You’re Hired!

In closing the skills gap, building a LinkedIn for the trades.

GUEST COLUMN | by Michael Colonnese

credit-workamericaEmployers commonly complain about the lack of skilled workers, particularly in manufacturing. But what if companies are looking in the wrong place? To solve the skills gap, we have to fix how employers search for candidates, and how vocational students search for employment.

I have seen this disconnect from all sides: working with recruiters of both local and large employers like Vulcan Materials and Covenant Transport; inside vocational colleges like TCAT Nashville with a first-hand view of how admin and career services operate; and by spending significant time meeting with students across the country to understand the community college and vocational/CTE demographic.

Here’s how it typically works: students in the trades primarily find their first job through their instructor. Instructors have on average 3-5 very close relationships with local employers that they know will hire recent graduates. Afterwards, these newly minted workers find their second, third, and fourth jobs by word of mouth from colleagues, friends, and family. This pattern is especially prevalent in the manufacturing, logistics, and allied health sectors where birds of a feather flock together.

When employers contact students while they’re still in school, it reduces the likelihood of a gap between education and employment—and helps solve our nation’s skills gap.

Now contrast this to how employers recruit. Most HR departments search for candidates online by posting jobs on Indeed, CareerBuilder, and Snagajob—or outsourcing that work to staffing firms. With the exception of a few large employers, companies don’t typically reach out to schools.

Last year, we visited a nationwide staffing firm that could not find the talent they needed. Right across the street was a highly respected community college. When we inquired about their relationship, the staffing office managers admitted to never having ventured over to reach out to students directly!

As a result, employers search online for candidates who are not typically online for the purpose of finding a job. Everyone is trying to solve this. Over the past few months, we’ve witnessed an explosion in the number of schools, state labor departments, industry associations, and credentialing agencies building their own registries and job boards.

But there is a problem with this approach. First, employers aren’t likely to search through hundreds of different websites, each with its own niche focus. That’s why they keep using the big guys like Indeed and Monster, despite diminishing returns. Second, having all these different websites and options is overwhelming and downright intimidating to students, a demographic not used to creating a professional online presence!

Over a decade ago, LinkedIn solved this very same problem for white-collar (managers, directors, VP’s C-suite) employees by creating a single site where everyone participates. However, LinkedIn is directed at a population that is used to sitting behind a desk, has laptops with wifi accessibility, and has full data plans for web surfing on smart phones.

That’s why our company created a site dedicated to the trades worker. We used our extensive experience with this demographic to understand the best way to engage them in a simple and easy to use platform, highlighting their schooling and industry credentials without the intimidation of asking for references and portfolios of work.

The platform is free for job seekers and schools. We’ve built in special features designed for CTE/WFD students, including a messaging system where recruiters send inquiries through our site that appear as a text message to candidates. We all know that emailing and logging into messaging sites isn’t the best way to reach a millennial, so why not communicate with them the way they prefer? Career services departments remain in the loop with alerts that inform them students are being engaged by employers, so that they can coordinate resume writing support and mock interviews.

Our Smart Job Feed geo-tags a job seeker’s location and their credential and only display jobs that they qualify for—aggregated from across the internet—eliminating their need to visit multiple sites. Some of our school partners have incorporated this tool into their employment readiness training.

Since our launch in 2013, we have partnered with dozens of community colleges and technical schools. And we are one of five companies in the inaugural cohort of Michelson Runway, an initiative of the Michelson 20MM Foundation. Supported by Dr. Gary Michelson, the program is the first social impact accelerator focused on innovations in higher education and workforce development.

From the beginning, our goal has been to create a national site that brings employers, job seekers, and schools together to seamlessly communicate. When employers contact students while they’re still in school, it reduces the likelihood of a gap between education and employment—and helps solve our nation’s skills gap.

Michael Colonnese is CEO and co-founder of WorkAmerica. For more information, visit or email

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Cool Tool | Wonders 2017 from McGraw-Hill

credit-mcgraw-hill-wondersLearning science company McGraw-Hill Education recently launched Wonders 2017, a newly redesigned and expanded suite of English Language Arts (ELA) solutions for the 2016-2017 school year. It offers the latest research-based instruction with new digital tools, as well as new programs focused on English Language Learners (ELLs) and Spanish Language Arts. New features include an innovative Data Dashboard, which makes student data instantly available and actionable for teachers, offering real-time recommendations for grouping students and re-teaching materials. Administrators also can track students’ progress and mastery of skills and standards at the school, class or individual level. The suite includes four targeted programs featuring engaging multimedia resources:

  • Wonders, a core K-6 ELA program
  • Wonders for English Learners, a fully connected English Language Learners (ELL) instructional program
  • Maravillas, a fully equitable Spanish Language Arts program for parallel, dual-immersion instruction
  • WonderWorks, a fully connected intervention support program.

Every feature of the core program is also reflected in Wonders for English Learners, Maravillas and WonderWorks, and the full curriculums for each of the programs run parallel to each other, ensuring all students have equity of access to the same core content and subject-area knowledge. Learn more.

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Cool Tool | The Visual Edge

CREDIT The Visual Edge Sargy LetuchyCommon Core Standards pose many challenges, including quantity, rigor, and a lack of precise resources. The Visual Edge: Graphic Organizers for Standards Based Learning, Common Core 6-12 is designed based on the principle that visual learning is an effective, efficient way to tackle these challenges. It is an e-book of digital instructional tools carefully crafted for each English, History, and Science-grades 6-12 standard. Using it, teachers are able to ensure that a lesson, project, or assessment is precisely tailored to the standard(s) in order to maximize classroom time. They can visually model and have students perform the skills outlined for their grade level with each tool provided, as the graphic organizers maintain classroom attention on the particular standard(s) being taught. Each page has three sections: the standard(s) in full text, an explanation section that clarifies the standard and details how to use the digital instructional tool at the bottom of the page, and the majority of each page features the corresponding visual instructional tool representing that standard(s) (e.g., a graphic organizer or example guide). This cool tool is available in e-book on Google, in paperback on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, or by contacting the author.

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Getting Personal

The role of personalization in online learning.

GUEST COLUMN | by Jason Wright

credit-solid-professorClassroom education has come a long way from one-room schoolhouses and chalkboards, largely due to evolving technology. This change is continuing to transform education with advances in technology being integrated into the classroom. Specifically, perspectives have shifted away from the “one size fits all approach” to education, where every student follows the same generic learning path. Instead, personalized learning has been established as a more effective way to help students reach their full potential.

Personalized learning not only improves a student’s ability to retain information, but also increases a student’s willingness to learn.

Personalized learning is a variety of learning experiences that are tailored to the distinct learning needs of individual students. Also called student-centered learning, teachers who prioritize individual learning needs see greater student engagement and increased retention.

Repetition and Long-Term Memory

Humans forget much of what we learn. One key to retaining information is repetition. However, which lessons need repeating is dependent on the student. There is a significant range in the amount of time it takes students to learn concepts. If students do not fully grasp introductory lessons (especially in subjects where advanced concepts build on fundamentals), then they will continue to fall further behind. By providing students with resources to review materials as many times as they need to, instructors can set them up for success throughout the semester and onto further years.

Each individual student must have the ability to go over the parts in lectures he forgets, at his own pace. With the advent of online instructional videos, students can independently watch (and rewatch) lessons, solidifying learning without slowing down the pace of the entire class. Being able to quickly access and repeat lessons that one has forgotten so that they can apply that skill to their task at hand supports a deeper learning that leads to long-term advances in skills.

Learning Styles

Most learners can be classified as visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners. Understanding students’ learning style allows teachers to maximize their full learning potential and helps students enjoy the learning process more. Traditional classrooms are heavily focused on auditory, with students listening to a teacher lecture. Many learning technologies and tools provide more options for visual and kinesthetic learners with video-based and interactive lessons.

Often referred to as the “flipped classroom model,” students in this model view video lectures and complete hands-on exercises and quizzes as homework, allowing educators to guide interactive projects during class time. The benefit of this model is the ability to demonstrate real-world applications and engage students with interactive projects.

On Demand Learning

Students learn best when they receive just the information they need, when they need it for any given project or activity. By delivering information when and where it is relevant in a consistent and concise format, educators can provide a custom learning experience that fits students’ schedules. In a traditional classroom setting, students receive information from their teachers during class, then go to do their homework hours (or even days) later. However, immediate application of the information improves retention. For this, digital learning tools are often available 24/7 so they can be used when and where the student is ready to learn.

The Benefits of Individual Tracking

From a teacher’s perspective, individual progress tracking is a scientifically-based practice used to assess student performance and course effectiveness. Real-time progress metrics such as video consumption rate, assignment completion, and test scores allow teachers to pinpoint which students are struggling, and in what specific topics, allowing them to easily identify the gaps in learning before the student gets left behind. On the other hand, if a student is flying through the course material, teachers can suggest additional opportunities to further a student’s mastery of the material. Overall, the use of progress monitoring results in a more efficient instructional path tailored to each student’s needs.

An Active Role

Personalized learning not only improves a student’s ability to retain information, but also increases a student’s willingness to learn. Research shows that when learning is tailored to individual success, students are more likely to take an active role in their learning. Immediate feedback motivates students and pushes them to improve. Meeting personal goals inspires students to envision the possibilities of a brighter future. To ensure more of these bright futures, educators must turn to personalized learning practices.

Personalized education results in better retention, higher performance, and improved engagement. Teachers should now look to technology to help them provide individualized learning to their students.

Jason Wright is the co-founder and head of content development at SolidProfessor, an online learning company focused on tools used in engineering design.

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Cool Tool | Lexia RAPID Assessment K-2

CREDIT Lexia RAPID AssessmentRecently expanded to grades K-2, Lexia RAPID Assessment helps K-12 educators prepare all students for reading success. Designed to measure the skills most predictive of reading success, RAPID adaptively assesses student performance in critical reading and language skills, while minimizing time spent on testing. RAPID recognizes the crucial role of academic language in reading comprehension, placing unique emphasis on academic language skills in both assessment tasks and instructional resources to support student success across the curriculum. In grades K-2, RAPID includes a developmentally appropriate combination of student-led and teacher-led tasks to promote student engagement and authentic responses. In just 20 minutes per K-2 student, RAPID predicts the likelihood of end-of-year reading success and identifies instructional needs. RAPID’s immediate scoring, reports and instructional resources help educators quickly connect data to instruction. Learn more.

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