Blazing the Pathway on College and Career: Q&A with Paul Morris
Paul Morris is on the forefront of a slate of college-and-career efforts across Delaware, bringing his expertise on employer partnerships at the postsecondary to the K-12 world.
We talked to the associate vice president for workforce development at Delaware Tech about his very busy school year ahead.
Everyone knows about Delaware Technical Community College and the great things you guys provide in terms of career training for high school grads or adults continuing their education. But when did this notion of getting to kids while they’re still in high school first enter your radar?
Delaware Tech has been engaging school-aged youth for over 40 years in Delaware. The college has hosted numerous federal programs such as Upward Bound and Educational Talent Search, serving thousands of middle and high school students during that time period. We also interact with approximately 1,500 to 2,000 youth each summer and throughout the school year through our career, specialty, and sports camps. Lastly, over the past 10 years, we have partnered with all f the school districts within Delaware offering dual enrollment opportunities for students looking to earn college credits while in high school.
And what, specifically, is your role in Pathways and/or work-based learning?
Delaware Tech has been a key member of the Delaware Pathways team since its inception four years ago. Our high school advanced manufacturing program was the first pathway offered and was the model for the other pathways as it offered advanced college credits, meaningful work-based learning experiences, and portable credentials.
Delaware Tech is connected to every pathway currently offered through Delaware Pathways. Additionally, due to the college’s history with engaging and supporting employers in Delaware, we were chosen to perform the duties of intermediary for work-based learning from the onset. Within this role, we are responsible for operating the Office of Work-Based Learning, which engages employers, schools, and students to develop and deliver a continuum of work-based learning activities for students from seventh grade through the first two years of postsecondary education. The ultimate goal of these activities is to ensure our youth are both college and career ready upon graduation.
Why do you think Pathways has taken off in Delaware the way that it has?
Pathways meets two important but specific needs. First, it provides secondary school students with the opportunity to become both college and career ready upon graduation. Students have many opportunities through the program to engage with employers and professionals within their chosen career field to better prepare them for the workforce. Second, Pathways creates an employer engagement structure so that employers understand the benefits and can easily connect with qualified students who have an interest in their specific career area.
What are some of your favorite Pathways success stories you like to tell?
My favorite success story is about a young man named “Joe.” He came from a blue collar middle class family from New Castle. He was a superstar in the manufacturing program from day one. He excelled in the hands-on portion of the program and wanted to transition into working within the manufacturing industry upon graduation. Joe had a couple of opportunities for work once he graduated, but chose to accept an unpaid internship at a local company that he desired to work at long term. He did such a great job with that internship that the company offered him a contracting position. Due to his work ethic and long-term vision, he continued to excel and was recently hired directly by the company. He is doing great and is planning to continue his studies in a post-secondary program in his field.
There are a lot of efforts unfolding in the college and career-prep world. What are you most excited about here at the start of a new school year?
I’m most excited about the work we are doing within the Office of Work-Based Learning. We are building the framework so that thousands of Delaware students will have the opportunity to participate in meaningful work-based learning activities. These activities will range from awareness activities like visiting a company on a structured tour to immersion activities like a paid internship. These activities will assist students in making college and career decisions upon graduation. They will provide students with documented work experience to inform their resumes. These activities will also help Delaware companies build a much-needed pipeline of trained workers for the future.
What are Industry Councils and what will they do/accomplish?
Industry Councils are groups of individuals representing a specific industry convened to inform the educational and business communities on the trends, needs, and partnership opportunities within the industry. Typically, a council will have an executive committee that will meet quarterly and create sub-committees as needed. The executive committee will hold an annual public meeting where they will go over their annual report and engage with members of the public.
You get to engage with all sides of the equation, so to speak. What’s your go-to selling point for employers when it comes to WBL? How about for parents or high school students?
Engaging and partnering with Delaware Pathways and the Office of Work-Based Learning is a key strategy in building a sustainable pipeline of future trained workers. These types of partnerships allow companies to inform curriculum, build relationships with students, and develop working relationships with educational and training providers. Employers will have the ability to create a specific pipeline that will feed their hiring needs in the future.
Participating within Delaware Pathways and specifically work-based learning activities is a no-brainer for students. They will graduate high school with a defined career path and valuable work experience within their chosen industry. They will have an opportunity to earn industry- recognized credentials, college credits, and build work readiness and soft skills that will further enhance their ability to enter the workforce after graduation. Our ultimate goal is to ensure students are both college and career ready upon graduation.
Let’s say I’m a business owner and I’m interested. What do I do? What’s my first step?
The first step is to contact the Office of Work-Based Learning at:
The Office of Work-Based Learning