Military Career Pathways 101: South Carolina Implements Course for Educators
August 11, 2010
The inaugural Military Career Pathways 101 (MCP 101) course - designed to provide educators with a firsthand understanding of military resources, career pathways and benefits - came to fruition in June, after 18 months of planning and hard work. Approximately 100 career specialists, guidance counselors and career and technology teachers from across South Carolina were immersed in learning how military careers are a viable path that fits into nearly all of the national 16 career clusters.
Dr. Ray Davis, Director of Careers & Technology for the South Carolina Department of Education, said he realized there was a gap in the information given to state secondary students when discussing their future career paths. The military was seldom mentioned as an option for students and, if mentioned, the information was scarce, and portrayed the military as a last resort. Davis said this was not only a disservice to the military, but also to all students. Out of this, MCP 101 was born.
South Carolina schools start career planning in elementary school. Career clusters allow students to focus on the future by encouraging them to find an area of concentration, then guiding them along the pathway toward achieving their desired career. Because military careers fit so well into the 16 clusters, this partnership between the military and South Carolina education is thought by officials to be ideal.
A nine-member committee worked to develop the unique course which offered recertification credits to participants. To receive Continuing Education Units, South Carolina Department of Education Credits, or Global Career Development Facilitator Credits, the MCP 101 participants were required to participate in all activities during the three-day course held in Columbia June 8-10. After the event, participants were required to design a project they could implement in their schools during the upcoming school year. To receive credit, project outlines were due to the South Carolina Department of Education by mid-July for review.
"It is not a question of support. Teachers, students and parents support the military; however, they are unaware of the many different opportunities that the military can offer," said committee member, Ralph Lataille, of Battery Creek High School.
"We're all in this together," said Davis. He emphasized the need to work to help kindergarten through 12th grade students gain as much knowledge as possible to make informed decisions about their future.
"So many students are missing out," said Capt. Patricia Williams, Columbia Company commander. "People are looking at the Army as a last resort instead of being considered right along with college."
The three days were packed with evaluations, panels, collaborations, tours, and group sessions. To begin the event, attendees took a survey to measure their knowledge and understanding of the military. They were surveyed again at the end of the three days to measure the changes.
"The degree of change was amazing with a positive knowledge and beliefs increasing by as much as 67 percentage points," said Martha Daniels, Columbia Battalion's Education Services Specialist.
After a video welcome by USAREC Commanding General Maj. Gen. Donald Campbell Jr. and words from Columbia Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Chuck White, participants were able to sound off about military recruiters and any successes and challenges dealing with the military within their school and/or district.
Educators and Army recruiters then faced off to discuss successes and challenges with the goal of improving relationships. Educators stressed they did not think recruiters appreciated their time constraints. The five-member recruiter panel emphasized their desire to have the Army receive the same consideration as college.
"A challenge for me," said Dr. Kathleen Allen of Dorman High School, "is I get extremely frustrated when recruiters walk in without an appointment and expect me to drop what I'm doing to provide students' documents."
And of course they need them NOW."
Some educators and Army recruiters nodded in agreement.
She said her success was "Military as Career," a career preparation workshop that was created for Dorman High Schools students to follow a well-defined pathway into military service. She created a military major within the career clusters, which several participants agreed they had also done.
Others gave accounts of their successes, such as ASVAB interpretations, special military career fairs, recruiters in mentorship programs, and recruiters as substitute teachers.
After telling their Army story, it was the recruiters' turn to share their successes and challenges dealing with schools and staff.
"We have trouble getting access to students. We get stuck in a corner of the lunch room and can't come from behind the table," said Sgt. 1st Class Myron Adams, Pontiac Recruiting Station. "Although we try to work with it, schools' block scheduling can also be a challenge."
Giving a success, Sgt. 1st Class Danielle Dubose, Sumter Recruiting Station said, "Being allowed to conduct COI events during teacher in service days has worked very well in my schools."
It was a lively two-hour long exchange. Participants asked lots of questions of the recruiters, which helped set a tone of openness for the other sessions. Many educators said in their evaluations the recruiter panel was very enlightening and informative.
Educators had a full day to tour Fort Jackson with drill sergeant escorts. Many found their inner warrior on the Engagement Skills Training EST 2000 weapon system. They watched demonstrations at the rappel tower, Team Development Course, Wheel Vehicle Mechanic School, and Postal School. Also, they had hands-on computer training with the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), March2Success and Army Edspace programs at the education center. The tour concluded with a panel of 10 Soldiers who covered 15 of the 16 career clusters.
Educators were amazed that, while serving, Capt. David Delgado, Medical Command/Moncrief Army Community Hospital, had earned his Doctorate of Pharmacy by age 25. Cpl. Susanne Adkins, 17th Military Police Detachment, served three tours in Iraq, and said, "Joining the Army was the best decision I ever made, if had to do all over again, I would."
"The Soldiers' Panel provided insight into their personal stories," said Dorothya Nero, Mullins High School. "I enjoyed all portions of the tour."
"It was eye opening to see a little of what a private actually goes through," said Alvalene Gadsden Rogers of C.E. Murray High School.
There were numerous presenters and observers from around the states in attendance. Two representatives from the Military Entrance Processing Command helped educators learn about the ASVAB during their time at the education center. Colonel Mike Johnson of Cadet Command spoke to all about ROTC and JROTC programs. The battalion Soldier and Family Assistance program manager, Jean Blackwell, discussed the numerous programs available to support Soldiers and their families. Brian Dunphy, a former Soldier now vice president of investments for Wells Fargo, showed the comparison of military pay to civilian pay. "Our Soldiers really do get paid well," said Dunphy.
Chief of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education U.S. Department of Education, Scott Hess, was instrumental in the creation of the 16 career clusters. Hess chastised himself for not having the military at the table when developing the clusters and emphasized how important it is to have the military at the table when discussing careers.
"Military must be mentioned along with colleges," Hess said. "Colleges cannot teach Army Values." Hess emphasized that his mission would be to implement a type of Military Career Pathways 101 program in every state.
An observer, Dr. Harry Dryer, of the National Consortium for State Guidance Leadership said, "This is a great initiative, and it would be great if something like this could be taken nationwide."
As the conference came to close, participants broke out into smalls groups to begin processing what they had learned and how they could apply their new found knowledge. Ideas flowed, such as special military career nights just for parents, organizing trips to local military installations, etc.
"I had a great time at Military Career Pathways 101. I learned so much that will help me direct my students to a career that is best suited for each of them," said Sara Orlowski, Career Specialist with Hartsville High School.
"Although my son is in the Army, I learned a lot," said Jayne Suchy Coordinator of Guidance at Mullins High School, "There's so much I didn't know."
White stressed what a great exchange of ideas had taken place in the three long days. "It really is a two way street and we must continue to work together. This was great, but next year we hope to make it bigger and better," he said.
Davis profusely thanked all who planned and organized the event. "I'm sincerely grateful that so many educators took the time to participant," he said. "It also says a lot that our national folks are present and offered so much support."
"Putting this event together was very hard work, but well worth it when I see what a positive impression was made on our guests and how much appreciation was gained about Army careers," said Daniels.
The committee will meet once more this summer to review the evaluations, plan the next steps, and meet with the recruiters from each branch of the military to review the South Carolina Recruitment Recommendations. This document is an agreement between the high school administration and the recruiter assigned to that high school. It will define the parameters within which each party will operate in the coming school year.
"This was so well received," said Davis. Plans are already in the works for a similar event next year.