June 12, 2017
How To

Develop a workforce from an early age

Katy Nicketakis

Schools serve an increasingly large role in society. It's no longer just reading, writing and arithmetic.

Today's schools prepare students for a successful life as adults: modeling and practicing social norms; feeding and often clothing students; providing emotional support through counselors and social workers; teaching content to succeed on standardized tests; and readying students for post-secondary success in college, university, vocational programs, the military or the workforce.

At Thornton Academy, we take our mission of preparing students for a changing world seriously. To fully serve our diverse student population, we offer many different avenues for students to find success after they leave our campus. Many of our students travel a path of honors and AP classes that leads to a two- or four- year college or university. Others participate in our vocational offerings and head directly into the workforce after high school graduation. A small but important percentage go on to serve our country in the armed forces. And the rest forge their own creative path that looks different for each individual. We support all of our students as they forge ahead to pursue gainful and satisfying employment.

As today's workplaces are changing rapidly to keep up with the pace of technology, schools must also adapt to teach technology use and be forward-thinking in readying students for the workplace that they will occupy later on. Being proactive and starting conversations about work early results in students who embrace post-school challenges and thrive in a changing workplace.

Developing a workforce from an early age can be easy and is crucial for any school, family, or other organization that works with children.

Workforce development should:

1. Offer many avenues to success: The beauty of humanity is our diversity. Today's workforce benefits from increasingly varied work environments, and students should have paths towards success in many fields, disciplines, educational levels and interests. Creativity can be key as students learn about themselves and develop their passions and skills that will allow themselves to find successful and fulfilling endeavors.

2. Emphasize hard work: All employers look for workers who are dedicated, efficient and can get the job done. Tyler Gilbert '19 demonstrates this value. He has been working since age seven mowing lawns and shoveling snow from driveways. Today he works at L.A.W. Calibration LLC in Biddeford four days a week, is enrolled in National Tooling and Machining Association's online educational program (NTMA-U), and fixes up and sells old snowmobiles. Schools must encourage students to work towards their potential.

3. Partner with outside organizations: Students at Thornton Academy can benefit from the NTMA-U program to develop technical skills; a program of advanced STEM classes that grants automatic enrollment and sophomore status at the University of Maine School of Engineering; a partnership with the University of New England that grants sophomore standing to qualified students; and opportunities for college credit while in high school through York County Community College. These partnerships help Thornton Academy students discover their passion, start networking early and maximize their efforts and opportunities.

4. Begin early: The career center at Thornton Academy offers support for students through interviewing techniques, job opportunities, internships, and career guidance that emphasizes the need to start developing connections and career skills while students are still in school. It's never too early to think about a successful future.

Schools are becoming increasingly complex organizations that must focus on more than academics. Preparing students for a changing world by educating them about life after school and developing skills that will be useful in the workplace are essential parts of today's education that benefit not only students, but businesses and nonprofits that will eventually employ them.

Katy Nicketakis is the associate director of marketing and summer programs at Thornton Academy. She can be reached at


Type your comment here:

Most Popular on Facebook