Nazareth Prep: Bridging the Education-to-Employment Skills Gap
August 23, 2018
High School Leverages Cross-Sector Partnerships to Train Students for 21st-Century Careers Recent reports from the Allegheny Conference on Community Development have examined an impending workforce shortfall and persistent skills gap that pose challenges to business growth in western Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh area high school Nazareth College and Career Prep is addressing these issues head-on through cross-sector partnerships that allow the school to equip its students with in-demand skills and connect them to future employers.
“We founded Nazareth Prep with the goal of preparing students of all faiths for fulfilling careers in our region’s evolving job market,” says Sister Linda Yankoski, president and CEO of Holy Family Institute, which established the school. “We believe that bridging the education-to-employment gap requires collaboration between educators and employers, so we partner directly with businesses and organizations that are interested in cultivating and recruiting Millennial talent.”
Students at Nazareth Prep are immersed in real-world learning relevant to their interests and goals. Each student traverses a rigorous, personalized curriculum, choosing one of five post-secondary pathways (four-year college, two-year college, trade or technical training, military and direct to career) and one of six career clusters reflecting the jobs that will be in high demand in the region’s future. There’s nothing abstract about these choices — from the start, students get hands-on experience to help them choose and pursue the fields that excite them.
An Investment in Growth
Starting freshman year, every Nazareth Prep student spends one day per week gaining work experience at an internship. The program is the first of its kind in the region and is among the area’s largest internship programs. In the 2017-18 school year, nearly 90 internship partners hosted Nazareth Prep students, including many PA Chamber members — such as FedEx Ground, First National Bank, Highmark,
PNC and UPMC Health Plan.
Internship partners provide training and help underwrite student tuition through Education Improvement and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credits and other contributions, allowing Nazareth Prep to admit any academically qualified student, regardless of their family’s resources, and to reach traditionally underserved and untapped populations. Through these partnerships, large and small companies are investing in their own growth by imparting skills and building relationships with the bright, driven, diverse young people who will help propel them forward.
Seven students learned the ropes at Allegheny General Hospital last school year. Under the dedicated leadership of a 2018 Mentor of the Year Award recipient Mark Jones, interns have had the opportunity to shadow nurses and nurse assistants, explore nurse monitoring systems, attend rounds and observe surgeries.
At FedEx Ground, another 2018 Mentor of the Year Award recipient, Marcy DiPasquale, mentored interns as they shadowed mechanical engineers; explored systems operations; learned about marketing, logistics, safety and compliance; and cultivated professional etiquette. Of the company’s current Nazareth Prep interns, she says, “Sean continues to work with Field Technology and has become a respected member of their team… [working with a maintenance engineer, Alex] he learned how the Test Lab and servers work and how to use this knowledge to read electrical drawings. He then researched electrical drawing to find facilities that were using obsolete technology.”
Allegheny County’s Nazareth Prep interns gained experience in the Department of Human Services as well as Facilities, Graphics and Special Events, HR, Budget, and the Kane Hospital Glen Hazel Regional Care Center.
At the City of Pittsburgh, interns are learning in the areas of Law, Finance, Public Safety & Community Outreach, Personnel, City Planning, Innovation and Performance and City Parks. Pam Vogel, a 2018 Mentor of the Year recipient, has gone above and beyond to identify mentors and positions that uniquely fit each student.
Russ Greenfield, another 2018 Mentor of the Year recipient, has guided Nazareth Prep student Paul through his experiences at new internship partner Hussey Copper. Greenfield observes, "Paul is doing phenomenal things… [his supervisors] are impressed with him. He looks like he's been working there for a decade."
In addition to its internship program, Nazareth Prep is developing a pre-apprenticeship program with MSA Safety and the German Chamber of Commerce’s prestigious apprentice certification program. Established in 1914, MSA is the global leader in the development, manufacture and supply of safety products for the protection of people and facility infrastructures. Pre-apprenticeships at the company will provide a hands-on component to the intensive math and science curriculum of Nazareth Prep’s Mechatronics STEM cluster career pathway.
The Class of 2018
Founded in 2014, Nazareth Prep celebrated the graduation of its very first senior class this spring. The 47 students of the trailblazing class of 2018 have been accepted into 38 different colleges and universities, trade schools, trade apprenticeships and direct to career opportunities. Several graduates have received full- and part-time job offers from their internship host company.
“Throughout their high school experience, our students step up to the real-world challenges they encounter in their courses and internships,” says Head of School and Chief Learning Officer Lisa Abel-Palmieri. “We have found that introducing them to authentic workplace responsibilities and opportunities galvanizes their problem-solving, innovation and leadership skills — and also instills a sense of pride in their work.”
She adds, “Our cross-sector partnerships have enabled us to provide students with skills and qualities that will be great assets to them in their careers; in turn, they will be great assets to their employers and their communities.
We continue to expand our array of internship hosts, and invite interested businesses and organizations to contact us about becoming a partner.”