Career-focused boot camp prepares students for the workplace

 Job Placement Specialist Jayne Beeson (far left) leads a session during District 214's Career Ready Boot Camp.

Job Placement Specialist Jayne Beeson (far left) leads a session during District 214's Career Ready Boot Camp.

 During a team building challenge, Uriah Munoz holds together a marshmallow tower.

During a team building challenge, Uriah Munoz holds together a marshmallow tower.

Uriah Munoz used to be shy.

He credits the variety of worksite experiences he has had through District 214 for helping to build his communication skills. And he is excited to continue growing through a new career-focused boot camp that will help him and other students prepare for the workforce.

The Career Ready Boot Camp – coordinated by District 214’s Center for Career Discovery – piloted this month to help about 100 students develop their employability and communication skills, and confidence.

"(The boot camp) is just a wonderful program. You get to know more about real life and how a job works," Munoz said. "It's showing kids like me, who learn differently, how to be successful in life."

The goal is to ensure students put their best foot forward during their workplace learning experiences, and give them a better understanding of job expectations. Throughout the five-day boot camp, students participate in hands-on activities, visits to their job sites and interactive presentations. At the boot camp, students also get to know their classmates better before they work at job sites together.

 Krista Paul (right) chats with Alex Rodriguez (left) at the Career Ready Boot Camp. Paul is a national finalist for ACTE's Career Guidance Award.

Krista Paul (right) chats with Alex Rodriguez (left) at the Career Ready Boot Camp. Paul is a national finalist for ACTE's Career Guidance Award.

“Over the years, we’ve looked at ways to build a more seamless transition for students going into the workplace,” said Krista Paul, District 214’s assistant director for career and technical education, who also oversees the Center for Career Discovery. “This boot camp is a proactive approach that allows us to build upon students’ individual skills and ensure they’re ready to go once they start their workplace learning experience.”

Paul is a national finalist in the Association for Career and Technical Education’s (ACTE) Career Guidance Award, which has recognized her work in building the district’s Center for Career Discovery, an innovative model for career exploration.

Through business and industry partnerships, the Center ensures District 214 students graduate with authentic workplace learning experiences – a key part of the district’s Career Pathways program and mission to ensure students leave high school ready for college, careers and life.

In the 2017-18 school year, District 214 students participated in more than 2,100 workplace learning experiences. Today, the district has more than 950 business and industry partners – a number that grows each year.

The curriculum for the boot camp was developed with feedback from employers in the northwest suburbs emphasizing the importance of employability skills.

 Students in District 214's Education Academy course taught lessons to students in the Career Ready Boot Camp. 

Students in District 214's Education Academy course taught lessons to students in the Career Ready Boot Camp. 

During the boot camp, students learned about accountability, responsibility and how to work with their supervisors. They also discussed team building and the importance of using soft skills – such as eye contact and arriving on time – on the job. 

District 214 students in the Education Academy course – the most advanced course in the Education Career Pathway – also taught lessons at the boot camp, giving them a chance to grow as future teachers.

Students participating in internships also have opportunities to develop their employability skills. They can access an online course that focuses on similar topics, such as professionalism, communication and problem-solving skills.

District 214 student Jack Falejczyk will spend this semester working at IKEA, an experience that follows a workplace learning experience in the public relations department for The Chicago Lighthouse. 

As part of the boot camp, Falejczyk visited IKEA, which gave him an opportunity to make a good first impression with his supervisors.

"We saw the managers and they're really good people and are excited for us to come back," he said. "I like that (IKEA) is customer focused and employee focused. They do want you to get a lot out of the experience."