Career and Workforce Readiness: The New Demand in the AC-Stage of Education

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Frank Polen is beginning his ninth year as the Assistant Superintendent, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Adult Education Director at Buckeye Career Center in New Philadelphia, Ohio. Mr. Polen is committed to schools, community development, and leadership initiatives. He has helped students of all ages Discover Their Passion and Prepare for Their Future through career and technical education.

Dr. Michael Conner

Good morning, good afternoon and good evening. Welcome to another episode of Voices for Excellence. I am your host, Dr. Michael Conner, CEO and Founder of the Agile Evolutionary Group and proud host of VFE! And today’s guest is a good friend of mine, absolutely love him to death. Today, before the show, we actually had to promise each other that we would stay on topic because we both have a singular love of basketball and have stories for days. But not only is he a good friend of mine, personal friend, where we share stories about sports, he is also the Assistant Superintendent, Director of Adult Education for the Buckeye Career Center in New Philadelphia, Ohio. So, yes, we have we we got him all the way across Ohio. We’re not going to talk about LeBron James. We’re not going to talk about the Cavaliers. Okay? We’re not going to talk college basketball. We will talk education. But I am glad to host Frank Polen from the Buckeye Career Center. Frank, all the way from New Philadelphia. How you doing today?

Frank Polen

Michael, I couldn’t be better. Isn’t technology grand. You know, you can connect Connecticut, New Philadelphia, take a little bit more than a day maybe to get there in a car in today’s day and age. But this is just absolutely perfect. I’m so excited and honored to be in your presence, young man.

Dr. Michael Conner

Man, Frank, I tell you, it is good that have you on the show and your perspective. So outside of sports, right? We’re going to talk about what I think is a, it is an essential entity and an educational imperative in education, which we’re talking about the workforce demand, workforce industry, preparation of our students. You know, Frank, when you and I were talking, I believe it was about a few weeks ago, we were talking about the radical shift, right? The radical mindset shift around workforce readiness and the importance of industry preparation for students in Generation Z and Generation Alpha, because we’ll get into some of the statistical data and forecast IT research around workforce demands. But Frank, we’re going to start out with an easy I like to say a easy question for VFE. And this really opens up our listeners and our viewers to who you are. So, Frank, across the country you’re known for… I call you the workforce king, right? But educational stakeholders across the country, right, whether it be Ohio or nationally what excellence song describes your leadership signature? Now, what song would industry and education practitioners identify your song that describes the work that you underpin in the ecosystem?

Frank Polen

You know, first of all, great question, and I love listening to your previous podcast guests and listening to their songs and hear all different genres and I’ll tell you, me, my wife and kids make fun of me because I know like no songs in essence were by introducing that when it comes on, I recognize it and I probably make up some of the words, but I get the feeling and in my role, you know, I my dad was a truck driver. So I go back and I look and there were really two that I thought up right off the way for myself. But then I thought, Nope, I’ve got the perfect song. But I really thought Alabama’s 40 hour week, man, you got you got to you got to get to work. You know, you got to get on down the line. All those different things. Then I went go cool and a gang and celebration because I like to have a really good time. I think you can have fun and learn and be involved in all the different things. But then you know, what kind of… going back to some of my roots I made. One song that still gives me chills, no matter how many times I hear it, it brings tears to my eyes – One Shining Moment. The theme song of that became a theme song in the NCAA tournament and the story of how it became the theme song. Michael, it was supposed to be played after the Super Bowl and they ran out of time. I don’t know if you knew this. I did not know that. It’s an incredible story. They ran out of time. When they went to cut to commercial at the end, they ran out of airtime. It didn’t make it so that now that guy, David Barrett, was the original composer, you know, filled with like, man, build up, wait for a song, never happened. But they called him back and said, don’t worry, we’ve got an idea. The tournament’s ready to come up. And right away, you know, dealing with the, you know, the words, the power, the work, always taking your shot and all those different things. Even though you may give your very best, it may not work out for you. And then you had Luther Vandross in there as they did it again. I mean, they get that I mean, I’m almost getting chills now just thinking about that song. But incredible, the fact that it kind of came out of a mistake, in essence, kind of got left on the cutting room floor, but picked himself back up and has been the trademark since, interesting enough with Bob Knight passing away, it’s been a trademark since 1987 was the first time that was played.

Dr. Michael Conner

Wow. And you know what, Frank? You gave that history of one shining moment. And I love how you know, when you said when you said that it was supposed to be a part of the Super Bowl. Yeah. Yeah. And now that shift to the NCAA tournament, what it is and the NCAA tournament is synonymous for one shining moment. And every player that plays in the NCAA tournament, they want to hear that song at the last day of the tournament. That means you won the whole thing. Yeah, but now, way down now. Right. Let’s look at this from an educational parrallelezation. One shining moment where some students right they have that I wouldn’t say the the opportunities right or the access to be able to have that one shining moment but one shifting decision or one shift in identifying their own strengths. Aptitudes, right, can create that NCAA one shining moment but really love the interface between Alabama’s 40 Hour Week and Cool and the Gang Celebration. Yeah, right here we go, brother. Absolutely. That’s great stuff. I want to get that out.

Frank Polen

I mean, I got kind of chills right there talking about that.

Dr. Michael Conner

Listen, you gave these children one shining moment because I did play college basketball and you always want to shoot for that song. One shining moment, right? You get to the tournament once you get there and then you move seamless and let’s get to, you know, the final Four and to the NCAA championship. But, Frank, I want to tell you that you have been a pioneer in this work in Ohio. Your work has spread nationally with regards to workforce readiness. The importance of meeting the new demands and the stage of education regarding workforce development. Frank, you have been doing this for years. You have been a staunch advocate of or advocating for preparing students for a demand that we don’t know. You have been advocating for essentially really ensuring that students have the necessary competencies and skills so that they’ll be able to seamlessly go into the workforce without having any type of college debt. Right. You have epitomized the work of not just college readiness, but let’s underscore now what I think is one of the most important dimensions of college and career readiness, which is career readiness – Delta 23. The Buckeye Career Center is a leader nationally regarding career technical programs. We know the state of Ohio is one of the national pioneers with regards to career development of students in the A-C stage of education. Right. You have epitomized the work of not just college readiness, but let’s underscore now what I think is one of the most important dimensions of college and career readiness, which is career readiness – Delta 23. The Buckeye Career Center is a leader nationally regarding career technical programs. We know the state of Ohio is one of the national pioneers with regards to career development of students in the A-C stage of education. If I’m an executive leader or a cabinet member, or even a board of education member, what are some expansion ideas to career pathways in alignment with the workforce demand in the AC stage of education?

Frank Polen

Yeah. Well, Michael, first of all, thank you. We’re extremely fortunate. I’m part of an excellent team and Ohio is a leader in that certainly. So here at Buckeye Career Center, our mission statement is to serve the community by empowering people of all ages. And that’s important of all ages to discover their passion and to prepare for their future through career and technical education. And so what we in essence break that down to is we want to help people discover their passion and prepare for their future. That’s the simplest way of, I guess, putting it in that regard. And we do that through a variety of core values, responsibility and accountability, communication and collaboration, creativity, success for all. And so maybe the one that, and these are no particular order, maybe alphabetical, servant leadership having passion, innovation and adaptability. And so what we’ll do is those are that every admin we have we read that mission statement, we go through those core values every time we’re in front of large groups, we’re going to have that mission statement everywhere. We’re going to have those core values everywhere. And I think that is huge because it cannot be said enough that there’s all different ways to get to where you want to go. And we believe that helping people discover their passion and prepare for their future is the route to get there. As far as expansion ideas, I think people have to be open. I think people have to be willing, they have to be an active participant. They have to be well read. And then you know what else comes into that, Michael, is being well connected. You think about how social media and different things like that in essence allowed us to connect, allowed the world to be kind of flattened so that we can we can learn a lot. I go back to, I think back to the pioneer Zig Ziglar, right. When you hear about automobile University. Well, now you have to be in an automobile and you’ve got that ability through abrupt zooms through. I mean, I’m going to cancel my cable because I’m just a YouTube guy now, watching all the different opportunities that come in the plane that but really ideas of as program expansion, getting ready for the future demands, the logistics, the robotics, we’re fortunate to be in an area that EV vehicles are starting to go and those regards. We are rural, Michael. So we are still behind, such as the 5G broadband, which is a huge player in everything that we want to do moving forward. That is certainly something the advancement of technologies. And and I think in order to advance, we have to honor our past, expand and help people discover. But as we think about expansion, there’s a lot of things going on and we’re fortunate to be somewhat in the middle of it.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely right. Thank you for bringing that up, because this is kind of, I’m going to say, a sub variant statement and a question, a hybrid. You said some critical or you identified critical things that I think defies the traditional model of education and is finally demystifying why we have to move away from the traditional legacy model. Passion. Future, a passionate future. Our responsibility, accountability, collaboration, success for all. Now, when I when I look at those themes, not any sequential or alphabetical combination, Frank, that is Delta 2030. That is preparing students from an interpersonal perspective, a cognitive perspective, a self leadership perspective. And you targeted specifically in the areas of logistics. When I think about that, the areas of manufacturing, robotics, you talk about technology… Right now, you and I can agree, Frank, we talked about this the current construct of the education model does not support those things. When in reality the economic demand are those themes you highlighted. So, Frank, if you can, right when we talk about how do we educate students for passion, ability and strength, and it is underscored with this career technical readiness, i.e. (I’m just going to eliminate college readiness for a minute) focus on career readiness and digital readiness, which your answer encompasses, how do we balance that? What does that look like now when we’re still high? We still have this separation, this hyper focus on standardized assessment scores, even to the context of we’re still using assessment scores to drive outputs from the pandemic. Go ahead, Frank, because you’re an expert on this.

Frank Polen

No, I, no, no, no, no I… That’s great. Now, I guess I will preface this by saying I don’t think I ever learned anything by taking a test. So to be measured on that may not be fair to all. And I would also say this. The alternative models and different things, all of us now in our cars have the garments, the GPS’s, they’re not always the best route. They’re always not maybe the most efficient or the way that someone may be comfortable in doing that. So just as a GPS, you still have to know where you want to go, and then you got to have the map, how you’re going to get there. And we got to be respectful to the fact that there are many on ramps and off ramps. Education is not a race. And so how do we get people on all different speeds in all different places? And I really think at the end of day, Michael, doesn’t everyone want to have a career? It probably doesn’t matter how you get there. The more technical jobs doctors and engineers, they’re still at the end of the day careers. So I don’t know why we ever maybe didn’t look at an alternative method for a lot of different ways anyway, because the other day there’s a school north of us that talks about every day as a J-O-B. That’s there, do your job, and they talk about readiness for that. But one thing that we’re very proud of here, one thing that Ohio has really emphasized, that I think really helps because they’ve identified there’s a workforce shortage problem. So it’s not just a matter of not having enough people, but now how do we upskill these people? And so what we focused on in the Ohio Department of Education, which is completely changed, it’s now just recently put under the governor a cabinet position that’s really focused on industry credentials, valuing the skilled learning, becoming an ADA certified welder, becoming a PHENIX operator, all these different things and they’ve qualified points and that’s a graduation pathway. So if you’re not a traditional test taker, this is another way in which you can even earn your diploma and become a very skilled, very marketable worker. And Michael, from that point, we want it from, I think my first year, which was nine years ago, was kind of the first initiation of industry credentials, a different pathway, if you will. We earned 328. I thought, man at that. We’re proud of that. So this past year was over 3400. Wow. So the emphasis and just finding ways to meet kids, students where they are, to match it to the opportunities that are available. And there’s just there’s no right path. There’s no necessarily wrong path. Let’s get everyone on the path that they need. I go back, Michael, to do like some RTI training, and finding different ways to get people to where they need to go. And as a building principle, if I brought my staff in here, there were two things that I’d learn as, as we were looking at everything. Everyone knew or was familiar with IEPs. Okay. And then we were moving into was ILPs, individual learning plan, so in essence giving a student what they need. So if you and I, if you had a headache, you go to the doctor, they say, take two aspirin, sleep 6 hours, you’ll be fine. Tomorrow. Well, my back was killing, take two aspirin, sleep 6 hours, you’ll be fine. Treat it the same way. Does it work? So I, I did two exercises with them that I had learned from PDS. One was called size seven Shoe. So I had a bunch of shoes. All size seven and I handed them all the people. I said, Now I want you to get this shoe on. In some it fit perfect, some couldn’t get their foot in, some it was way too big. I’m like, Look, just like your students. Just like what we’re trying to do for them. It’s not a one size fits all, but the one I was most proud of. Coaching mode. I said this PD, we’re going the baseline. We go to the gym, we’re on the baseline, and I put them on a baseline and they knew I was kind of kind of a little maybe off as a coach in terms of I would make you run to you, you know, could running board see straight and all those things. So I had a little reputation of that. We put them on the line. I said, here’s the thing, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to run baseline the baseline. And here. But there’s only two things that has to happen here. One, every one of you must run as hard as you can. Absolutely. Number two, you all have to get here at the same time.  Absolutely. And guess what? That’s not possible because I’d be holding somebody back or I’d be expecting. Right. You can’t get there. At the same time, if I’m faster than you, I’m faster than you, I’m not going to wait for you. So how do we address that? I think that’s a big thing as we attack the whole. Let’s give them what they need.

Dr. Michael Conner

Yeah, Yeah, right. I tell you, men and. And I would have put in, you know, this I would have played for you any day, right? I would appreciate that any day, Frank, because, you know, one thing that you highlighted, right, is that and a mutual person that we love, mentor of Doctor Bill Daggett, he always stated that within the next few years. Right. I always use this kind of like this benchmark for 2030. But you know, he he’s forecast an even quicker where we’re seeing the elimination of knowledge work before knowledge workers and we’re seeing increase in technical skill work. Right. Because of what is I like to say, the dependent variable that is impacting that artificial intelligence and emerging technologies. So when we think about what you provide in your example, logistics, logistics, technical skill work that can generate a very, very good salary, no doubt coupling it with advanced technologies as well as A.I.. Wow. Because I’ll tell you this, Frank, and it kind of leads right into our next question. And we talked about this whole and again, I want to convey to my listeners and viewers out there on VFE. I’m not trying to minimize the vitality or the strength of standardized assessments. What I’m saying is that we need to have, I like to say, an ecosystem shift, a mental model shift on how we use standardized assessments. And now we need to question what the validity of standardized assessments when we know that now it’s work, now it’s skills needed for jobs. And this Delta 23rd stage of education economy is expedite initially decreasing, and there is a stark increase in an exponential increase for the need to prepare students for technical skill work because of artificial intelligence and the level of emerging technologies that are being leveraged in our and nationally as well as internationally. So we have to think about that. Right. And that’s all that I’m trying to convey to align the education model to the economic demand, which we have a great opportunity to still remember everybody. We’re still underpinning an industrial model, which again has this acceleration or this focus on preparing students for a knowledge economy major shift that we have to really focus on. That’s why we have one of the experts here today. But Frank, we were talking about that, right with regards to that. And you led seamlessly into this question where now the future of education in school design should be around alternative and innovative models where we’re working on developing students around workforce demands with credentials, right where we’re preparing high school students if they choose not to go the college route, they have a seamless pathway, i.e. your answer for or how we get or to that finish line. But now when I think about it, a great pathway for students have the certificates graduate from high school. If they choose not to go to college, they’re earning rate 7 to $80000 as a starting salary for right out of high school. Right? I when I came out as a teacher for years and at $33,580 I’ll never forget that I’ll never forget that Frank. So now if we’re preparing students, high school students to matriculate successfully with skill development, with copious technical skill development, providing them with necessary credentials, setting them up for basically 70,000, $80,000 jobs at the baseline. I know some states that are paying 120, 130. How do we now start changing these models or traditional models of education to prepare our students for a technical and digital world in Delta 2030?

Frank Polen

You know what’s scary when we talk about 2030 and I see these kids in these Letterman coats now and the right there back around to where it’s like my daughter is the class of 27, I’m like, are you kidding me? You know, you go back I’m looking back at yearbooks and you see like, 04s and, you know, I was and you talk about your salary. That was double when I started, my friend is just so you know, in that regard, too. But yeah, I kind of got his I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I we’re right.

Dr. Michael Conner

I always say this, Frank. And to my to my viewers and to my listeners, my first teaching job, first, grade four, $33,500. I remember that, right? I thought I was rich. Right? I thought I was rich. No question, no question. Now, when I look at these vertical pathways in these sequences undergirded by a cluster of classes that students can receive their certifications and credentials. I saw one state, one state starting salary because there’s a huge demand, $96,000. I’m like as an 18 year old. Yeah, I thought I was rich, like in $33,500 as a fourth grade teacher at 23 years. So I believe now how do we set up more kids to make $80,000 to $100,000 and that are addressing the demands of the economy?

Frank Polen

There’s no question, because there’s there’s there again, I go back to so many different pathways, and I talked to our students a lot when I have that is use other people’s money to make yours because these are not less than skills or a less than education, you’re getting something is going to be difference making difference changing the world and all by the way, they will invest in you and send you in upskill. Your upskill mobility’s unbelievable with anything technical on top of that, if you decide to go to a college university, I’m certainly not against that. I’ve got a couple degrees and I’m paying for my daughter to go to school. Now I get all of that. But why not let them pay a little bit of it? Because they will. So they will. So these industry credentials we talk about, articulated credits can be part of that college credit plus opportunities that has opened all kinds of doors for students. So they are able if they right out of high school, Michael, go to the workforce or within a couple of years with a skill training whether they even if they stay for an associate’s or bachelor’s, is your degree worth it is the number one question I would ask, like what kind of lifestyle do you want to live would be the next question. And because there are the opportunities now, there are people. Absolutely. Our kids are going out, working full time as 18 year olds, and they may be making like $20 an hour. They’re an 18 year old making 40 grand. I mean, by the way, they’re still on their parent’s insurance. Exactly. The thing. There’s so many advantages. There’s so many advantages. And I know other countries say certain student, certain countries have their college students, kids where have to do military time, Right? Well, certain countries still have that that you have to serve two years. We don’t have that. Here’s a great way to invest yourself. Others will invest in you. And boy, the sky is the absolute limit when it comes to those types of things. But you know, when you were talking about Daggett, and I and I went back and i listened to your podcast with him by the way, now that I’ve had the opportunity, hear him speak a couple of different times recently is about a year ago on education reforms at the forefront. Yeah, APS, which it really is. And when I talk about education reform and I’m not talking, it doesn’t have to be a a legislative driven thing. I think it has to be within our own and we have to look at our plate absolutely right and say, okay, what really needs to be on our plate? What can we take off our plate If we’ve got to put something on? What can we take smaller doses? I used to get blamed. A lot of times go to a smorgasbord place and my grandma Look, I missed boy, your eyes are a little big on your stomach, right? That sometimes this is what education has become because it’s the next new thing. Waters added on right? Too much of anything good for you is also bad for you at times, right? So maybe we’ve got to reapportion absolute in what do we really need? What do we really value and make sure that we have in mind that learner?

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. And Frank, I’m just writing this down because you bring up on our you present a critical point. I think now we need to really assess our own individual learning organization and our own operating model holistically as an ecosystem where you had said this right repurpose rate, need and value. And I think what we have to critically analyze and diagnose are what are the programs that are aligned to developing the student competencies and needs from a personalized and individualized manner to achieve what you had said before. Success for all right. And that whole I think that recalibration of what the system needs, it goes back to the transformation and the reform strategies that we’re talking about. And I think that when we start diagnosing our education entities, whether it be as a state or even at a local level, we the what is inevitable, Frank, is that we have to have career technical focuses. We have to have or have a critical understanding is what is the economic workforce demands so that we can start developing career pathways so that we create clusters of courses so that we can provide students with necessary credentials and certificates. So if they choose to matriculate out to a two year college or even into the workforce, they are ready. That really is college and career linear focus in on career readiness. And and my my listeners and viewers know that I’ve been taking this critical stance on how we have to achieve or and because of now if you think about it right cybersecurity right that’s another pathway technical skill not necessarily needing a four year degree, but a cluster of skills that can be developed in a program, a focused technical program. When we talk about computer science, when we talk about logistics, when we talk about manufacturing, these are all high paying jobs where now we can develop skills in the pre K-12 pathway book. Right? I want to end this misnomer, right? Because I still think that it carries over from this book Sage Collective sheared mental model Career technical education has always been viewed or had been viewed in this negative way, right in the negative context of career education. Me, I’m the biggest proponent of career technical education because if you look at the research in the data, it shows that 100% of jobs are going to have to have advanced level of technical skills, an advanced level of digital readiness or digital skills, right? So career technical education, developing career pathways in our schools can’t be perceived as something negative. Frank Right now I want you and maybe about one minute, please, in that narrative, or how do we end that narrative within the education ecosystem? Because we’re living in the AC stage of education.

Frank Polen

No doubt. You know, in reality and I said a little bit earlier at the other day, everyone’s going to have a career. So why if I was going to have a career, which was high aptitude, high skill, no matter what it is, why was a career center education always looked at as less than not equal to? That’s where those kids would go, right? In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Try to get a plumber today, Michael, because the narrative was you don’t go there. And and the reality of it is we all rely on skilled labor, high demand jobs, the infrastructure that we talked about early on. And the fact of the matter is you can have an unbelievable career here. And what they are all pretty much and the thing I like most about a career to anybody there are service minded and they’re all they’re all in essence, helping other people. And we’re really fortunate to be looked upon as as important. I don’t think it was always that way, but in reality, a skilled workforce, a highly motivated workforce and a highly competitive workforce absolutely is needed in today’s world more than ever. If we want to continue to grow the good, we’ve got to change that narrative. And at the end of the day, why was it ever looked at as a bad option in the first place? Exactly. And that’s even from my own home. My parents had never, Michael set foot in a career center, but they listened to the outside noise and saying that’s not what’s best for them. Well, in reality, let’s expose everyone to it and let them make decisions.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely. And Frank, and one thing I want to underscore what your statement, because it’s well-stated, right, is that we’re starting to see this exponential and explosion of alternative models, alternative education models. And if you really get down to the intricacies of what I like to say, the portrait of the system or the DLP, the design of experimentation, if you think about these accelerators, the alternative models, these hubs that are being created, where do you think the structures and systems ideas of these accelerators are coming from? Career technical education institutions and career technical education pathways? Because why they allow that flexibility to be able to develop the skills and the competencies of students in a personalized way that is not didactic or to the traditional model of education, which is regurgitation of information, do very well on a standardized test. And guess what? You’re going to go to a prestigious college because you have SATs. But what about skill deployment within the economy to lift all boats? So that’s where now, Frank, we’re starting to see the shift. And I wouldn’t be surprised. Within 4 to 5 years, we start seeing clusters of alternative models that are grounded in design and grounded in, I like to say, tenet features within a model that emulates the career technical pathways that, to be honest with you, a career technical education centers that have been and that have been established way before we even started putting this as a priority imperative in education. Thank you for bringing that up, Frank, because it’s so necessary.

Frank Polen

Well, yeah, think you know interesting a a very large global company has come into Ohio and is going to need work. Unbelievable. And they didn’t understand, I assure you they’re thinking everyone must have an associates degree or we’re not going on. Well, then they started to look at what was the the career technical structure that Ohio has. He asked her to look at what is being taught at the community college at level in Ohio and realized now, wait a minute, I just don’t need a student that has that training is as equal to as to what we need as an associate level or whatever it may be. And I’m not there again, Michael, I don’t want to come across as I’m anti college education, Right. I’m not that at all. Absolutely. But that the awareness, I guess, is what I’m saying about that. And we’ve got to do a and I just did some employee some summits this the last couple weeks. No one should belittle a school story better than the school personnel. Absolutely. And I know Joe Sanfilippo you know, Joe talks about a lot. If you don’t tell your story, they’re going to make it up. Absolutely. So how do we tell our stories? But the other one is we’ve got to be open and let employers come in and tell us what is needed. Absolutely. If I’m doing what I did, if I left the industry and I’m teaching in a career center right now in a certain lab, and I left the industry ten years ago, that industry has changed. So I’m going to teach what I know, which is ten years old, unless you come in as an employee employer and tell me these are the relevant facts. So it has to be a partnership and it it’s not a one time sit and get partnership. Michael Right. It’s an ongoing living, breathable relationship. And that’s where like your business advisory councils and different things along those play and man we open our doors to anyone we talk about come in early, come in often. You want to watch him work, you want to interview them, you want to present whatever you want to do. Because ultimately we knew we probably want to retire someday. Right? Exactly. Right. That $33,000 wasn’t going to last you forever. So we develop we’ve got to develop the next future wave so that we can benefit from hopefully the services that we’ve all provided for others as well. And that through those partnerships.

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely, Frank. And I’ll tell you this, and I want to underscore your statement. Yes. You know, I think that obviously we’re not trying to or I’m not trying to say that, you know, the college pathways that they’re right, because I think that whether we we we think it or not, the design of the education model is around knowledge base. And development, which is ultimately the next step after K-12 is college. Right. That’s just by design. How the education models design what I’m advocating for is or what you’re advocating for is or closing the opportunity and access gap so that students have multiple opportunities and multiple access points to be able to not only just prepare themselves for college, but also if they choose that trajectory of career, that they’ll be able to move that pathway in. That’s why where we have to look at the comprehensive redesign of our structures and systems in education. Now that third thread is digital readiness, but Tom Bender, our previous guest on Voices for Excellence, have been a leading voice for work based learning and improving what essentially is when we talk about career development at work. Workforce readiness is deep learning, right? Deep learning that is measured by competencies in a national ecosystem. Career education has changed. You alluded to that and our legacy model has to do the same. What we were just talking about ensuring that we’re closing opportunity gaps for career and college readiness, digital readiness as this new element for 2030. But you even alluded to it in your previous answers, right? The demands, the needs for generations and Generation Alpha have changed now from a conceptualization, right, of this context of redesigning policy. We haven’t talked about policy yet. We talked about the model from a policy standpoint here in the state that’s leading the nation for career technical development, skill development around specific industry work. Right. You are in that space.  Ohio policies right around career force development. So from an interdisciplinary approach of your learning, right. For my viewers and listeners out there, what does this look like and where do I start if I’m a leader in the traditional education setting?

Frank Polen

Yeah, well, I think and then we did allude to it a little bit earlier. I may have been jumping around all day break. We the more the merrier, Frank. But what that plate. Okay. What, what, what do I need? What? What do I not need? What can I take off? What can I put on? We can disagree that whether we like modern technologies, a AIS do, but what we can’t do is deny it’s not here and it’s all we. It’s going to be here. Continue to go, right? Absolutely. So how do we how do we put our I guess, in essence, also we got to put our personal biases aside. One of the things it kind of bothers me sometimes when I’ll I’ll make tours of places and they may have a sign up that says, I graduated from so-and-so, so university. So can you. But what I because of the kid I know did you have a summer job? But when I was the kid that’s not there. And I think that kind of goes into our whole well route is we as educators, we’ve got to do a better job of knowing what’s available and out there because we all went to schools, we think we know school pretty well. So how do how do we change our thoughts and processes by being connected, by being open, you know, being willing, if you will, supporting of the different roads and pathways to get to where you want to go, finding out what not only students interest art, but also what their aptitudes are, absolutely not making decisions for them, but of forming them and all the options that are available. And we’re very fortunate, like you mentioned, you know, getting back to the policy part of it, Ohio has done a very good job of addressing these three or four different pathways to graduation. One of those is actually through the industry credential, a 12 point industry credential attainment. So if you get your cosmetology license and you pass, you get a qualifying score and you do a Ohio means jobs backpack, you build your backpack, there’s another agency involved. You become a welder or an electrician, HVAC technician. Let’s say you’re not a great into the course test taker. These are pathways that allow you to also graduate and that should not be. And they they’ve done a very good job of not selling as a less than at first it was like the career tech way. Well now that’s not a fair because there’s all different ways of apprenticeship. They have done a very good job of supporting those and trying to say not less than just another avenue. Absolutely. And I think that education has to continue. I think the discussion has to continue that, you know, that that alignment of of different pathways. Yeah. And knowing that that the different roads, the different ramps, the on ramps off ramps, I go back to when I said this very on education not being a race how well connected we are boy makes a big difference. Absolutely giving students what they providing them information to make informed decisions.

Dr. Michael Conner

What well-stated frankly, because, you know, I think, again you know, you answer what resonated with me were these two critical themes. One, that you have said it or when you stated after right at two two, I think that now within the AC stage of education, Generation Z, Generation Alpha and their critical needs, we have to be able to measure their app to their strengths, their abilities, their interest and Frank One of the main reasons why I brought you on to the show, obviously great education friends, but this notion of alignment of workforce demand through pathways, through focuses around careers, the industry, jobs that you just list or that you just highlighted. And I did a quick market analysis within that the lowest paying starting salary within those careers was $71,000. Right. And providing those alternative pathways that seamlessly is interfaced into the education model, it becomes it becomes a necessary and the AC stage of education. And one thing that you highlighted to within your answer that is this resource finding factor, this resounding determinant that we have to continue to elevate specifically for the students ever educating agency, providing the necessary agency. And Frank, at the end of the show, I’m going to ask you to provide my listeners and my viewers their contact information because please, anyone that’s watching or listening to this episode, please contact Frank, because Ohio has one of the set of policies with regards to career development and alignment with regards to pathways. They are a leader across this country. Everybody references. If you want to see how you want to build a strong, sustainable model to reach the level or Ohio and the policies and legislative structures that are in place as one to reference and to to be able to use as guidance with regards to your transformation process. So, Frank, last question, my friend. Coach, last question coach. All right, there we go.  And coach, I know I’m limiting you in this question, but I always tell my participants of the VFE, take it how it is. Sometimes it’s three plus three times 1000, sometimes is three times three, sometimes is three squared. It gets in there, I mean people innovate with this question. Okay, all right, take it as it is, Frank. What three words do you want our audience to leave today’s podcast regarding workplace demands and industry for Delta 2030?

Frank Polen

Well, sir. Well, let me let me throw… Can I throw a couple in there? You alright with that?

Dr. Michael Conner

Listen, innovation is warranted. 

Frank Polen

All right, one of the things superintendent Mr. Bob Alsef and I we talk about, and we’ve done this a few times… Clint Eastwood movie Heartbreak Ridge. Yeah. Improvise, adapt, overcome. We’ve got to… We’ve got, all three of those certainly are vitally important. You’ve got to find a way. You got to maybe change your way and you just got to keep fighting the way. So when you look at it in that that regard, one of my favorite things and I say this all the time, I actually used this as a motto as a principle, relationships determine results. I gave everyone a t shirt with a big R-D-R on it because I feel nothing will really get done unless you have a vested interest in others and willingness to serve others that that serve and heart and have a true and trusting relationship that you count on not just today but tomorrow five, ten, 15 years from now. And I think the three words that then I come back to for anything that really happen, Michael, we got to have an openness, we got to have a willingness, and we’ve got to have a wanting-ness. And I think if we’re open, we’re willing and we’re wanting to help, to serve, man, could we be great again.

Dr. Michael Conner

Listen, I tell you to my audience, to my listeners and viewers, you got nine words. We got nine. We got nine. And Frank, so seamlessly through the throughputs from 3 to 6 to 9, we have improvise, adapt, overcome, which segways into relationships determine results. But you have to have an openness, willingness and wanting-ness to be able to succeed. That right there encompasses the AC stage of education. Mr. Frank Polen, you survived VFE, coach, you okay? I had a lot of fun, healthy, ready to go, ready to go. Frank, if anybody that is watching today’s show wanted to talk to you more about the policy structures that are in place in Ohio, how to be able to develop, whether it be new industry focus is within their strategic plan or their strategic intent to develop new pathways, how would they be able to get in touch with you?

Frank Polen

Yeah, the best way through our website www.BuckeyeCareerCenter.org. My personal email fpolen@BuckeyeCareerCenter.org. I’m active on Twitter at @FrankPBCC and then I’m also on LinkedIn, but we have a robust, shout out to our public relations coordinator Cheyenne Care, we have a robust social media. Her Facebook, and I’m not real good Facebooker, but she’s everything she gets everything out… is that a word Facebooker?

Dr. Michael Conner

Listen, it’s it’s innovation here.

Frank Polen

But really robust, welcome at any time, but 330-339-2288. It comes right into my office and hey, I know, I’m gonna steal this from Joe, we’re all in this together, right?

Dr. Michael Conner

Absolutely and our good friend Joe Sanfilippo, I’ll tell you that shout out to him and Frank, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Because you’re going to start seeing more within season two where we’re going to be looking at career focuses, work on workplace demands, workplace readiness, and coupling that with AI, because again, we have to be able to have this, I like to say seismic but strategic shift, paradigm shift to now develop in this emergent model to include all voices. So, Mr. Frank Polen, Coach, thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. Appreciate you, my listeners and viewers, please reach out to one of the experts across the country in this and, on that note, onward and upward everybody, have a great evening.