Innovative Partnerships

Innovative Partnerships

Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) continues to light promising post-high school pathways for its graduates with its career-based learning and college readiness programs.

Preparing High School Students for Career, College Success

The school district has expanded its partnerships with business leaders, industries and organizations driving economic development in the area, ensuring students who choose to enter the workforce immediately after high school are prepared not only academically but technically, and are ready to tackle the jobs that are in demand now and in the future.

And for those students who choose to pursue a college degree, CPS is going that extra mile to empower students and their families as they embark upon that challenging, multi-faceted transition between high school and the first year of college and beyond.

Creating a Workforce Pipeline

The high schools involved in the district’s innovative, career-based learning program and the industries represented are Dater (Supply Chain and Hospitality); Oyler (Supply Chain); Western Hills (Public Safety); Taft (Cyber Security); and Woodward (Manufacturing). Automotive Services is targeted for another high school yet to be named.

"We’re partnering with multiple entities, including Partners for a Competitive Workforce, Cincinnati Works, PNC Bank and Cincinnati State, and they each perform a function in the employment model we’ve created," explains Brittney Cousins, CPS’ career-based learning manager. "The first pillar of the model is to make sure our students have the training they need to be successful in their job.

This is handled by Cincinnati State, where students can gain college credits and credentials from the introductory classes they take. Cincinnati State sends their instructors to us."

The second pillar of the model, student workforce development, is in the hands of Cincinnati Works, a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating barriers to attaining long-term employment and economic self-sufficiency. The third pillar is banking and financial literacy. "It’s not a given that all students get the same amount exposure to financial literacy in their homes, and as an urban district we prioritize that as a need," Cousins continues. "We partner with PNC Bank to use their standard financial literacy curriculum.

"And lastly, we put our students to work," Cousins continues.

Logistics leader DHL, a provider of international courier, parcel, and express mail services, is a major workforce partner in the career-based learning program. DHL, with its hub located at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, has been expanding and hiring locally for years, Cousins notes.

DHL offers high school seniors paid co-op positions where they work a minimum of 10 hours per week for $13.55 an hour. "That’s definitely above minimum wage for entry level workers, and with that they also receive mentorship." DHL also provides students with transportation to and from their jobs.

"The primary goal for all our partnerships is to ensure our students are not stuck in entry-level positions, but that they have a plan for growth and a clear trajectory toward that growth," Cousins adds. "So, we partner with businesses that are dedicated to giving our students not just that first job, but an actual career path."

Another exciting business partner addition to CPS’ career-based learning program mix is Belcan, the Cincinnati-based global engineering and technical recruiting firm.

Thanks to a new program, Cyber Security Academy, made possible through a collaborative endeavor involving CPS, Belcan, comSpark Tech Innovation Summit and Lead Tribune Media Group, Taft IT High School students can get a jump start on pursuing a well-paying and highly technical career in cyber security. During the three-year course, students take online cyber classes and at least one instructor-led class during the summer, with the goal that, upon graduation, they will take the necessary steps to get the top-level FBI clearance needed to become a cyber security analyst, Cousins explains.

CPS is the first urban school district in the United States to offer a cyber security educational track.

Looking to the Future

One of CPS’s integral partners in preparing students for their careers is the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber.

"They have members in various business sectors, are involved in forecasting and are helping us select careers that are and will be in demand," says Cousins. "We have to remain nimble because reports are saying that the jobs our kindergartners will have one day don’t even exist yet. We will continue to focus on the foundational skills students need, regardless of how the workforce and the world are changing."

CPS students also gain valuable insight into future careers at the annual Business Advisory Council CPS Career Expo. It’s a one-day event, held at the Sharonville Convention Center, where regional businesses and organizations gather to offer students the opportunity to explore potential careers across a vast array of industries.

Equally Engaging Pathways

Because CPS is a school district that encourages choice, Cousins and her CPS cohort, Kayla Ritter Rickels, college manager, work in tandem to ensure that whatever career pathway students choose after high school graduation, the district has done everything it can to elevate not only their academic and technical capabilities, but the self-awareness needed to make such an important decision. They make a point to remind students that they will be lifelong learners, no matter which path they follow.

"Although I am the college manager, I fully recognize and believe that college is not the best first step for all students," Rickels says. "Once outside high school, however, we know students may go back to college, or some form of continuing education after being in a career for a while, or for multiple years, so uplifting that life-long learning aspect is important."

Rickels also recognizes that in a large, urban school district like CPS, where there are many first-generation college students, it’s important to help guide students and their families as they navigate best-fit college choices. That requires quality school counselors and college access teams, she notes.

"It’s important that students don’t just default to the college closest to them, but that they put serious thought into their decision, so if they do attend the closest college, it’s because it’s the best choice," Rickels points out.

This academic year finds CPS chockfull of exciting college readiness/access programs involving local and area collegiate partners.

An expanded IT pipeline via CPS’ partnership with the University of Cincinnati offers students in the ninth grade at Hughes, Shroder and Clark high schools the opportunity to begin college-level IT courses and, if they complete the work and earn at least a C in each course, they are automatically dubbed a UC Bearcat with a full year of college credit under their academic belts.

"From my perspective, it’s UC’s School of IT putting the value statement out there, saying they know that if these students can be successful in their coursework, they can be successful when they attend UC, so they’re not going to just look at one moment of time with a student’s ACT score to determine whether or not they’ll be successful," Rickels says.

Also, Miami University has agreed to expand its role in the Cincinnati Scholars Program. In May 2018, the university awarded five young men participating in CPS’ Men Organized Respectful Educated (MORE) peer leadership program with full cost-of-attendance scholarships.

"There are really cool things that have come from this partnership," Rickels says. This academic year, for example, Miami University is extending the same opportunity to participants in CPS’ Girls to Women peer leadership program. Any student involved with MORE or Girls to Women can apply to Miami to be a part of this program. The university has agreed to fully fund up to 10 men and 10 women annually.

"It’s a huge opportunity as well as a huge commitment for our students," says Rickels. "Miami has an amazing team working on this from their end. Not only is it a funding commitment from them, but it’s infused with opportunity and mentorship, and engagement from their African American Diversity Center."

Rickels is equally excited about CPS’ inaugural College Night 2018, slated for October at Woodward High School. The two-hour, come-and-go event will include a college fair; a computer lab to help families complete their Free Application for Financial Student Aid (FAFSA) forms; an informational session for athletes and their families outlining NCAA eligibility guidelines; and an informational session detailing student accessibility services for students transitioning from CPS to a college setting with an IEP or 504 Plan. A panel of CPS alumni will also be on hand to share with students what their college experience might look like.

Cincinnati Public Schools’ administrative offices are located at 2651 Burnet Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45219. For more information, visit

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