YouScience program helps students identify career paths, local opportunities

As the school districts across Springfield and Clark County work hard to provide strong, quality education to students, there’s a disconnect between the talent grown locally and the talent retained locally.

“We know that currently, 56 percent of the working population in Clark County travels outside our community to work,” says Amy Donahue, director of workforce development for The Greater Springfield Partnership. “We know that a lot of people who live here don’t work here. And even though there are people coming from other places to work in Clark County, it’s not enough people to balance it out.”

Donahue says for the last decade, part of her role has included investigating different kinds of career interest surveys to try to find a way to help retain talent and keep students here after they graduate.

“When you look at the interest surveys, part of what you’re looking at is what students want to do,” says Donahue, adding that there was always something missing from the surveys because they didn’t fully bridge the gaps to connect jobs students wanted with what was available locally.

Then, she discovered YouScience.

YouScience, Donahue says, is different because it takes the surveys one step further. Not only does the program help pinpoint student interests and skillsets with real-life jobs they align with, but it also connects students with local businesses that offer those kinds of job opportunities.

“Growing up, often you are only exposed to so many careers, and many people never investigate what other jobs might fit their personal skillset,” she says.

YouScience doesn’t focus solely on interests, but also on aptitude. The results then provide a range of three different career paths that might be fitting for each student.

The program focuses on 16 nationally-recognized career clusters:
  • Agriculture and natural resources
  • Architecture and construction
  • Arts and media
  • Business
  • Education/teaching
  • Finance
  • Government and public administration
  • Health science
  • Hospitality and tourism
  • Human services
  • Computers and technology
  • Law and public safety
  • Advanced manufacturing
  • Sales and marketing
  • Engineering
  • Distribution and logistics
The YouScience program surveys students twice – once in junior high and once in high school. The junior high results, are more broad and don’t specify actual careers, but rather stick with these career clusters. The high school version gets more specific and accounts for interests changing as student grow and experiences change, Donahue says.

Each assessment is between five and 12 minutes full of “brain games,” she says. At the end of the high school version, students are shown three job cards which are in order of how well they match each student.

“You can click the cards and see what a typical day at that job looks like and what education is needed,” Donahue says. “It really helps open students’ eyes and solidifies, ‘Hey, I could really be good at this.’”

Though the program has been available to school districts across Clark County for about a year and a half, the new component that allows local businesses to sign up as partners listed within the program as potential job opportunities was just recently added.

“Employers can register to be in the YouScience system so that when career cards come up, companies that have that type of job will be added as a link to go to that company in the future,” she says.

Clark County currently leads the state in the number of businesses who hopped onboard, Donahue says, adding that all those employers are ready and willing to make arrangements to talk to students and share specific opportunities available in their field, right here in Clark County.

While Tecumseh Local Schools, Kenton Ridge High School, Global Impact STEM Academy, and soon Springfield City Schools are the only districts using YouScience so far, Donahue says she’s hopeful more districts will soon take advantage of this programming that is offered at no cost to the schools.

And, she says the Partnership works to arrange the connections between employer and students so the schools don’t have to carry that extra burden.

“Businesses are really busy operating their business day-to day. Schools are really busy educating students based on state standards,” Donahue says. “We have to make sure we find that link, and I really believe YouScience can be that link to help our students – who are our future workforce – understand what kinds of career paths they can take, where they’re going to be successful and keep them here, all in the same program.”

Some of the local businesses already enrolled in YouScience include Fire and Marine Inc., Sheehan Brothers Vending, Woeber Mustard Company, IPL Dayton (located in Springfield), and Benjamin Steel.

“We as a community are spending a lot of money and time on education, and for it to all leave doesn’t help grow our community to prosper,” she says. “The more people that we have working here who live here, the more vibrant our community becomes because they become not only invested in their daily job, but they start to become invested in local businesses, non-profits, and the schools.

“They start to really give back to their own community.”

Read more articles by Natalie Driscoll.