Students in Howard County's Cooperative Work Experience classes this year can look forward to entering the summer with a passport. It will not allow them to enter foreign countries, but it will tell local employers that the student has the potential to travel far in their companies.
The Passport to the Future, a program to be launched in schools this year through a partnership with the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, will serve as the business community's seal of approval on a student's preparedness for work.
The program, a voluntary effort on students' parts, is aimed at cultivating attitudes, behaviors and abilities that business leaders say are needed in entry-level positions. And in light of a recent survey of business leaders around the state that found a majority dissatisfied with Maryland's high school graduates' behavior and attitudes, the program couldn't start too soon, said Paula Blake, CWE coordinator for Howard County schools.
"Many of our students think appropriate behavior is the behavior they have with their friends," she said. "The passport is a way to motivate students to work harder for those positions they would be getting. It's a way to market working hard toward your future."
The program is the result of a three-year effort of the chamber to address work force issues that business leaders were confronted with daily - workers who were often late, rude, dishonest or poorly groomed, according to Kara Calder, director of Government Affairs with the Howard County Chamber of Commerce.
Business leaders worked with teachers in the CWE programs to come up with a list of behaviors potential employees should demonstrate. These include the ability to work in a team and independently, meeting deadlines, being punctual, showing honesty and integrity and displaying self-control.
Students who participate in the program will be observed throughout the school year by teachers, parents and others. At the end of the year, they submit a packet of information that includes three reference forms, at least one of which is to be completed by someone not associated with the teen through school and who is not a family member.
Business leaders will review the packets with students' transcripts, attendance records and resumes and determine if the student has earned the passport. Those who do not can remain in the program to be mentored in their weak areas.
"One of our goals is to get kids to recognize their own abilities and the ways they can contribute to their own success," Calder said.