Insights and Perspectives on Effective Approaches for Recruiting and Engaging High School Students
By Jennifer Paugh, President, MIAT College of Technology – Michigan and John Willis, President, MIAT College of Technology – Texas
With the rise in high school graduation rates, leaders of career and technical education colleges and institutions have extensive opportunities for recruiting young adults and encouraging them to enroll in programs that address the increasing demands for skilled workers in a wide range of industry sectors.
“High school graduation rates in the United States are at an all-time high. At 84 percent, the national rate means that more than 4 out of 5 high school students earn a diploma in four years, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics.,” Briana Boyington, Senior Digital Producer, US. News & World Report, May 18, 2018 (Source: https://www.usnews.com/high-schools/best-high-schools/articles/2018-05-18/see-high-school-graduation-rates-by-state)
All high school students face critical decisions relative to what they will do next after graduation, and they have an infinite number of options. For example, they can attend a four-year college or university, become employed part-time or full-time, enlist in the military, fulfill a volunteer commitment, take a hiatus from school to travel abroad or around the United States, or they can enroll in a school or program that offers direct skills training to equip them for gainful employment in what may be as few as three months, but typically not more than two years.
Attracting the attention of high school students takes experience, commitment, tenacity, and creativity. Thus, approaches to recruiting high school students for career and technical education come in many forms. Clearly, there is no “one way” or “best way” to share information or build relationships with high school students, their parents, teachers, and counselors that may lead to their enrollment in a CTE program. The reality is that career colleges and vocational-technical institutes can develop many effective, complementary and integrated approaches to sharing their program offerings with prospective students.
High school recruiting
Collaborating with high school counselors is one of the most effective approaches for recruiting students for post-graduation career training and education. Essential to the success of high school recruiting efforts is having a “strong bench” of full-time, salaried representatives available who not only serve as guest speakers, but also meet with and communicate regularly with counselors, high school students and their parents. These front line, grassroots recruiters tend to be kind, amiable, and charismatic men and women who are committed to helping students navigate the challenges associated with identifying the right school and program. Additionally, “casting a wider net” includes school districts, public schools, private schools, and charter schools in a multi-county area, this can increase the numbers of candidates, and broadens a college or institution’s reach.
Dual enrollment programs
Developing and offering dual enrollment programs is another effective way to make a positive impact on more high school students who can earn credits toward their CTE certifications or associate degree while pursuing a high school diploma. High school students can attend some of their classes at their regular school part of the day and then attend classes at an affiliated college or vocational-technical school. Often the school district will assist the students in payment of these programs. The benefit to the high school student is that he or she can be “workplace” ready soon after high school graduation – sometimes even a year or less – if the student continues along the career training path.
“Embedded” instructors and customized programs at magnet schools
Developing a customized, dual enrollment program at a magnet high school that is focused on a specific industry sector (for instance, aviation) offers an opportunity to “embed” a career college or vo-tech instructor, or a few. Sometimes, but not always, the time involved in creating such a unique situation between a magnet school and career college can be extensive and may require layers of approvals at both the school district and magnet school levels. The upside is that this special arrangement can be viewed as a valuable and highly visible component of a community relations strategy or corporate social responsibility strategy for which calculating Return on Investment can be difficult, if not impossible.
Industry and association event support
Ample opportunities exist for aligning with one or more industry, business, or professional organizations to sponsor, support, or host special events, special projects, and awareness campaigns.
Manufacturing Day. Girls in Aviation Day. Careers in Energy Week. Welding Month. These are just a few examples of many days, weeks, and months designated to focus attention on an issue, need, or opportunity. As is expected, high school students are perfect candidates, with middle school or junior high-aged students sometimes also included, depending on the purpose.
Here are a few examples of MIAT College of Technology recent events that proved to be effective opportunities for meeting and interacting with high school students.
1) Manufacturing Day, Friday, Oct. 5
The Canton campus of MIAT College of Technology near Detroit hosted more than 200 students from three high schools in the Detroit metro area, teachers, chaperones and representatives of Jobs for Michigan’s Graduates (JMG) and Southeast Michigan Community Alliance as a Manufacturing Day Hub site on Manufacturing Day, Friday, Oct. 5. MIAT provided lunch for these special guests along with a tour of its 125,000-square-foot campus, demonstrations and presentations by faculty and staff members.
Created by founding partner Fabricators and Manufacturers Association, International in 2012 and hosted annually on a national basis on the first Friday of October, Manufacturing Day addresses common misperceptions by giving manufacturers an opportunity to open their doors and show, what manufacturing is and what it isn’t. Manufacturers and those affiliated with them also address the skilled labor shortage they are facing, connect with future generations, take charge of the public image of manufacturing, and ensure the ongoing prosperity of the manufacturing industry sector. (Source: www.mfgday.com)
2) Girls in Aviation Day Houston, Saturday, Oct. 13
Girls in Aviation Day is hosted around the world each year by Women in Aviation International. This year, the MIAT College of Technology Houston campus served as a co-sponsor of Girls in Aviation Day Houston, which focused on introducing girls age 10 to 17 to careers in aviation. About 2 percent of all aviation mechanics and only 6 percent of pilots are women. (Source: https://www.wai.org/resources/waistats)
Both female and male pilots, flight attendants, certified aviation mechanics, MIAT aviation maintenance students and instructors turned out in force to shepherd 100 young ladies through informational and educational stations at Lone Stone Flight Museum on Saturday, Oct. 13. The girls were able to see aviation mechanics’ toolkits, get “up close” to aircraft and engines, and spend time in a flight simulator.
3) Campus visit on Thursday, Oct. 18, in connection with Careers in Energy Week
The Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) and member companies began working together to create a Careers in Energy Week in 2010. The purpose is to increase the public’s awareness of energy careers through a concerted nationwide effort. This provides an opportunity for energy companies to connect with their local communities by sponsoring special events where schools, families, and other businesses can learn more about how a company or institute of higher learning impacts the local economy. (Source: www.cewd.org)
The Canton campus of MIAT hosted 24 teens from Starkweather Academy in nearby Plymouth, Mich., for a quick lunch and several hours of interactive demonstrations. MIAT instructors led the visiting students through experiences that included proper safety harnessing and climbing a ladder (aspects of MIAT’s wind energy technician program) wiring an electrical system and doing safety wiring (aspects of electro-mechanical technician program).
Career college leaders need to enlist project managers who will plan and carry out these activities in such a way that kids and teens will have a positive and memorable experience. Faculty, staff, and student volunteers also play a key role, as they may be supporting “extracurricular” events while forfeiting their personal time during the early mornings, evenings, or weekends.
Although this recommendation may seem obvious, remember to enlist representatives who also have stellar “soft skills” – such as patience and a fun, helpful and approachable personality – to keep kids and teens interested over a period of several hours!
Campus tours and open house events
Inviting high school students and their family members to visit campus for a private tour by appointment works well. Because “walk-ins” do happen, having a receptionist at the front desk who is prepared for that possibility any time will make the visitor feel that his or her surprise visit is always welcomed and appreciated. Larger scale open house events are also effective. Open house events on Saturday mornings tend to be well-attended with adequate planning.
First impressions are lasting impressions
High school students are at an age and stage in life that is ripe with possibilities. They are being bombarded with information from recruiters of all types, in a variety of ways. Thus, deciding what to do about life and work at the age of 16, 17, or 18 can be especially daunting.
For those who know that a traditional four-year college or university approach is not for them, CTE providers can make positive, early impressions as valuable resources that can equip these young adults to become “workplace-ready” over a shorter time frame and with a lower cost.
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” – Will Rogers, Actor/Writer/Humorist (Nov. 4, 1879, to Aug. 15, 1935)
JENNIFER PAUGH has been the President of MIAT College of Technology-Michigan in the Detroit metropolitan area since March 2016. Paugh has more than 20 years of experience in career education and training, having served in both faculty and operations leadership positions at colleges in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. She has served in roles of president, dean, operations leader, and faculty member.
Paugh is a member of the MIAT board of directors.
Contact Information: Jennifer Paugh // President // MIAT College of Technology Canton // 800-447-1310 // email@example.com // www.miat.edu // https://www.facebook.com/MIATConnection/ // @miatcollege // https://www.linkedin.com/school/michigan-institute-of-aviation-and-technology/ // https://www.instagram.com/explore/locations/8519021/miat-college-of-technology-canton-mi-campus/?hl=en
JOHN WILLIS is the President of MIAT College of Technology-Texas. The campus is in Houston. Willis also has more than 20 years of leadership experience in career education and training for colleges and institutions in Arizona, Kansas and Texas. He has served in the roles of president, dean, and faculty member.
Willis is a member of the MIAT board of directors.
Contact Information: John Willis //President // MIAT College of Technology Houston // 888-547-7047 // firstname.lastname@example.org // www.miat.edu // https://www.facebook.com/MIATConnection2/ // @miatcollege // https://www.linkedin.com/school/michigan-institute-of-aviation-and-technology/ // https://www.instagram.com/explore/locations/8519021/miat-college-of-technology-canton-mi-campus/?hl=en