The youth of today don’t dream of entering a career field that makes them unhappy or unfulfilled. But without guidance or the necessary skills required, they can easily find themselves in such a circumstance.
Defining Student Focus
Starting from an early age, the Volusia County school district is helping put students on the path to discovering a career field not only suited to their skills but also suited to their interests. Working closely with the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, Career Source Flagler Volusia and regional businesses, in 2021, the school district implemented the YouScience Discovery skills assessment program to the delight of educators like Volusia County Schools’ Career & Technical Education Coordinator Bree Castelli. The program uses 11 different four to 15-minute brain game-like exercises taking about 90 minutes to complete that can be broken up into sessions. These sessions help students discover their aptitudes and interests and the careers best suited for both.
“We implemented YouScience this year in all of our high schools. Five of our 10 high schools ranked in the top eight nationally for usage. Next year we look to expand the platform to our 8th graders to help us find high school pathways that meet their aptitude results,” shared Castelli.
Proprietary algorithms used in Discovery match aptitudes and interests with careers based on the best fit between the individual’s aptitudes and the aptitudes that are most important for a career, according to YouScience Content Marketing Manager Kelly McNulty.
“To determine which aptitudes are most important for each career, YouScience partners with experts in job performance and uses the US Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration’s O*NET career database. Discovery algorithmically combines several sources of information to translate the tasks or requirements of each career into an aptitude profile that reflects a successful fit for that career. This aptitude profile is then matched against a student’s aptitude profile to show best-fit careers where the student will naturally be most successful. There are 87,178,291,200 billion permutations of Discovery aptitude results,” explains McNulty.
With science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) trained graduates ranking high among the most sought after in the workforce, K-12 STEM Specialist for Volusia County Schools Amy Monahan says the district continually meets with stakeholders to proactively adjust curriculum to ensure the county’s students are building the skills they need.
“All Volusia’s STEM programs work collaboratively with YouScience and the Daytona Chamber as well as Career Source and businesses, especially through the collaboration with VMA (Volusia Manufacturers Association). We are continuously working on what the needs of the region are and how we can make sure our students are ready to join our workforce,” said Monahan.
Return on Investment – Talent Pipeline of the Future
Spearheading the program’s entrée into the school district during the 2021-22 academic year, Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce Vice President of Resource Development Ken Phelps says YouScience Discovery has been a valuable tool for the 11,526 students who participated this school year, providing an avenue for them to discover their natural abilities and innate skills. The program will also serve a long-term dual-purpose, matching regional employers’ needed skill sets to prospective employees via the YouScience Employer Connections Portal.
“The mission of the Daytona Regional Chamber is to foster a strong economic and business environment through which our membership and the entire business community can thrive. One of the critical components of a successful, thriving community is a deep and talented pipeline of current and future employees,” said Phelps, set to build private and corporate backing for the initiative to support the ongoing program.
Backpack to Business
YouScience is just one of the initiatives connecting students to future employment opportunities, and during the Career and Technical Education (CTE) Soft Skills Youth Summit, hosted by Volusia County Schools and the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce, students were introduced to industry partners, rotating between each one with a focus on a specific soft skill.
“The event was incredibly successful,” recalls Castelli. “We are looking to expand with more industry partners for 22-23.”
CTE Specialist Dr. Kristin Pierce says the integration of soft skills training into technical and academic education is vital to the employability and success of Volusia County students, and exposure to training opportunities provided by local employers helps build those skills.
“With the help of partners in education, business and industry and trade associations, each CTE program includes the academic, technical and soft skills required to be successful in today’s economy,” said Pierce.
Industry supporters such as AdventHealth’s Health Academy and Launch Credit Union’s Finance Academies offer students hands-on opportunities to refine their soft skills while gaining on-the-job training experience. Seeing immediate success, the district’s HVAC program, launched during the 2021-22 school year, yielded 10 job offers for seniors upon graduation according to Castelli.
Across the Board
In a rapidly expanding region of the United States with a dynamic economy, robust CTE programs and a supportive business community, identifying diverse talent on multiple levels is and will be a key component of Volusia County’s success.
Helping eliminate preconceived stereotypes, the YouScience Discovery program is making strides when it comes to opening up opportunities for every student, says YouScience Discovery CEO Edson Barton.
“The truth is, America’s students have tremendous potential to do well in STEM, and this is true for all genders and ethnicities,” said Barton. “That’s why YouScience Discovery is so critical. It shows students that they have aptitudes for many careers, including STEM. It expands their aperture by showing in-demand career options they may have never considered.”
Shayla Babcock, an incoming DeLand High School junior, was among hundreds of students in the Volusia County school district to participate in the YouScience program during the 2021-22 school year.
Babcock was intrigued by the results provided by the tests, which she says helped her identify new career options.
“There were some careers [that surfaced that] I’d been thinking about, but there were others I had never thought about. Being a geneticist–that sounds kinda cool,” she said, sharing the results. “Engineering…I hadn’t really thought about it, but I guess it is an option [too].”
Babcock says the results have been a confidence booster, as well.
“It’s given me assurance – yes, I’m good at these things, she said.
As the program enters its second school year in Volusia County, Babcock hopes the school district and region’s colleges will tap into the opportunities to engage students by offering job fairs, internships and additional guidance counseling for the middle school students, based on results.
“[Now it’s about] taking this and putting it into the real world. Giving students hands-on experience where they can talk to people in the actual fields, and maybe sign up for internships, sign up for things now and see if this is really for them,” she said.