Karen Malsbury has been an employee of Rochester community schools for 17 years. Her first roll was as a Technology Facilitator, serving staff in their professional development technology needs. She transitioned into the classroom 2 years later, when a business teacher position opened. She has served in the Business Department at Rochester High School ever since teaching primarily, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, Marketing, Computer Operations, Web Development and Social Media and Work Based Learning. Providing co-op's, internships and job shadow opportunities for students, is Karen's passion.
I am so lucky to work in a
community where the partnerships between businesses and schools are
tangible. You can see it all around with
corporate sponsorship at foundation events, business food donations to Teacher
Professional Development days and students job shadowing and interning
throughout the school year and summer, to name a few.
So how can your company, big or
small bridge the gap from school to work?
Well there is a need for sure. Business
and nonprofit partnerships in public schools enable students to explore
authentic career opportunities and expand their horizons.
To build this relationship you
can be part of the following three things.
Go into the
classroom and share your story and mentor.
It is so
important to invite business leaders into the classroom to help create
curriculum that students can complete while be mentored by experts in the
field. Long gone are the days where a
speaker would just come in and lecture about their sphere of expertise. Now we create opportunities for students to
apply what they learn and get instant feedback from a business leader.
Regular Business Advisory Meetings. Our
partnerships are fluid because we continue to upgrade and change our curriculum
to keep pace with what industry needs.
This regular conversation helps us develop students that have the
necessary employability skills, soft skills and technical skills that our
community needs to fill high wage, high yield jobs. At these meetings wants and
wishes can be granted by telling the business community what labor, money and
resources, a school needs, to develop our students.
job shadows, internships and co-op’s.
The final point in this trifecta is getting our students out into the
“real” world of business and nonprofit.
Our children have a very narrow mind about the world of work and
therefore it needs to be every districts charge to get every child out on an
authentic career experience before they graduate. Through the chamber of commerce, local
government and the downtown development authority this task can be a
By embedding these partnerships a reciprocal relationship occurs, stimulating our economy and making schools stronger. Get in touch with your local school district today!
[*High School. If you don’t know these things by the time you graduate college, whooo boy. You better get it together – FAST.]
In December 2018, I was reflecting on how I might better serve my students at Rochester High School by teaching them employ-ability and soft skills. I coined this, “What you should know before you graduate!” I promptly went on Facebook and asked for industry feedback. Four key points came up repeatedly. Here they are.
1. Spreadsheet Management
It was interesting to find the sheer emphasis on spreadsheet management. Excel is KING of the software, in many industries and a prerequisite in college. Specifically, you should know:
How to design a spreadsheet with, borders, shading and page breaks and print options to one page.
Basic functions – (sum, average, max, min)
How to create a graph
Mail merge data from Excel into Word.
If this sounds like a foreign language, I strongly encourage you to follow some YouTube videos, or even better, get a computer skills class under your belt before you graduate.
2. Communication skills
When you talk to people, you need to look them in the eye and be prepared and confident in your delivery. This includes talking on the phone. You need to plan and be prepared for the meeting, telephone conversation or even a water cooler interaction. Being distracted by your phone or using it as a crutch will not get you a salary increase or promotion.
The people you work with want to know that you are engaged, eager to learn and a participating member of the team. I heavily encourage taking a note book and pen with you when you meet with people, so you look poised, interested and ready to learn or follow a directive. (See our blog on the Importance of Writing it Down.) Also it’s an excellent way to reference the interaction and make sure you are doing what has been asked of you, before you forget the details. If you realize later that you need more information, you can go back and say, “I wrote down [x,y,z], could you clarify….”
3. The mundane and small things.
Ok, guys, let’s get real. Some of you (you know who you are) have the attention span of a goldfish and speed of a sloth. I ask sometimes for my students to hole punch, cut paper with a paper cutter, collate papers, type data into a spreadsheet and nine times out of ten, you mess up. (And it’s not just MY experience – again, this is what I repeatedly heard from your more experienced colleagues.) Instead of learning, being open minded and taking some direction, you throw your hands up in the air like a spoiled toddler and declare give up!
For the love of all that is holy, PLEASE take pride in your work and be persistent enough to learn a basic skills so the outcome is clear, concise and quality work! I use this analogy about many tasks kids mess up:
Mastering basic tasks is like kissing: The first time it’s messy and awkward but with time and practice, it turns out to be quite good.”
– Karen Malsbury
Now if that doesn’t make you smile, lighten up!
4. Email and business letter etiquette.
Business letter writing has been around for decades. So why do I continually see mistakes and lack of attention to detail? Writing a business letter is simple. See attachment, here:
It should be one page, formal, typed, left-justified and three paragraphs max for the main body of the letter. Please see this perfect example of a business cover letter for a job application. Make sure you have the key details before you start, whom you are writing to, their tile and their address in block format, Write a compelling body with perfect grammar, spelling and punctuation and then end with “Sincerely,” [your first and last name] because you are yet to be acquainted.
Don’t assume the recipient knows what you are talking about. …
Do reply to all emails. …
Don’t shoot from the hip…
Do keep private material confidential…
Don’t! overuse exclamation points!!!!! (Annoying and unprofessional.)
Sidebar on emailing teachers/professors about grades: Make sure your argument is valid. Also, please don’t go in for the punch until you have made an attempt to set the scene. As a teacher, there is nothing worse than trying to explain yourself to 140 adolescents when a) The student hasn’t even seen the assignment in question — the one that I spent time correcting and b) I have no idea what assignment you are talking about because that was before spring break and I can hardly remember what I did yesterday. Give me a break, people!
Emails need to be concise and to the point. If you really need to write an epic novel, STOP yourself and pick up the phone. Also remember any email or text that is sent could be used in a court of law. Love this meme. Hahaha!
So, that’s about it, people! Four little things that can get you to the next step. At the end of the day it’s all about a good attitude, listening, acting on constructive criticism, dedication, perseverance and willingness to learn something, even if it doesn’t come naturally.
CAVEATS: You know what’s best for you. Your parents/family should certainly weigh in on this decision. You and/or your parents know what you can afford, or want to afford/how much debt you want to go into as well as what kind(s) of school you can or desire to get into.
But we just wanted to give you a few things to consider as
you make any of these types of decisions about the next steps in your
First of all, this is not to talk anyone out of a 4-year degree. We both have multiple degrees and are glad we do. I am the first person on either side of my family to get a degree. We just want to remind you that there are OTHER OPTIONS out there if you wish to investigate them. Repeat: We are not bashing 4-year degree programs or the opportunity to go to university and your dream school!
Community Colleges / Associates Degrees
The American culture has spent the last several decades (since the 70’s and 80’s) brainwashing everyone into believing that all young people must have a bachelor’s degree in order to succeed. This is not necessarily true. And guess what happened? A SERIOUS shortage in the skilled trades. You can find many articles on this topic in a heartbeat. Some are calling it a “CRISIS”!
Which means if you want a job as a mechanic, nurse, welder or electrician, just to name a few, good paying jobs are ripe for the picking! If 4 years of college academics isn’t for you, you’re in luck. Especially if you prefer to work with your hands, or just can’t stand the idea of a 40-hour-a-week desk job!
“There are an estimated 30 million jobs that pay at least $55,000 per year and don’t require a bachelor’s degree.“
– PBS News Hour, 2018
High Paying Trade Jobs Sit Empty While High School Grads Line Up for University.”
Apprenticeships: Trade/Industrial/Vocational School
Alongside 2-year Associates degrees, we see a trend in engineering companies and the trades paying for students’ schooling while they work on the job. In Michigan, for example, MAT² is a website that publishes all the jobs that include training for high school graduates at specific community colleges. What better way to get trained AND paid at the same time?
“Our award-winning Brose Apprenticeship Programs prepare you for a career in advanced manufacturing by combining on-the-job and in-the-classroom training. You will earn your Associate’s Degree while getting paid* to work at Brose. Upon successful completion of the program, you will have a guaranteed job and highly marketable skills.
*Compensation can be a combination of tuition reimbursement, hourly wages, and a living stipend. Exact amount varies by location and can be discussed during interviews.“
Armed Forces: Army, Navy, Air Force, National Reserves, Coast Guard, Marines
military offers many options before, during, after or instead of a
Maybe you want to go to college but don’t know if you can afford it and/or you’re not sure of what you want to choose as a career. (Or maybe neither of those are true, you would just like to serve in the military). Definitely check out your options, including ROTC (Reserve Officer Training Corp) with your school counselor.
Each branch of the armed services has recruitment centers where they can walk you through the process and answer your questions in a completely transparent manner. All college classes taken while serving in the armed forces and after will be paid for under the GI Bill.
Over the years I have taught many stellar young men and woman who enlisted. In 2016, I got the opportunity to actually attend Marine Educator Boot Camp in Parris Island, SC. For four days, I lived and performed like a recruit. (I say “performed”… I tried to scale a 10-foot wall and repel down a building.) I have total respect for the Globe and Anchor and for every single recruit that leaves boot camp as a Marine. A life of service can bring stability, a vocation, travel and a brotherhood. You will leave with a competitive skill set that many employers need and want.
Gap Year, Peace Corp Year, Travel Abroad, etc.
It is very European to do a “Gap Year”, taking a year off between high school or college and your next phase to travel the world. There are some advantages too. The business Insider magazine suggested that there are five.
Improved Academic Performance
Gain a New Perspective
A Chance to Re-focus
Improve Career Opportunities
I say go for it! If your parents approve, you are street smart and you have friends and family you can crash with, around the world – DO IT! Even take a few language immersion classes along the away and you can be bi- or tri-lingual when you get back. I didn’t take a traditional gap year, but I did Nanny / Au Pairin the USA, for the long summers that college gives you. That’s an option too instead of a whole year!
I am a huge fan of service projects abroad. This type of work wakes you up to how good we have it. Whether it’s a full year working for the Peace Corp or a mission trip to Guatemala to build a house, take any opportunity to serve. It looks phenomenal on your resume and it’s definitely a connection topic in an interview or at a networking event.
Considerations on a 4-Year Degree: In-State, Out-of-State, Community College and Scholarships
There is NO reason to pay out of state tuition
for your college degree. Unless you have a VERY specialized major that you
can’t find at an in state university (e.g. veterinary school, etc.)
Want to save even more money? Go to a community
college for your first year of school, or take summer classes to fulfill
requirements (make sure your credits will transfer before you enroll!) You must
seek advice with a college admissions counselors and have something put in writing
if you do this.
If you are offered a full-ride scholarship to a school that is not your first or second or even third choice school, please take it anyway for your undergraduate degree. You will save yourself and your family $100,000 of debt. Then you can pay or finance grad school, which is a fraction of the cost. It pains me to hear of a student who turns down a full ride because it’s not their dream school! Don’t participate in the branding / brain-washing machine!
P.S. Michigan students, A Few More Things to Know For Post-high School
Fact: “There will be 811,000 high-wage, high-demand career openings through 2024 in the state of Michigan.” (Marshall Plan, 2018)
Problem: How do we get Michigan students trained and qualified to meet these career requirements?
The good news is that legislation has just been passed to expose high school students to alternatives to a 4-year degree. The high school diploma is not enough to meet the skills gap. Certification, Licensure, Associates degrees and traditional 4-year degree are all valid options. In 2018, only 43.7% of Michigan students earned post-secondary credentials. It is the goal of this new plan to raise this to a lofty 60%.
So how will this happen?
Develop, retain and attract talent in the strongest, fastest growing industries
Keep graduates from Michigan’s universities in Michigan. Over a third (38%) of Michigan’s graduates left the state in 2017.
Fill the jobs we have open now.
High School Exposure
To expose high school students to opportunities in the trades, a go-to website has been created called Going PRO in Michigan. This is an excellent resource that all schools now need to embed into their curriculum in the 2019/20 school year.
Education Development Plan
Career Development Education
School Improvement Plan
Job Application Skills
Here’s a way to get your Associates degree paid for. The MI opportunity will offer debt free pathways, if you qualify through FAFSA. See info below.