More Draft Model Programs of Study Guides Released

This week, drafts of four new Model Programs of Study Guides were released in the following areas: 

Public comments are encouraged and should be made through this Public Comment Form through June 5, 2021. There will also be an introductory webinar held on April 16, 2021 at 11 AM. Click here to register for the webinar. 

These Model Programs of Study Guides were developed through a process that was sponsored by the Illinois Community College Board and implemented in collaboration with the Illinois State Board of Education. Education Systems Center led this process. The first four Model Programs of Study Guides were published during the Summer of 2020, and they are: 

April 2021

Occupational Profiles launch on Illinois Postsecondary Profiles website


The Illinois Postsecondary Profiles (IPP) website originally launched in October 2019 with the first of three major elements available to the public at the time of its launch – Institutional Profiles. Learn more about the original phase of the IPP website from October 2019.


Today, the Illinois Postsecondary Profiles website rolls out a number of major features as the second major phase of the site’s development.

  • Occupational Profiles, which provides users with opportunities to explore occupations and/or postsecondary areas of study (i.e., topics in which students major in college) by the 7 Illinois Career Pathways or by a keyword search or area of interest. Data about occupations is linked with both data regarding related areas of study and the postsecondary institutions in Illinois that offer these areas of study. Together, this provides a rich set of easy-to-access data that is unique among tools of this kind.
IPP Occupation Profiles Home
  • Regional Profiles, which utilizes an interactive map (also known as a choropleth) that is currently organized by Illinois’ community college district boundaries, to display completion, enrollment, and population data. In the future, additional data sets and geographic boundary regions will be available for website visitors.
IPP Choropleth
  • IPP Data Center – A centerpiece of the IPP website since its debut has been the ability to download data presented on the website in its entirety. Given that this data comes directly from Illinois’ state agencies responsible for postsecondary education, being able to easily access these complete data sets is a great benefit to researchers in Illinois and around the world. With this release, the IPP Data Center has been significantly expanded with additional data available for download.
IPP Data Center

In a future release, the final major originally planned component of the Illinois Postsecondary Profiles will launch – Equity Profiles, which will support the exploration of data from postsecondary education across Illinois based on student demographic information.

January 2021

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Yvonne Boose – Radio Journalist

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logo

Since students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Yvonne Boose, who today is a radio journalist at WNIJ, a public radio station that is based at Northern Illinois University. During her senior year at Bogan High School, Yvonne took her Grandfather advice. She went on to study Speech Communication at Chicago State University, where she learned radio and television production.

After graduating with her Bachelor’s Degree, Yvonne began working in customer service for Ameritech, a large telecommunications company in the Midwest at that time that was formerly part of AT&T and remain connected to AT&T in a number of ways. While Yvonne continued to earn promotions for her work, she also continued to desire a career in journalism. During this time period, she was able to begin an internship with AT&T Cable where she covered local stories on a television show called Hometown Edition. This internship confirmed for Yvonne that she did want to pursue journalism, so she went to Roosevelt University and earned a Master’s Degree in journalism. With her Master’s Degree, she obtained another internship at Beacon News in Aurora before moving into her current role at WNIJ.

Yvonne’s work as a journalist is part of the Arts & Communication Career Pathway.

In this video, Yvonne shares how her customer service skills have helped her make connections as a journalist with sources that are critical to telling honest and complete stories. She also talks about the need for students to be willing to take up volunteer and internship positions in order to build their experiences. Yvonne emphasizes that the following skills are critical to have success as a journalist: integrity, the ability to build honest and positive relationships with others, strong listening skills, robust organizational skills, the ability to accept feedback with a positive attitude, and having a hunger for new knowledge.

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode with journalist Yvonne Boose.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

January 2021

Career Pathways Student Conversations – Geneseo High School

Earlier in December, Travis Mackey, the principal at Geneseo (IL) High School, presented to the Illinois P-20 Network’s Career Pathways User Group about the development and use of the Alumni Career Connections feature of the Geneseo H.S. website.

As a follow-up, we met with four high school seniors from Geneseo High School to learn from them about their plans for postsecondary education and careers and to gain a better understanding of how they use their Alumni Career Connections tool. As is essentially always the case when listening to students speak about their experiences, there are a wide range of lessons shared by these students for educators to consider when planning in their own schools.

At the time of the publication of this video and blog post in December 2020, three of the four high school seniors were still in the process of finalizing their postsecondary plans. In each case, these students are planning on attending four-year universities, though these students recognized the importance of career exploration for all students and the important role that a wide range of postsecondary education options play in serving all students today.

Looking to the future, ultimately, all four of these high school seniors were steadfast in their commitment to prioritizing a love for one’s work and the need to make a difference for others as the ultimate considerations in selecting their careers and courses of study to prepare them for success in these careers.

December 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Cora Pauli – Electrical Engineer

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logo

Since students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Cora Pauli, who is an electrical engineer at HBK Engineering. HBK Engineering is regarded as one of COMED’s three most preferred companies to work with for project design. At an early age, Cora realized her love for mathematics and science and took the advice of her high school swimming coach at Amos Alonzo Stagg High School to study engineering in college. While in college, she interned with an engineering company where she learned about designing electrical distribution systems as well as learning AutoCAD. This experience contributed to her career choice as an electrical engineer.  In her current role at HBK Engineering, Cora works in the power sector and handles projects that focus on the design of electrical distribution systems, specifically Cora’s work focuses on what takes place between the electrical substation and the customer’s business or home.

The work that Cora does on a daily basis is a part of the Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, and Trades Career Pathway.

In this video, Cora shares with us some interesting facts about being a woman in the STEM field. She also talks about the need for young graduates who are interested in this field to love numbers and understand the basics of electrical engineering but to also possess a strong willingness to learn and ask questions. In addition to being forthcoming with questions, other essential skills for new electrical engineers to have include strong problem solving and communication skills. From crawling through manhole covers under streets in Downtown Chicago to projects that take place in Illinois’ corn and soybean fields, Cora is pleased to help provide people with consistent, reliable electricity using modern tools, like connected gear.

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video with electrical engineer Cora Pauli.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

December 2020

Alumni as Career Exploration Resources

In referencing college & career choices,

“We tried to figure out a way that our students could figure it out…”

Travis Mackey, Principal – Geneseo High School

Illinois’ Geneseo High School launched a website for both current students and alumni called Geneseo High School Alumni Career Connections that serves as a key component of the school’s career exploration efforts for and with students. This site connects graduates from Geneseo High School, which is about 25 miles west of the Mississippi River, the Quad Cities, and the Illinois/Iowa border, with one another and, most importantly, with current students. Through the Alumni Career Connections website, Geneseo alumni become a resource for career exploration for current high school students, who all engage with the Alumni Career Connections website systemically as part of their classes.

The full video presentation from the Illinois P-20 Network Career Pathways User Group is below, and this post continues below the video. For more information on the Illinois P-20 Network Career Pathways User Group, contact us via email.

The Alumni Career Connections Website – A tool that facilitates connections

Geneseo High School worked with a local website design company that already serves as their website provider to build out the custom Alumni Career Connections Website tool, which includes a survey for alumni to share their information, a database back-end, and a website with search parameters, an interactive map, and the search results and information that alumni have entered. At the time of this writing, there are currently almost 1,000 Geneseo alumni who have voluntarily submitted profiles. (For context, Geneseo High School currently serves just under 900 students according to the Illinois State Board of Education Illinois Report Card.) The school has a goal of doubling this to 2,000 alumni profiles.

Alumni are emailed and encouraged to provide their profiles and serve as a resource to current students, and even once in the database, reminder emails are sent every three years in order to ensure profiles are kept up-to-date as people change jobs and move from one location to another. Additionally, it should be noted that a Geneseo Community Unit School District 228 team must clean-up and verify each submission individually. (For example, this is one way to ensure that postsecondary institutions are listed in a single consistent format rather than having some respondents list Northern Illinois University as NIU while others write Northern.)

Systemically integrated into instruction

Teachers throughout the school use the Alumni Career Connections website in order to bring alumni into the classroom as experts who serve as guest speakers for students. Additionally, as teachers connect with alumni in specific fields, they actively reflect on the alignment between what and how they are teaching and the current reality of different types of workplaces. As a result of those conversations with former students, teachers make adjustments to their own instruction.

In addition to this approach, which positively impacts students throughout the school, all tenth grade students participate in a unit in their English class in which they identify a Geneseo graduate who works in an occupation that is of interest to them, and students interview them. Students are supported through this process with both a combination of pre-written consistent questions across all careers and with the flexibility to develop and ask their own specific questions that are of interest to them and/or specifically relevant to the occupation.

Building a positive culture around career exploration and connectedness

Central to the idea of the Alumni Career Connections website, is that it works on a “personal level” for current students. As Mr. Mackey describes, connecting students to alumni, “people who sat in the same seats that you (current students) do and had some of the same teachers you have had” has a tremendous impact on helping career exploration feel real to current students and that their career aspirations are possible. The tool has two other important side benefits:

  • Alumni stay connected to one another and to the school.
  • Alumni reference the teachers who impacted them, and honoring teachers “really keeps our teachers going” as they see how they made a difference in the lives of alumni after they have graduated.

December 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Audrey Romito – Domestic Violence Program Coordinator

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logo

Since students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Audrey Romito, who is a Domestic Violence Program Coordinator at Schwab Rehabilitation Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. Audrey continued her education after high school focused on the world of cosmetology. She became a licensed hair stylist, and for a time, she worked as a hair stylist. In looking for a change, she found a position with Kane County, where she began working on issues related to domestic violence, and from there, her interest for working with victims of domestic violence grew into a career. In her current role, Audrey engages in a wide range of tasks and responsibilities with regards to supporting victims of domestic violence from coordinating services to providing counseling.

The work that Audrey does as a Domestic Violence Program Coordinator is part of the Human and Public Services Career Pathway, though Audrey’s work, particularly in the context of the hospital setting in which she works can also be viewed as part of the Health and Technology Career Pathway.

In this episode, Audrey discusses her unique experiences between her graduation from Kaneland High School and her career that she loves so much today. Audrey highlights the fact that her work is unpredictable from one day to the next, and there is a danger of experiencing professional burn-out for those working with victims of domestic violence as is the case in many occupations in the Human and Public Services Career Pathway. To minimize this risk for herself, Audrey focuses on both meeting people where they are at and the little victories toward helping those with whom she is working become more independent. Audrey also stresses that the following essential skills are critical to success in her work: active listening, setting and reflecting on realistic goals, and being respectful of other people.

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video with Domestic Violence Program Coordinator Audrey Romito.

We apologize about the audio issues in the closing minutes of this episode. We decided to leave Audrey’s important answers in the video despite the audio issues that resulted from our video conference software solution.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

November 2020

An Integrated, Comprehensive Approach to Career Readiness

Maine Township High School District 207, located in Park Ridge and Des Plaines, Illinois just north of O’Hare Airport, has developed a comprehensive approach to career readiness with its Integrated Career Services Team and their work with students, teachers and counselors, and community partners.

A meaningful career experience for
each student, each year.

Ken Wallace, Maine 207 Superintendent

Over the past five years, Maine 207 has focused on the development of career readiness that is:

  • accessible for all students and for each student
  • integrated throughout the school day
  • diverse in experiences from guest speakers in classes and clubs to paid internships
  • aligned with workforce needs in our communities and is aligned with students’ interests and passions
  • engaging for community members and organizations through their partnerships with the school district and their work with students

Connecting with Community Partners

In addition to the superintendent, the district’s leadership team, and the high school principals, the Integrated Career Services Team provides a very important public face for Maine 207 with the community. The Integrated Services Team creates and sustains relationships with business partners that engage in everything from serving as guest speakers to providing full internship experiences with students. To date, Maine 207 has developed a network of 700 community partners. Acknowledging that this number and range of partnerships may not be the same in our diverse communities across Illinois, all school districts already have relationships with businesses and community groups. Those relationships can and should be leveraged into real partnerships to support student learning generally and career experiences specifically.

Intentional Planning that Builds Over Time for Students

As can be seen in the two images below from the Maine 207 Integrated Career Services Team, the district’s work around career readiness focuses on long-term planning that extends into the middle schools and that builds upon itself with each passing year of high school.

In each of the above examples, the experiences start out as shorter experiences designed, over the course of multiple experiences, to give students an understanding of a broad range of potential careers. This is both developmentally appropriate for most ninth and tenth grade students, and it recognizes that, coming into high school, most students have a very limited understanding of what different careers and workplaces look and feel like in-action. Often times, younger high school students only have an intimate knowledge of the careers of their own adult family members, some other adults that they may know well, and their teachers. Even in these cases, they are likely to only have a limited, more superficial understanding of these careers. The approach taken by Maine 207’s plan is designed to address this head-on by potentially providing students with a strong foundation across many different career pathways. Starting ninth and tenth graders with everything from guest speakers to field trips to volunteer opportunities is also flexible enough to allow individual students to start focusing more specifically on individual career pathways in which they already think they have a greater interest.

Connecting Career Readiness to Engaging Instruction

Importantly, the career readiness activities also integrate with Maine 207’s focus on ensuring that all classes are designed around highly engaging learning. As career experiences are integrated into a wide range of classes, there are opportunities for teachers to more effectively and easily design instruction around authentic learning opportunities that allow students to both learn about careers and to learn concepts, content, and skills more deeply.

A Series and Sequence of Career Experiences

As students move into eleventh and twelfth grades, there are increasingly opportunities for more in-depth work-based learning experiences. These are varied as they allow for the different needs of students, the different natures of different careers and workplaces, and the different requirements and capacities of various partners.

As mentioned earlier, guest speakers are invited in to classrooms throughout the schools and across all grade levels. While Maine 207 has long been a worldwide leader in educational technology including being Google’s original school district partner for Google Apps (known today as Google Workplace), schools far-and-wide have become comfortable with online meetings and classes as a result of the pandemic. The increased access to technology and acceptance of remote meeting and learning tools has made engaging guest speakers with students easier than ever before. Additionally, these same tools allow even more students to benefit from a guest speaker than was previously the case as a result of being able to have more than 25-30 students in the “room” with the students and as a result of being able to record a session with a guest speaker and share it with students later.

Career Treks and Job Shadowing experiences provide more in-depth opportunities to interact with professionals and to see and understand workplaces. As the slides above from the Maine 207 Integrated Career Services Team remind:

  • These experiences can take advantage of other already-established programs, such as Junior Achievement.
  • These experiences can and should take place in businesses, but they can and should also take place in other organizations, including other governmental agencies and in our own school districts. (Many Illinois school districts have started job shadowing and internships with their own Operations, Information Technology, and Business Services staffs. Of course, many Illinois school districts also do not have one or more of these key areas in-house as standalone departments due to either their size or available resources.)

Maine Township High School District 207 offers students both formal and informal internship opportunities. The formal internship is structured around a scheduled class period. In this scenario, the student and the school internship supervisor meet one period per week to check-in and discuss the internship. The informal internship does not include that scheduled class period and weekly check-in. There are a variety of options for when students actually participate in their internships, both during and beyond the school day, and these scenarios are based on both the student’s needs as well as the needs and parameters in place with the organization providing the internship. Maine 207 has approximately 450 students participating in formal internships, and there are additional students participating in informal internships. Between 5 and 15% of the internships have been paid internships.

For more information…

Maine Township High School District 207 Career Exploration website
The Maine 207 Career Exploration website provides up-to-date information on upcoming events as well as dashboards for students and parents, community partners, and staff members. Additionally, staff member information is available, including the opportunity to schedule meetings directly with the team members.

The Integrated Career Services Team at Maine East, Maine West, and Maine South High Schools also actively posts information on Instagram as another medium from which they can communicate with students in addition to the website, emails, and school announcements.

November 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Denise Hoth – Surgical Instrument Specialist Management

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logo

Since students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Denise Hoth, who is a surgical instrument specialist that has now also become the manager of a team of surgical instrument specialists. As is discussed in the episode, surgical instrument specialists maintain and repair a wide range of tools used in surgery. Denise became a surgical tech after attending school at Triton College, and as a result of her work in that field, she had the opportunity to move into becoming a surgical instrument specialist. In this episode, Denise explains that her pathway to her current role is one of many potential avenues is as evidenced by the range of background experiences of her team of surgical instrument specialists.

The work that Denise does as a surgical instrument specialist. is part of both the Health & Technology and the Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, and Trades Career Pathways. Given the time she spends managing financial, operational, and human resources issues, her work is also part of the Business & Finance Career Pathway.

In this episode, Denise explains the nature of the work that surgical instrument specialists do each day, including their working environment in the mobile service labs in the box truck that each surgical instrument specialist on her team drives. Denise explains how it is important that everyone in this role has strong mechanical skills, and that it is important to have integrity, strong verbal communication skills, and be able to work independently. Denise also stresses that this is a field with quite a bit of opportunity, and that a focus on customer service is the number one priority for each employee in her company.

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video with surgical instrument specialist and manager Denise Hoth.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

November 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Miles Robinson – VR QA Analyst

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logo

Since students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Miles Robinson, who is a Quality Assurance (QA) Analyst on Facebook’s Oculus team. Oculus has been widely regarded as the leading virtual reality (VR) headset technology, and the QA team plays an incredibly important role in trying to minimize the bugs that are released in the complex combination of hardware and software. Miles grew up in Chicago and attended Whitney Young High School and studied pre-law as an undergraduate while also learning coding and software development, building on a long-time interest in computers and information technology (and video games). After earning his Bachelor’s Degree, Miles engaged in a submersive experience to learn software development in great detail that led to his career in IT and ultimately to his current role at Facebook.

The work Miles does on a daily basis is part of the Information Technology Career Pathway.

In this video, Miles stresses the importance of being adaptable and a team player. Miles also emphasizes that coding is not easy. It is complex work that requires a significant amount of study and a high degree of perseverance. At the same time, Miles strongly suggests that if you believe in yourself and do the hard work, you can be successful with this type of job.

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video with Virtual Reality Quality Assurance Analyst Miles Robinson.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

October 2020

P-20 Network Fall Virtual Meeting

Like the Spring 2020 P-20 Network Meeting, the Fall 2020 Meeting has also been moved to an online asynchronous event. Despite again missing out on face-to-face, real-time interactions, we are excited to bring you the relevant presentations that have been requested.

Each of the presentations below links to a video on the P-20 Network YouTube Channel.

Welcome – Thinking about Engagement Networks
Dr. Rena Cotsones, Chief Engagement Officer & Senior Associate Vice President, Northern Illinois University

College & Career Readiness – College & Career Pathways

An Overview of Career & Technical Education and Perkins V from ISBE & ICCB – Natasha Allan, Director for Career & Technical Education, Illinois Community College Board; Marci Johnson, Director of Career & Technical Education and Innovation, Illinois State Board of Education

Bringing Work Home: A Framework for Virtual Work-Based Learning (Also presented for the Forum for Excellence 2020) – Heather Penczak, Policy & Program Manager, Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University; Carl Schneider, Fellow, Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University; Nikki James, Practera at Northeastern University

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads
Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads YouTube Playlist
Suggest a Guest

College & Career Readiness – Dual Credit

“How does a teacher get a dual credit endorsement in Illinois?” – Dr. Jenny Parker, Associate Vice Provost for Educator Licensure and Preparation, Northern Illinois University

Dual Credit Teacher Professional Development Plans – Alauna McGee, Director of Early College Opportunities, Heartland Community College

Equity & Opportunity

Parent University: Key Components and Getting Started – Susana Das Neves, Director of Illinois Migrant Education Services, Northern Illinois University

Research & Data

Illinois Postsecondary Profiles – Launch of Path 2 – Occupational Profiles – Charlie Rosemond, Data & Outcomes Manager, Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University; Dr. Jason Klein, Director of P-20 Initiatives, Northern Illinois University

P-20 Research & Data Collaborative – Overview + State/Federal Projects – Dr. Alan Clemens, Director, NIU P-20 Research & Data Collaborative; Dr. Ben Creed, Assistant Professor, College of Education-Northern Illinois University; Dr. Kelly Summers, Associate Professor, College of Education-Northern Illinois University

P-20 Research & Data Collaborative – Working with Local Organizations: Perspectives from Superintendents – Dr. Steve Epperson, Superintendent, Paw Paw CUSD271; Dr. Lynn Gibson, Superintendent, Paw Paw CUSD271

For more information and to be part of the conversation of the P-20 Network:

October 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads continues expanding

From Broadway to the lab and from the courtroom to the construction site, we are excited to bring work-based learning activities to our students as they learn at home and to provide relevant, ready-to-use resources for teachers to use with students. Share the Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads series with your teachers and students! 

As we start the 2020-2021 school year, we are creating and publishing new episodes. If you have a suggestion for a potential guest for a Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, please share that with us using this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads Guest Recommendation Form. 

September 2020

Model Programs of Study Guides Released

As part of the Perkins V Plan in the State of Illinois, Model Programs of Study are being developed and articulated through specific guides for each program. Support for these efforts was provided by the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB), and leadership for the development and publication of these guides was led by Northern Illinois University’s Education Systems Center. Four guides have been released in the following areas: 

  • Education
  • Health Sciences & Technology
  • Information Technology
  • Manufacturing & Engineering

Each of these guides is available on the Model Programs of Study page of the Education Systems Center website

Additionally, public comment is open on the draft guides using this Model Programs of Study Guides Feedback Survey through August 28, 2020. 

July 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Jocsan Martinez – Nuclear Power Plant Management

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Jocsan Martinez, who is a civil engineer and shift manager for Exelon Corporation at the Byron Nuclear Power Plant in Byron, Illinois. The Byron Nuclear Power Plant can generate enough electricity each year to power over 2,000,000 homes, and Jocsan leads one of the teams that runs the plant’s main operations, which range from managing the layers of safety systems to performing important maintenance in order to produce power all day each day. Jocsan grew up in Chicago and attended Whitney Young High School before studying civil engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology. An internship at the Byron Nuclear Power Plant led to his eventual full-time employment there and a unique 5-week rotating schedule that features 12-hour shifts.

As a civil engineer, Jocsan’s job is part of the Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, and Trades Career Pathway.

In this video, Jocsan describes engineers and their work by saying, “We solve problems, and there are always problems to solve.” Additionally, while he stresses the importance of math and science skills, he emphatically states that “teamwork and communication are key” to success in his work.

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads with nuclear power plant shift manager Jocsan Martinez.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

May 2020

P-20 Network Career Pathways User Group

The Postsecondary Workforce Readiness (PWR) Act created the Career Pathway Endorsements in Illinois. School districts across Illinois are increasingly exploring how they may offer Career Pathways Endorsements to students. As school districts navigate through implementing instruction aligned around the Career Pathways Endorsements, as a result of feedback with school leaders in a wide range of school districts across Illinois, the P-20 Network is launching the Career Pathways User Group.

The Career Pathways User Group directly builds on the central theme of the P-20 Network, the User Group is an opportunity for school districts to identify both challenges and solutions and to share ideas with one another to successfully implement Career Pathways Endorsements. The Career Pathways User Group is open to all school districts. User Group participants will be able to ask questions and share ideas with one another at any time, and there will be optional online meetings and sharing sessions led by User Group members to help one another spread best practices and problem solve how to overcome obstacles.

Sign-up to become a member of the P-20 Network Career Pathways User Group today.

May 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Erika Sittler – Electrical Engineer

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Erika Sittler, who is an electrical engineer for the City of St. Charles (St. Charles, Illinois). Erika provides background about arriving in Chicagoland as a 14 year-old and entering Schaumburg High School before attending Harper College and then the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As she moved through her higher education experiences, she focused on electrical engineering–partially because she did not think she would be interested or successful with the type of hands-on work with machinery that is often part of mechanical engineering. Today, one of Erika’s favorite aspects of her work is being in the field and helping to diagnose and fix broken equipment.

Erika’s job crosses multiple Career Pathways. As an electrical engineer, her job is part of the Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, and Trades Career Pathway. Likewise, given Erika’s role in helping to maintain the city-owned electrical grid in St. Charles, Illinois, her position also has strong connections to the Human & Public Services Career Pathway.

Erika tells students that it is important to enjoy and be good at problem solving, writing, and math in order to do her job well. Put another way, Erika says that people who like to tinker and building things and who enjoy solving puzzles have important skills to do well as an electrical engineer.

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode with electrical engineer Erika Sittler.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

May 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Steve O’Neil – Environmental Biologist/Wastewater Operator

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Steve O’Neill, who is a Wastewater Operator for the City of St. Charles (St. Charles, Illinois). Steve speaks about his educational background, including the importance of one of his high school teachers at St. Charles East High School and earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Biology from Eastern Illinois University. Steve highlights the range of activities he encounters and completes each week in his work, ranging from biology in a lab setting to working with industrial machinery in the field, and he explains how he feels his work improves the world by maintaining human and environmental health within the community locally and by contributing to clean water globally.

Like many of the Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads guests, Steve’s work spans across a number of Career Pathways. In large part, his work is rooted in the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Career Pathway, but given the role of large, industrial machinery in Steve’s work, there are also significant elements of the Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, and Trades Career Pathway. Finally, as is clear in Steve’s interview, his focus on being a public servant as a government worker also provides strong evidence of his job being part of the Human & Public Services Career Pathway.

In this episode, Steve spoke about how diverse his work is within a day and from one day to the next, and he also spoke about first being aware of the possibility of working for local government as a result of a summer job he held as a teenager. From that, he built and maintained relationships that then led to a long-term position and a career. Even in a job that requires dealing with raw sewage, Steve reminds students to “never shy away from an opportunity to learn something new.”

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode with environmental biologist Steve O’Neil.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

May 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Joan Schouten – Government Purchasing Manager

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Joan Schouten, who is the Purchasing Division Manager for the City of St. Charles (St. Charles, Illinois). Joan speaks about the importance of collaboration and organization in her work, and she discusses how critical it is that government’s use of the money that comes from taxpayers is efficient and ethical. Joan comments on the wide range of individuals with whom she is able to work in her role and how interesting it is to always be learning about new products, processes, and solutions as she sets-up and manages purchasing processes for the wide range of goods and services necessary to keep a city government operating.

As a purchasing manager, Joan’s work is rooted in the Business & Finance Career Pathway, but as an employ of local government, her occupation is also directly connected to the Human & Public Services Pathway.

Joan stresses that her work gives her a strong sense of pride as she feels like she is giving back to her community with the work that she does each day. Joan also finds her work incredibly interesting as she interacts with people in a wide range of industries and jobs regularly based on the many different goods and services that the city needs to purchase.

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads interview with government purchasing manager Joan Schouten.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

May 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Jeff Carter – Electrician

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Jeff Carer, who is an electrician and the owner of A and J Electric in Sycamore, Illinois. Jeff explains the process of becoming an electrician, which includes a four-to-five year apprenticeship, and he stresses the importance of ongoing learning throughout one’s career. Today, for example, Jeff continues to learn about updates to code in different counties and municipalities as well as a focus on safety as defined by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

As an electrician and a business owner, Jeff is in the Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, and Trades Career Pathway as well as the Business & Finance Career Pathway.

In both his profession as an electrician and beyond as a former baseball player and current shark diver, Jeff has a unique perspective on his work, and he explains how much he enjoys that each day is different in his job. From working on the re-construction of Soldier Field to skyscrapers in Chicago to work locally, there is tremendous satisfaction Jeff finds from safely and successfully completing each job. Jeff also stresses the importance work ethic and a desire to learn – Arriving early and asking questions are two key examples of this.

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads interview with electrician Jeff Carter.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

May 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Bridget Caragher – Social Worker

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logo Since students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Bridget Caragher, who is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and co-owner at Green Door Therapy. Bridget provides therapy for individuals and families, and she also has responsibilities in managing the business that range from working with insurance companies to posting on social media. Bridget explains the requirements of earning a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree as well as then continuing on for your clinical certification, and she also provides tips about what high school and college/university students can do now in order to prepare for a career as a therapist even while they are in school.

As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Bridget’s work is in the Human & Public Services Career Pathway.

In speaking about social work and other related careers, Bridget explained an educational progression that would include a Bachelor’s Degree, followed immediately by a Master’s Degree, and then a full-time internship. She also spoke about how students can begin to explore the career by volunteering and working roles like serving as a camp counselor while still in school. Most importantly, Bridget stressed that critical competencies for success in this work were to be open-minded and empathetic, saying the key to helping others in her job was to ‘look for resilience where people don’t see it in themselves.’

Watch this interview with social worker Bridget Caragher.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Brian Pekron – Wind Farm Operations

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads episode, we interview Brian Pekron, who is in Wind Farm Operations. Originally earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Nuclear Engineering, Brian and a partner created a manufacturing company that designed an improved mixing nozzle for adhesives. Recently, Brain came back to working in the energy field with his new role in Wind Farming. In this role, Brian is involved in everything from planning to implementation, and his work ranges from managing financial projections and reports to working with suppliers and ensuring that wind turbines are fully operational.

Brian’s work in Wind Farm Operations and his range of job responsibilities keeps his work firmly rooted in both the Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology and Trades Career Pathway and the Business and Finance Career Pathway.

To be successful in his work, Brian has developed skills and competencies ranging from coding to deep understanding of the science behind energy to finance. For students, Brian speaks of the tremendous opportunities available in the fast-growing fields of wind and solar energy as well as of the need to gain exposure to many different careers while in school.

Watch this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads interview with Brian Pekron about wind farm operations.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

P-20 Network Virtual Spring Meeting

Our Spring 2020 P-20 Network Meeting was originally scheduled for April 23, 2020, at NIU Naperville. Due to the shelter-in-place order in Illinois as a result of COVID-19, the Spring P-20 Network Meeting has been moved to an asynchronous virtual event. While this format unfortunately requires us to miss out on the face-to-face discussions that are such a critical part of the P-20 Network, we are excited to share a number of the previously planned presentations as videos that can be viewed across the P-20 Network and beyond.

Each of the presentations below links to a video on the P-20 Network YouTube Channel.

Transitional English – More info coming soon!
In the coming weeks, we also look forward to hosting a webinar about proposed competencies for Transitional English that have been developed by a group composed of stakeholders from across school districts, postsecondary institutions, and state agencies throughout Illinois.

Meeting Evaluation
After watching the videos, please take a few minutes to provide feedback using this short form on your P-20 Network experience as well as on the needs of your organization moving forward.

NIU P-20 Research & Data Collaborative
From statewide research projects to working with districts of all sizes on their research and data needs, the NIU P-20 Research & Data Collaborative is excited to offer a wide range of services and partnerships to advance knowledge and practice. Learn more about the NIU P-20 Research & Data Collaborative, and contact us for more information about specific projects.

For more information and to be part of the conversation of the P-20 Network:

Fall 2020 P-20 Network Meeting
Finally, plan now to attend the Fall 2020 P-20 Network Meeting on Thursday, October 1, 2020, at the Barsema Alumni & Visitors Center on-campus at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb.

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Molly Levy – Fintech Product Management

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Molly Levy, who is Vice President for Product at Liberis, a Fintech company working with small businesses. Fintech refers to the sub-sector of companies that focus on developing and implementing information technology solutions from hardware to software that create new or enhance existing financial products. Molly, who is from Chicago’s Northern Suburbs but now lives and works in London in the United Kingdom, leads the team that is responsible for the creation and ongoing development of products at Liberis, a company which focuses their efforts of providing capital to small businesses.

As a leader of a Fintech company, Molly’s current role as the Vice President for Product as being in both the Business & Finance Career Pathway as well as the Information Technology Career Pathway.

While Molly grew up in Suburban Chicago, from there, her career has taken her to San Francisco and now to London, and through these experiences Molly has learned a great deal about the importance of being flexible and about being able to work with others from different cultures, which Molly discusses in this video. Molly has learned about and stresses the importance of the feedback loop. In the case of her company that feedback loop is specifically between customers and the design team, and it results in an iterative design process through which products are always being improved. Molly’s key advice to current students to find value in all of your work place experiences and to view them as opportunities to learn and improve.

Watch this interview with Molly Levy, Vice President-Product at Liberis.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Lisa Sharp – Architect

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Lisa Sharp, an architect who owns her own architecture firm based out of DeKalb, Illinois, USA. Lisa provides an overview of the workflow of architecture from obtaining work through the design and planning phases and, of course, on to construction. With experience doing a wide range of work, including the restoration of the historic Egyptian Theater in Downtown DeKalb, Lisa is able to provide students with an understanding of all aspects of being an architect.

As an architect, Lisa works in the Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, and Trades Career Pathway. As the owner of her own firm, her job also exists in the Business and Finance Career Pathway.

From a very young age (6 years old!), Lisa remembers wanting to be an architect. She has always liked drawing, math, and being with people – all of which are necessary to be successful as an architect. She describes the role of an architect as being like the conductor of a band as one works with other professionals across a broad range of job types from engineers to interior designer to construction workers. Despite the fact that 98% of her work is completed on a computer today, Lisa still stresses that drawing is a critical skill for success, and she says it is also very important to have a strong imagination and to be very good at thinking ahead and planning.

Watch this interview with architect Lisa Sharp.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Desiree Battaglia – Communications-Media Relations

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Desiree Battaglia, a media relations specialist at Northwestern Medicine. Desiree recently moved into this role after serving as the Manager of Public Relations and Corporate Communications for Wilton Brands. In both of these roles, Desiree has worked with everything from media outlets ranging from television stations to magazines as she has worked to tell stories for each of these organizations while inspiring others as they engage with that work.

As a communications specialist, Desiree’s work would be classified as being in the Human & Public Services Career Pathway, though currently her work is also directly related to the Health Science & Technology Career Pathway as the stories she is telling are that of a major healthcare and hospital network in Chicagoland.

During the interview, Desiree shared her experiences in serving as a member of the staff of the school newspaper in high school, and then, she worked at both the newspaper and the television station while attending Northern Illinois University. Even prior to those experiences, she always had a love for making speeches and doing presentations, and these personal interests and school experiences all aligned perfectly with her career.  From this, she advises students to turn their “passion into a career” while also telling students that relationship-building, follow-through, writing and communications skills, and being resilient are all critical to career success as a communications professional.

Watch this interview with media relations specialist Desiree Smith.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Laura Rice – Microbiologist

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Laura Rice, a microbiologist who holds a PhD., has over a dozen patents, and has published dozens of technical articles. Laura works for the Nalco Water division of Ecolab, a very large international corporation. In Laura’s role, she leads teams that solve problems in the Paper and Pulp industry to ensure that machines can work efficiently in creating everything from office paper to the cardboard used in pizza boxes. Through these efforts, there is less waste, which not only increases profitability for companies, but it also results in environmental benefits as a greater percentage of the trees harvested for paper turn into product rather than end up wasted.

As a microbiologist working in the paper industry, Laura’s work would be classified as being in either the Agriculture Food, and Natural Resources and/or the Manufacturing, Engineering, Technology, and Trades Career Pathways.

During the interview, Laura talks about being a shy student who was afraid to take the risk to ask questions in class, and she encourages all students to ask teachers at all levels for help. She highlights many of the essential skills that are vital to success in her workplace stressing that it is important to be a problem solver and to be persistent in your efforts. Above all else, Laura tells students that collaboration and communication are critical each day. When thinking about entry level positions that students will have they begin their careers, Laura reminds students that regardless of the task on which they are working, it is important to understand why it is important and to always welcome feedback as an opportunity to learn and improve.

Watch this interview with microbiologist Laura Rice.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Arthur Mingo – Attorney

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Arthur Mingo, an attorney who has recently started his own practice in Chicagoland. Arthur goes into great deal about law school teaching students to think like attorneys and about the process of taking and passing the Bar Exam. Arthur also talks about how, like a doctor who is a general practitioner or family doctor, an attorney with a new, small practice will likely take a wide variety of cases before possibly specializing in a particular area of legal work.

As an attorney, Arthur’s work would be classified as being in the Human and Public Services Career Pathway.

Arthur stresses a number of important points to students when considering becoming an attorney. First, Arthur emphasizes that the work of most attorneys most of the time does not look like it appears on television and in movies. Second, Arthur points out that while his degree from the Law School at Southern Illinois University might not be considered as prestigious as an Ivy League Law School, he learned from the same books and got a very strong legal education while also earning scholarships and strengthening his financial future.

Arthur also notes that being argumentative is not the most important skill to becoming a good attorney. Rather, it is important that one truly listens to their clients, returns phone calls, and is a strong reader and writer.

Learn more about what it’s like to be an attorney by watching this interview with Arthur Mingo.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Elizabeth Stanley – Broadway Star

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Elizabeth Stanley, who is currently starring in the production of Jagged Little Pill on Broadway in New York City. Elizabeth grew up in Western Illinois attending Camp Point Central High School, and she holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Indiana University. In addition to singing, dancing, and acting in live theater productions, Elizabeth has appeared in many television shows. From her work in regional theater to the biggest stages in the United States, Elizabeth’s job is her dream job and a dream for many. In this interview, though, Elizabeth also stresses all of the related careers that are necessary to create and maintain live theater, providing opportunities for people with all kinds of interests and skills to be involved in a career in the Arts.

As an actress, Elizabeth’s work would be classified as being in the Arts & Communications Career Pathway.

In addition to describing what life looks while performers are looking for jobs as well as once they are in a production, Elizabeth offers a number of key tips for students that are not only important for those considering a career in the Arts but that align with the Essential Skills and are relevant to all Career Pathways.

  • Be as prepared as possible
  • Be Self-Motivated
  • Be resilient and persevere; Develop one’s self-esteem
  • Be thoughtful with one’s finances and save regularly

Watch our P-20 Network interview with actress Elizabeth Stanley on YouTube.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Brigette Wolf – Snack Food Innovator & Leader

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Brigette Wolf, the Head of Snack Futures Innovation at Mondelez International. In Brigette’s role, she works with and learns from customers and retailers in order to understand their needs, and she leads a diverse team that seeks to create new products that will be exciting to consumers with an emphasis on new ideas and sustainability. Brigette also provides her advice to students about beginning their own career journeys.

As an executive in the food industry, Brigette’s work would be classified as being in either the Agriculture Food, and Natural Resources and/or the Business/Finance Career Pathways.

Brigette specifically identifies that critical thinking, the ability to listen, and being good at asking questions are all essential skills that are necessary in her work. In a job that routinely sees her traveling around the world, literally to different continents each week and back home on the weekends, she also must be able to work with both teammates and customers from around the world. Brigette has identified that having the “agility to learn” is vital to her ongoing success, and like each of the Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads guests before her, she cites work ethic is being a must-have characteristic to achieve in her career.

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Jim Daly – Chemist & Corporate Leader

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Jim Daly, the Vice President of Global FloraLife and Corporate Research at Smithers-Oasis. Among other products, FloraLife is the company behind the packets of flower food that come with bouqets of flowers at the supermarket, and in this video, Jim talks about everything from the science behind extending the storage life of apples to the process of innovation.

As a chemist-turned-executive, Jim’s work would be classified as being in either the Agriculture Food, and Natural Resources and/or the Business/Finance Career Pathways.

Jim stresses the importance of consistent hard work over a long period of time as a key to success in any career. He talks about learning as much as possible when you are young and taking advantage of formal learning opportunities, so you can build upon those once you are in the workplace. Jim also emphasizes how exciting it is to innovate and create while also stating that, in his experience, leading people is more complex than solving problems with chemicals.

Click here to watch this video on YouTube.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

April 2020

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads – Marco Casalaina – IT Leader & AI Innovator

Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads logoSince students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re bringing people from a wide range of occupations to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.


In this Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads video, we interview Marco Casalaina, the Senior Vice President – Product – Einstein at Salesforce.com. Marco is in charge of a global team working on Salesforce’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) efforts, and he talks about his work, the most important skills for himself and his team members, and provides advice to students about their own career pathways.

As a computer scientist and executive, Marco’s work would be classified as being in either the Information Technology and/or the Business/Finance Career Pathways.

Marco also discusses the importance of cross-cultural competence as he leads a global team with offices in the United Stands, France, Israel, and India, and he identifies two key skills for students to develop regardless of their particular career interests – communication and creativity.

Click here to watch the video on YouTube.

To keep up-to-date as new Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos are released:

March 2020

Career Pathways – Virtual Trailheads – Exploring Careers Online

With the unprecedented move to remote learning necessary about the shelter-in-place orders tied to COVID-19, the P-20 Network had previously offered suggestions about how career exploration could continue while students are learning at home. From the dialogue that this post generated, we are excited to announce that we are launching a new series on YouTube – Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads.

Since students cannot be engaging in face-to-face or on-site work-based learning experiences, we’re excited to bring people from a wide range of occupations across the Career Pathways to students remotely. These videos will allow students to learn about their work, the skills that are most important in their work each day, and to benefit from the advice that these professionals have to offer students.

Teachers can benefit from the Career Pathways Virtual Trailheads videos in two ways. First, these videos serve as a resource that can be used as we engage students in remote learning in the short-term as well as in online, blended, or traditional learning environments in the future. Second, these videos can provide brief virtual externship experiences for teachers to hear about careers and workplaces outside of education in order to ensure that our instruction is as relevant and engaging as possible for our students and their futures.

For each interview, we will post a corresponding blog post. Videos and blog posts will begin to be shared during the week of March 30, 2020. To keep up-to-date:

March 2020

Exploring Careers while Learning at Home

We’re collecting questions about Learning at Home from teachers at all levels, and we’ll be working with experts to help get these questions answered. If you have questions, please provide them here.


Websites listed in this post are listed as examples because they are already in common use in Illinois. There is no endorsement of these companies or their services by the P-20 Network or Northern Illinois University.

Along with the physical closure of schools, work-based learning experiences have also been stopped for students. From its March 16, 2020, guidance document, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) clarified that students cannot participate in work-based learning experiences in the field with workplace partners.

ISBE - No Internships - 03162020

Does this mean that students cannot meaningfully engage in exploring careers while learning at home? Actually, E-Learning presents a wonderful opportunity to engage in further career exploration for students. Ideas for learning more about careers while learning at home include:

  • Using online tools to conduct their own research about careers about which they would like to learn more, including what type of postsecondary education to obtain a position in the career, what the workplace environment looks and feels like, how much money one is able to earn both when new in the career and later with more experience, and most importantly, how the career matches with the students’ personal and career interests as well as with regional occupational needs. If your school district uses a tool like Xello or YouScience, now is a great time to have students dive into their results and do some additional exploration.

Xello - Explore Careers

  • Students can also conduct interviews or do additional research into the more behind-the-scenes elements of different careers in which they might be interested to fully understand what those careers entail on a daily basis. In many cases, students have a deeper understanding of the careers of their parents or other adult family members as well as teachers. Beyond that, most students do not see the daily inner-workings of most careers. Movies and television not only leave out most careers and focus on specifically high-profile careers in very dramatic ways, such as law enforcement, paramedics, and frontline medical professions, such as doctors and nurses. Even with the large number of movies and television shows focused on these careers, large portions of the daily work routine in those fields are typically left out. Hours of documentation and paperwork each day is part of real life, but it does not make for dramatic viewing. Even when other careers are highlighted in movies and television, such as the scene below from Apollo 13 that shows engineers tackling a life-threatening problem, leave out the years of detailed, mundane creation and testing that these same engineers did prior to the launch of Apollo 13.
  • Use the curriculum of your course as a jump-off for career exploration – As we replace some of the face-to-face collaborative activities, labs, and other lessons that we would have been doing with in-person teaching that we have not yet figured out how to effectively move online or to students’ homes, take advantage of this opportunity to use your curriculum as a jumping off point for further exploration. Certainly, it is a great opportunity to explore the curriculum further and/or in unique personalized ways with independent research and creative, original products. It is also a great opportunity for students to explore careers related to this curriculum. While this may be a teacher-initiated career exploration, there is a great deal of room for individual student choice within this work as well as for students to create a wide range of products that can inform other students in other places and in the future about career options. This also a great opportunity for community partners of local school districts to provide information about their careers via video chats using tools like YouTube Live. (It takes 24 hours for YouTube to verify an account to allow it to broadcast live, so one does need to plan in advance).

YouTubeLive

  • Remote College & Career Counseling – Despite the fact that nearly all teachers and staff and counselors and advisors are working from home, in some ways, this is a better opportunity than a normal March or April to provide students with during-the-day college and career counseling. In many cases, engaging with students and parents together may be easier than it would normally be, as well. Remote college and career counseling can certainly take advantage of today’s technological tools, live video chat through Google Hangouts Meet, Microsoft Teams, or some other tool, but it can also take place via a phone call, enabling nearly all students and families to take advantage of this opportunity. In the example below from Maine West High School, Maine Township High School District 207 staff members walk students and families through the steps that they have created, and which others can replicate, to provide remote college and career counseling. (It is important to note that, in addition to the video here, the slide deck is publicly available and has been widely shared on social media to engage students, such as this Instagram post from Maine East High School.)
March 2020

Lake County Tech Campus – Creating a Team-Based Challenge

The Lake County Tech Campus provides a wide range of Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs to high school students from throughout Lake and McHenry Counties in Northeastern Illinois. Education is one of the many high quality career areas in which programming is offered at Tech Campus, with a team of three teachers who provide instruction for juniors and seniors in high school. These students, in turn and alongside their professional teachers, provide instruction and learning opportunities three days per week for early childhood students in the specifically designed early childhood classrooms at Tech Campus.

Team-Based Challenge-Career Pathway Endorsement SlideAs part of this work, the Education teacher team decided to incorporate Team-Based Challenges from the Illinois Career Pathway Endorsement model, and the P-20 Network team both facilitated the instructional planning and participated in this effort alongside the Education teachers. The Education teachers identified two potential real-life, complex problems of practice that they believed an in-depth Team-Based Challenge would help their high school students learn and solve and through which they could develop a deeper understanding as potential pre-service teachers. Together, we spent one entire “professional development day” building out the Team-Based Challenge.

First, we explored the key College & Career Pathway Competencies that would be taught and on which students would be assessed. Specifically, both the Essential Cross-Sector Employability Competencies as well as the Human and Public Services Career Pathway Competencies (which are currently defined through EDU-specific competencies) were studied and discussed. After examining all of these competencies, the teachers specifically identified the ones that would be best taught and assessed through the Team-Based Challenge.

Competencies-Assessments

Then, the teachers determined how they would assess each of these competencies as well as, through that discussion, beginning to plan instructional lessons and activities that would be embedded in the Team-Based Challenge.

Tech Campus Ed Teachers

Finally, using the Backwards Design Model of instructional planning, multiple assessments were fully built-out prior to the end of the professional development workday.

Ultimately, in one day, the teachers learned more about the Career Pathway Endorsements, identified the competencies that would be taught and assessed, created those specific assessments, and outlined a two-week instructional unit that would serve as a Team-Based Challenge.

For more information about Career Pathway Endorsements or to reach about arranging for professional development and planning support around the Career Pathway Endorsements and Team-Based Challenges, please contact either Brooke (bsimon3@niu.edu) or Jason (jason.klein@niu.edu) at the P-20 Network.

Early Childhood Classroom 1

March 2020

Focusing on Career Pathways with an emphasis on individual students’ plans

Belvidere School District 100 has been focused on putting each piece in place to support students’ engagement with the College and Career Pathways.

One of the early key steps in this work was exploring the “crosswalk” (pictured below) between the Postsecondary and Career Expectations Framework (PaCE), the Illinois State Board of Education’s College and Career Readiness Indicators (CCRI), and the College and Career Pathway Endorsements (CCPE) outlined by the Postsecondary Workforce Readiness (PWR) Act.

PaCE-CCRI-CCPE Framework Crosswalk
PaCE-CCRI-CCPE Framework Crosswalk (Click to enlarge)

Belvidere School District 100 knew that they wanted to support student learning and exploration with the Career Pathways and to ensure that students had the requisite knowledge and skills to be successful beyond high school – in postsecondary education and in the workforce. Nik Butenhoff, Director of Career Readiness, said the the framework crosswalk, “supported the hunch that we had. This was the evidence that if we have to track the College and Career Readiness Indicator (for the State), if we just go all-in for the Endorsements, we will then land on the work that we needed to support the Indicators.”

Nik goes on to point out that this work is central to the efforts of teachers and administrators in Belvidere to improve learning, “The stuff that the State is giving us; this is good. These frameworks show how its all intertwined with each other. It is not separate initiatives, but it’s all connected.”

Belvidere School District 100 has developed its own graphic to show the importance of individual planning with each student. The State’s College and Career Pathway Endorsement graphic, which is linked above, also places individual planning at the top of the framework, but the Belvidere viewpoint is to stress it even further as pictured below with the “Individualized Plan” section wrapping around each of the key components.

Belvidere 100 - Career Pathway Endorsement Graphic

In addition to this, students are asked to be thinking about their College and Career Pathway in a number of different ways. One small, easy, yet very powerful, example of this is on student’s Course Selection Form (pictured below). As student’s consider what courses they are requesting for the following school year, they are also asked to think about their desired College and Career Pathway Endorsement area.

Belvidere 100 - Course Selection Sheet with Endorsement Area
Belvidere 100 – Course Selection Sheet with Endorsement Area

In addition to these strategies, the posters pictured with this post are up in the high schools and the middle schools to help students consider the Pathways as they move through the day, and the District 100 Career Guide is offered to students and families in both English and Spanish.

Possibly the most important component in helping make the College and Career Pathways begin to come alive for high school students in District 100 is that all ninth graders are required to complete a Freshman Careers Course, during which a wide range of career exploration and skill-building activities take place.

January 2020

Career Pathways Endorsement – Mapping out the course sequence well in advance in Naperville 203

While the Class of 2020 is the first group of students in the State of Illinois that can earn Career Pathway Endorsements, data gathered across the P-20 Networks suggests that very few students will earn Career Pathway Endorsements this coming spring. At the same time, many school districts are deeply engaged in providing career-focused experiences for students and working toward the full implementation of Career Pathway Endorsements with the following critical elements:

  • a sequence of courses aligned to the Career Pathway Endorsement including courses that will offer the possibility of at least 6 hours of postsecondary credit (Dual Credit or Advanced Placement)
  • a minimum of 2 Team-Based Challenges that students can experience either through instruction in the aforementioned courses or through extra-curricular activities or other outside experiences
  • an in-depth work-based learning experience of a minimum of 60 hours (or 2 micro-internships of at least 30 hours each)

Though, like most school districts, Naperville Community Unit School District 203 does not plan on having students graduate with Career Pathway Endorsements for a few years, the District has already mapped out course sequences for Career Pathway Endorsements. Pictured below is a bulletin board in a hall at Naperville Central High School that outlines two different course sequences for students to work toward an Career Pathway Endorsement in Information Technology.

Naperville 203 - IT Career Pathway Endorsements Career Sequences

While educators in Naperville continue to build out other critical elements of the Career Pathway Endorsement, from the outset of their high school experience, students can be inspired by and begin to plan to participate in one of these entire course sequences.

There are a few important lessons from this:

  1. It’s not too early to plan out course sequences, which can be done at any time, even if you are not able to fully implement the course sequence this year.
  2. Planning a course sequence early can result in being better able to prepare facilities, equipment and supplies, and professional development well in advance.
  3. Once a course sequence is planned, it can be shared widely with students and families in order to help them both develop a general awareness of Career Pathway Endorsements and to be able to consider specific course sequences as students are selecting courses (and “trying on” different career ideas).
November 2019

Team-Based Challenges – The Key Elements

At the Fall 2019 P-20 Network Meeting, participants worked together to define the critical elements of a Team-Based Challenge as well as ideas for Team-Based Challenges that can be implemented with partners in our communities within each of the Career Pathways. Following the P-20 Network Meeting, we took the ideas from the meeting to draft a document that outlines the best practice “Elements of a Career Pathway Endorsement Team-Based Challenge.”

A Career Pathway Endorsement Team-Based Challenge is a self-contained exercise that may vary in length and structure ranging from an individual activity to an instructional unit. 

A Team-Based Challenge should require students to utilize and demonstrate competency with work-based knowledge and skills as they work to solve an authentic work-based problem as members of a collaborative team. 

Career Pathway Endorsement Team-Based Challenges should include the following features: 

  • Challenges seek solutions to authentic problems that are identified from and/or in collaboration with industry partners, are regionally relevant and globally connected, and result in a real solution that can be applied and implemented in the “real world”. As part of or in addition to the solution/product, students must complete a presentation of their solution and its application to an authentic audience. 
  • Students work in collaborative groups to solve the problem. 
  • Students are supported by an expert mentor from the field. If possible, experts should also be present for student presentations at the culmination of the Team-Based Challenge. 
  • Challenges require students to demonstrate key technical, employability, and entrepreneurial competencies. Successful demonstration of the competencies through a Team-Based Challenge is typically represented through a rubric and/or another form of authentic assessment. 

Additionally, we are working with faculty and staff at Northern Illinois University as well as with teachers and administrators in school districts to help develop and document Team-Based Challenges. We look forward to sharing those stories and resources to help with the creation of Team-Based Challenges over the coming weeks and months. In the meantime, if you are interested in developing Team-Based Challenges in order to help further learning toward the Career Pathways in your organization as well as to develop capacity with authentic, problem-based learning, please contact the Illinois P-20 Network, and we will be happy to set-up time for support.

November 2019

The Career Development Toolkit from Ed Systems Center

Through a collaboration with the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Education Systems Center has released the Career Development Toolkit. The Toolkit is aligned to the frameworks established in the Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness (PWR) Act. The Career Development Toolkit provides a comprehensive framework and roadmap for helping educators through all of the steps and considerations in providing meaningful career experiences – from the creation of internships that align with the Career Pathway Endorsements to thinking through necessary detailed logistics.

For support in using the Career Development Toolkit and in implementing Career Pathway Endorsements, contact us or Heather Penczak at Northern Illinois University’s Education Systems Center.

November 2019

Elements of a Team-Based Challenge

A Career Pathway Endorsement Team-Based Challenge is a self-contained exercise that may vary in length and structure ranging from an individual activity to an instructional unit. 

A Team-Based Challenge should require students to utilize and demonstrate competency with work-based knowledge and skills as they work to solve an authentic work-based problem as members of a collaborative team. 

Career Pathway Endorsement Team-Based Challenges should include the following features: 

  • Challenges seek solutions to authentic problems that are identified from and/or in collaboration with industry partners, are regionally relevant and globally connected, and result in a real solution that can be applied and implemented in the “real world”. As part of or in addition to the solution/product, students must complete a presentation of their solution and its application to an authentic audience. 
  • Students work in collaborative groups to solve the problem. 
  • Students are supported by an expert mentor from the field. If possible, experts should also be present for student presentations at the culmination of the Team-Based Challenge. 
  • Challenges require students to demonstrate key technical, employability, and entrepreneurial competencies. Successful demonstration of the competencies through a Team-Based Challenge is typically represented through a rubric and/or another form of authentic assessment. 

Career Pathway Endorsement Team-Based Challenges are also a strong vehicle for providing opportunities for new partners with school districts. Since Challenges are shorter in duration and do not require significant commitments of time or the need to host students on-site (and the ensuing policy challenges that may come with that), Team-Based Challenges provide a “lighter” way for new partners to work alongside the school district and to have their employees engage with students as experts. With the proliferation of advanced communications technologies in school classrooms, such interactions may be in-person either in school or at the partner’s site through a research trip or online. 

A Career Pathway Endorsement Team-Based Challenge can take place within a course that is part of the identified sequence for a particular College & Career Pathway. Challenges can also take place as part of a co-curricular activity. 

November 2019

Hinckley-Big Rock – #AuthenticLearning with Agriculture and Beyond

Hinckley-Big Rock School District 429 is situated in the countryside between Aurora and DeKalb, Illinois. Hinckley-Big Rock has been a leader statewide in building a strong foundation for all students with career readiness and postsecondary options through its implementation of the HBR Career Readiness Plan. This plan, which builds skills and experiences for students from elementary school through high school, was developed within the school district and is based on the Illinois Postsecondary and Career Expectations (PaCE) Framework.

Not only has Hinckley-Big Rock invested a great deal of time and energy in ensuring that students have experiences and skills to help them make choices about careers and postsecondary learning, but Hinckley-Big Rock also seeks to provide students with authentic learning experiences in which their “classwork” is “real work”. While this is desired across the curriculum and all courses, these efforts are most noticeable within the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources Career Pathway.


Hinckley - Big Rock Future Farmers of America Wagon

Like many school districts in Illinois, Hinckley-Big Rock has a rich history with providing students with authentic learning experiences through extra-curricular activities. With the understanding that such experiences can lead to deeper, more complex and longer lasting learning, ensuring that students learn through authentic problem-based units and lessons is a priority. Hinckley-Big Rock is furthering these efforts with a multi-year initiative to take advantage of the size of its property and expand the resources available for student learning on the working farm on the east side of the high school building.

Over the past couple of years, a small orchard has been planted and water and electrical have been added and/or upgraded. Next, a building will be added to support the fully functional agricultural operations in which students participate as part of their coursework and learning.Hinckley - Big Rock Water Pump - Outdoor Agriculture Classroom

Being able to fully experience the work allows students to learn both career-specific knowledge and skills as well as develop the type of skills that are needed across careers as defined by the Cross-Sector Essential Employability Competencies (see page 6 of this PDF).

These efforts are not limited to just agriculture nor Career & Technical Education (CTE) courses at Hinckley-Big Rock, but they are also noticeable outside the building as Indian Valley Vocational Center CTE students also construct the actual dug-outs that generations of student-athletes will use for decades to come.

Hinckley - Big Rock Dugout Construction Tweet

October 2019

Rochelle – Mapping out success for the future during high school

Like other schools, Rochelle Township High School District 212 has embarked on a focus to ensure that all of its students are thinking forward beyond high school while they are still in high school. This effort is focused both on helping ensure that students know, understand, and have a variety of postsecondary options while also participating in significant and ongoing planning and counseling during high school.

At Rochelle High School, which is located about 20 miles directly west of DeKalb, Illinois, a series of key indicators for future success have been identified, and together these have been termed the Tomorrow Readiness Student Profile (pictured here below).

Rochelle Tomorrow Readiness Student Profile - Cover
Rochelle Tomorrow Readiness Student Profile – Cover

Rochelle Tomorrow Readiness Student Profile - Interior
Rochelle Tomorrow Readiness Student Profile – Interior

Following each semester, student information in the Tomorrow Readiness Student Profile is updated by school staff and shared with all students and parents. This ongoing education allows students and parents to keep up-to-date on their progress, and it has the secondary benefit of making the Tomorrow Readiness Student Profile a living tool in the lives of students and families.

Many schools and school districts are embracing the creation of a holistic view of a student that includes learning critical skills that go beyond traditional academics. For example, one way that these are now defined in Illinois as a result of the Postsecondary & Workforce Readiness Act is through both the Cross-Sector Essential Employability Competencies and the Entrepreneurial Competencies (see page 6 of this document). Rochelle has included these skills that are so critical for both careers and citizenship as the Efficient, Adaptive, and Self-Reliant Learner Behaviors. Where Rochelle goes one step further is by having teachers assess students in each of these areas and, most importantly, asking students to self-assess in each of these areas.

Alongside what courses a student has taken and their personal and career interests, the Tomorrow Readiness Student Profile provides a strong foundation on which students and their families, counselors, and teachers can engage in detailed discussions about both an individual student’s strengths as well as the target areas for additional growth during their high school experience and beyond.

October 2019