupils interest in- and recall of- material.

With this in mind, Norwalk public and parochial students soon will be exposed to various local career opportunities, thanks to a new program from the Norwalk Economic Development Corp. Conduit U looks to bridge the disconnect between business and education through career-oriented videos, skills-based lesson plans and an authentic hands-on learning experience.

Norwalk City Schools Superintendent George Fisk sees the program as a great opportunity for the children of Norwalk.

“It will allow students to see the real world connections between what they are learning and the workforce,” he said.

Fisk added that students will be given the chance to “see the industry leading businesses that we have in our own town and to realize there are opportunities to explore after graduation without leaving the area.”

His parochial counterpart, Dennis Doughty, president of Norwalk Catholic School, agrees.

“This program will open doors for young people, allowing them to see opportunity in many different venues,” Doughty said.

Also, he said Conduit U will provide “a great service for those young people who will (one day) thrive in the skilled labor market.”

According to a 2016 statewide survey of Ohioans, one of the biggest reasons that students cite for not engaging in career-focused coursework is that they simply don’t know enough about the career options available to them.

In 2012, Gov. John Kasich created the Office of Workforce Transformation, which found that businesses and educators must communicate with each other more clearly about their needs and expectations. The group released a report in December of 2016, saying collaboration is the “key to creating economic opportunity for our youth and adult workers” and to “strengthening the competitiveness of Ohio businesses and spurring economic growth and prosperity” within the state.

Both Fisk and Doughty see Conduit U as a critical component in reaching the goals outlined by Kasich.

Fisk said he expects the “positive outcomes from the partnership” to increase “incrementally, well into the future” while Doughty said the community should see some “return on investment in five years or so.”

By that time, the first wave of students to take part in the program will be graduating from high school and entering the workforce. And as more baby boomers retire, that pipeline of employees will be arriving just in time.

NOTE: Watch next week’s Reflector for part three of this series.

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