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

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