In this episode of our podcast, host Joel Gagne is joined by Dennis Blatt, Superintendent of the Washington County Career Center in Marietta, Ohio to discuss cultivating work ethic in students today.

Joel and Dennis talk about work ethic, why employers are putting a premium on it, and how the Washington County Career Center works to develop work ethic in students.

“We know that whether our students go on to college, join the military or go immediately into the workforce, at some point in their lives they will have a job and will go to work. We want to prepare our students as much as we can to be successful, valued employees,” Dennis says. “So in communicating regularly with area business and industry leaders, we know they believe strongly, perhaps more than ever before, that if you are to be successful in the workplace you must have a strong work ethic. Unfortunately, these same business and industry leaders see a dramatic decline in the work ethic of young people.”

Dennis says business and industry leaders first and foremost emphasize simply showing up on time, and showing up regularly as part of the importance of a good work ethic.

In response to the needs outlined by employers, the Washington County Career Center has developed a work ethic rubric with the following components:

  • Attendance: This communicates the importance of showing up regularly and on time.
  • Performance: The school refers to the quality of the work to be done, and the goal is to have outstanding quality. Students are encouraged to take personal pride in whatever work is being done.
  • Preparedness: Students are expected to be ready for whatever task is at hand daily. Be well-rested, energetic and enthusiastic, have homework completed, and be dressed appropriately.
  • Teamwork: This refers to working collaboratively to achieve a goal or complete a project. Respecting others is necessary.

The Washington County Career Center has emphasized the theme, “Be ready, be respectful, and be responsible.” Each morning, students receive a quote related to a specific character trait. One overarching lesson is that each student is responsible for their own decisions.

Joel and Dennis talk about how technology plays into cultivating work ethic in students today.

“At some point in time you’ve got to get the job done. So as we work with students, if they’re able to work in a flexible work environment that’s great—we talk to them about that and say, hey, prepare for that, if that’s a goal of yours, reach for that, but please know that that’s not always going to be possible,” Dennis says. “Absolutely, technology has changed the world that we live in, and I think our students welcome the technology and work closely with that.”

Joel asks how to correctly quantify the work ethic of a student or prospective employee.

Attendance is the easiest to quantify, followed by performance on projects. Every nine weeks, students receive grades on their report cards, and the Washington County Career Center makes it known to employers that soft skills are being taken into account when quantifying performance.

Dennis wraps up the episode by explaining how the Washington County Career Center is special because of a family atmosphere with shared values and ideals throughout the center.

“I think our students would say this to you perhaps better than I can, but we want our students to come to the career center and enjoy being here,” Dennis says. “We know if we’re going to truly change a student for the better, we need to develop a positive relationship with that student.”

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