1,440 Industry Credentials Earned in 2019

1,440 Industry Credentials Earned in 2019
Posted on 07/16/2019
Akron high school students earn 1,440 industry certifications in 2019 — a 1,500% increase from last year

By Jennifer Pignolet 
Beacon Journal/Ohio.com

The 2019 graduating class from Akron Public Schools earned 1,440 industry certifications before leaving high school, an increase of 1,500% from the class of 2018, which earned just 86 such credentials.

The steep growth is largely due to an initiative launched at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year to offer a one-year program, mostly for seniors, to earn a certification before they graduated.

The 1,440 certifications included 30 credentials in industries and skill sets such as customer service, automotive, Microsoft Office, phlebotomy and Adobe Photoshop.

College and Career Academies Coordinator Nathan Ruyan announced the increase at the school board meeting Monday to much applause and surprise.

Ruyan said he reported the number to the Ohio Department of Education to see if it was a single-year record. He’s still waiting to hear back.

“They actually made me repeat it twice,” he said. “I definitely think we caught them off-guard.”

Superintendent David James said the certifications, which represent training for a specific job or industry, are at the core of the idea behind the district’s College and Career Academies.

“For our companies who need trained people, we’re really focusing on a lot of these industry credentials,” James said.

Some of the credentials allow graduates to enter the workforce immediately, giving them a leg-up on the competition, or could be the foundation for additional education.

“Those certifications are really kind of your initial foray into the workplace,” James said. “Some of those kids can actually come out ahead of the game.”

The jump in earned credentials could also lead to an increase in the district’s graduation rate, as an industry certification can be one path to graduation in Ohio.

James said the district is reviewing data to see if there are large numbers of students who graduated with an industry certification who otherwise would not have graduated.

About 647 students in the district, not all seniors, were enrolled in the program, Ruyan said.

The top three schools for student certifications were East Community Learning Center, which led the district with 435 certifications, followed by Firestone CLC with 288 and Buchtel CLC with 248.

Anecdotally, several teachers who attended the board meeting and stood up with Ruyan for the announcement said several students who graduated this year did so because of the certification program.

“That’s what our focus was,” East Community Learning Center teacher Cynthia Begert said. “We have kids that need to graduate high school. What are we going to do to get them there?”

She said she had “goosebumps” the first time she heard 1,440 students had earned a credential.

Begert was one of about 40 teachers across the district who trained to teach a class that was designed for each student to earn at least one certification by the end of the year.

Ohio ranks the rigor of certifications on a 12-point system, with 12 being the most intensive requirements to earn the credential. The 1,440 certifications earned by APS seniors last year spanned that spectrum of difficulty, Ruyan said.

The goal of the career academies is to have one 12-point credential in each pathway.

“It is a huge part of college and career academies, but it’s only going to get bigger,” Ruyan said.
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