22 May Ready to Work: Bridging the gap and preparing for the future

Although the classroom looks like any other computer lab, roll call is different for Central High School students of Tuscaloosa, Al. who are taking part in the Ready to Work (RTW) program. Simulating employees clocking into their jobs, students must punch into class by logging onto an online portal.

The students are part of the school’s first RTW program, which launched this January. Students meet five days a week for 17 weeks for the 228-hour program to learn entry-level skills, explore career pathways, and develop the soft skills they need to successfully join the workforce and stand out amongst other candidates. The RTW program aims to provide young professionals with a path to pursue career success in their hometown, while also replenishing the limited pool of skilled workers for employers in the Tuscaloosa area.

For students who aren’t college bound, navigating local career opportunities can be difficult and determining what job you’re best suited for is often overwhelming. After graduation, it’s easy for students to feel limited to low-paying service jobs they’re readily familiar with. Meanwhile, employers often struggle to find qualified skilled workers in a tight labor market.
Taking the dilemma into their own hands, members of Central High School (including principal Clarence Sutton), local employers, and the West Alabama Works Workforce Development Region joined forces to develop and design the RTW program, of which Ōnin serves as a proud partner.

Local employers collaborated to design program material that successfully develops a local workforce with the skills and training needed to fill jobs specifically within the automotive, manufacturing, and healthcare industries of Tuscaloosa. Through the RTW program, students will gain industry-specific skills such as advanced manufacturing safety and lockout-tagout procedures. Students will also receive a review of how several local companies are run.
With the content created by Tuscaloosa’s local employers, Ōnin implemented Ōnin Apps to serve as the framework for the RTW material, allowing students to clock into class and access lessons, quizzes, grades, and data.

Through the RTW program, students will be OSHA 10 certified, CPR certified, and National Career Readiness certified and will also receive the AIDT certified Alabama worker credential. Students’ records will be stored via Ōnin Apps technology so students can access the database to show record of their certifications and training after they’ve graduated. Although the program was designed with Tuscaloosa in mind, students will be able to access their records anywhere. In this way, their skillset has the ability to follow them through their career, strengthening both the scope and scale of the RTW program. Although Ōnin Apps is designed for business to business purposes, the customizable nature of Ōnin Apps made it easy to adapt for RTW purposes.
With the success of the current program, the West Alabama Works Workforce Development Region will replicate the RTW program in other high schools in the region. Although basic tenants of the program could easily be reproduced, the RTW program’s modular construction allows for customization unique to the economic and employment needs of other locations. Just as Central High School staff, employers, and the Workforce Development Councils of Alabama joined forces in Tuscaloosa to develop a RTW program catered to local students, these three critical components—the school, employers and workforce development—must be jointly motivated in other communities to similarly affect change.
Local employers in other locations must likewise collaborate to determine what career material and skills will be relevant for students in their area to build a program that enables students to succeed in the local workforce. That said, Ōnin Apps’ customizable framework could readily be used in other RTW programs to provide a scalable foundation for students to access learning material and their certification data.

As the RTW program expands to other schools, we’re confident that when you love what you do, helping the next generation discover what they’re passionate about and providing them with the skills to pursue their career comes naturally. Ōnin desires to improve the lives of the people we come in contact with, and we will achieve this objective through heroic service to our customers, fair treatment of our associates and coworkers, win/win partnerships with our vendors, and an ongoing commitment to community service.
Ōnin’s purpose is to “Create Opportunity and Empower People,” and we believe there are few things as empowering as educating the next generation to succeed in the workforce.

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