The category of program deliverers covers a variety of roles, including those of school-to-work or program coordinator, instructor, counselor, transition specialist, and others. Program deliverers work on the front line, translating administrative strategies and policies into practices that best serve students. Exactly how school-to-work systems structure and staff these roles varies considerably among the communities visited by AED. Certain delivery roles typically belong to certain positions--instructors usually provide classroom training, for example--but other roles, such as communication with business partners, may be delegated or shared in various ways. Although the system, to be effective, must staff these roles somehow, it does not appear to matter whether, for example, an instructor or a program coordinator or a transition specialist arranges a workplace experience, as long as the system deliberately and clearly determines who will accomplish the task.
In a fundamental sense, the program deliverer's generic role is to find ways to ensure that the system meet the needs of each individual student. Program deliverers face the challenge of serving large populations of students who bring diverse talents and needs, while simultaneously navigating the requirements of schools, businesses, and service agencies. Those who successfully cope with this challenge are often adaptable, risk-taking, creative in developing strategies, and willing to work in order to understand and collaborate with systems and organizations whose resources should be brought into the school-to-work system.
As managers, program deliverers must possess excellent organizational and communication skills. The logistics of these programs are very demanding, incorporating as they do the coordination of limited resources, students and employers, conflicting workplace and school schedules, transportation systems, and a host of legal and institutional regulations. Those in managerial roles must support other program deliverers by encouraging innovation, allowing for mistakes, providing for professional development, and promoting clear and continual communication among program deliverers.
As reformers, program deliverers require substantial knowledge of pedagogy, curriculum, industry, and the student population. Often deliverers in different positions--instructors and coordinators, for example--complement each other's strengths and weaknesses in terms of knowledge. By definition school-to-work programs incorporate innovative teaching methods and curriculum, such as contextual learning, integrated academic and vocational study, and learning in workplaces. Program deliverers should have related knowledge or experience if they are in the position of explaining or justifying these changes to other staff responsible for implementing new teaching approaches and curriculum. Without that grounding, the deliverer will have little credibility.
Whether their training is academic or experiential, effective program deliverers also understand youth development and learning theory, including the variety of learning styles and the stages of adolescent development. They also appreciate that special populations--students with disabilities, students who are also parents, students with limited English proficiency, for example-- have additional educational needs.
Effective program deliverers have some understanding, usually earned through actual experience in the industry, of the occupational area within which the school-to-work program provides training. This knowledge wins them credibility with business representatives and helps them create and sustain connections among the employers asked to provide resources, student placements, or other assistance.
Turning from the general characteristics of program deliverers, it is important to note that some areas of knowledge and aptitude are especially important for certain roles. Instructors taking part in a school-to-work transition reform, for example, will probably have primary responsibility for identifying new learning activities and developing new methods of instruction, curriculum, and classroom management. Their leadership in designing the school-based component of school-to-work transition systems cannot be overestimated. The roles taken on by teachers in effective systems are often quite different from traditional academic teaching, as teachers must not only facilitate career- connected learning in their classrooms, but also ensure the interconnections for students among work-based learning, classroom study, and individual career goals and interests. They must be committed to helping each student navigate these new learning systems and often fill such diverse roles as tutor, mentor, friend, role model, and task master.
Counselors also play a vital role in helping students choose among career paths and integrate their learning experiences in school and work situations. Counselors are the only source many students have for career information, occupational awareness, assistance in assessment, labor market information, job placement assistance, and individualized guidance about career choices. For many students, positive work experiences depend on the ability of counselors to help them assess their interests, match them with appropriate business settings, evaluate their progress, make decisions about the future, and understand what they are learning. Effective counselors creatively develop sound plans for individual students and forge working connections with employers, social service agencies, and job services. They are always open to and searching for new resources in job placement, treatment programs, child care, transportation, and other related areas.
Program coordinators are most immediately responsible for managing the school-to-work transition initiative. In regional school-to-work systems and large vocational schools, often a mid- level administrator functions as the school-to-work coordinator, having responsibility for a cluster of programs. Other sites have appointed school-to-work coordinators to fill this role. Whatever their official title, coordinators must concern themselves with leadership, with management--including logistical matters like transportation and scheduling, and with pedagogy and curriculum.
As leaders, coordinators communicate the vision of school-to- work to instructors, counselors, students, employers--partners of all kinds. They also translate this vision into language or perspectives understandable to the various players, each of whom brings a different set of motivations and purposes to the school- to-work reform. In the best sense of the word, coordinators are opportunists who discover opportunity everywhere, whether for new student placements, funding, or some other resource that would help the program.
One of the important roles that emerged in a number of sites was the "transition specialist," who is responsible for making clear the connections between the worlds of work and learning. This specialist may help students assess their interests and work experiences, evaluate work-based learning, connect information back into school-based learning, and serve as a liaison and resource for businesses.
Although the computer provides the lessons and tests that each student must master, the teachers manage a classroom with thirty students on thirty different lessons at varying levels where they must be ready to help any student at any time. The teacher is subject matter expert, classroom manager, and individual tutor, a role that demands teachers be not only dedicated and expert but also able to manage what, at times, is an ambiguous learning situation. Teachers continually check activity reports, transcripts, grades and the status of students, keeping track of their academic situation on a daily basis.
Teachers also facilitate peer counseling, for which role they are trained in adolescent affective skill development. A teacher- facilitator works with a group of students to help them cope with academic stress, personal problems, and social issues. The teacher works with the PBDP guidance counselor on specific student or group process issues. This peer counseling role, along with the basic nature of the PBDP and the CAI labs, results in very close relationships between teacher and student.
Communication among the staff also contributes to the program's effectiveness. Teachers and staff meet weekly to share information about students and discuss concerns, sharing strategies and stories and gaining a thorough understanding of the students.
The lead teacher is praised for her performance as the program's coordinator, as not only a visionary but a missionary as well. Students, teachers, and administrators all spoke of her administrative and communications skills, her political intelligence, her support for students whom others have discarded, and her ability to generate support for the program.
Without the active participation of most of the teachers, the high school's reform would not have succeeded. It has required teachers to change their teaching styles, their curriculum, and their working relationships with one another, leading to more multi-tasking classrooms, more interdisciplinary classes and instruction, and curriculum compacting. Through the faculty senate, teachers have identified the standards and competencies that students need to meet and have developed alternative means for students to meet them. Instructors also teach work readiness skills through the "critical workplace skills" course, an open- entry, open-exit class offering applied and work-related training to students.
In general, the transition specialist's role includes recruiting students, assessing students, developing individualized plans (both Individualized Education Plans and Individualized Written Rehabilitation Plans), developing job placements, and supervising students on job sites. Individualized instruction is one of the keys to YTP's effectiveness. Each student completes an individualized assessment and receives an appropriately tailored instructional program. The local vocational rehabilitation counselor then establishes student eligibility for the program, develops individualized plans, provides or purchases support services not provided by the school, and provides postsecondary placements in employment or training.
The unit that works with business and other partners is staffed by resource coordinators, described as "the one-stop shop for business." They develop personal contacts and ongoing relationships with employers. They make job placements and deal with any issues or problems that an employer may have with a placement. The school-based coordinators submit monthly requests to their assigned resource coordinator, specifying such needs as speakers and materials, jobs and internships.