Transcripts Should Tell More Complete Story, Leaders Say

From left, Courtney Simmons of Herman Miller; Kaushik K. Nag of Amway; Julie MacFarland of Mercy Health; and Laurie Elsner of DeWys Manufacturing shared business acumen expectations

John Kraus thinks high school transcripts ought to show both a student’s achievement in the classroom as well as learning that happened outside school walls, which would convey career employability skills.

Kraus, principal of Kent ISD Secondary Programs including Kent Career Tech Center, said this should include “a consistent framework that captures and translates the student’s ‘work-ready education,’ such as internships and industry certificates, into meaningful skills for employers.”

Kraus and other education and workforce leaders at the Career Readiness Conference hosted by Kent ISD and Talent 2025 looked to imagine an expanded transcript that would track student certificates, credentials, internships and experiential training, and dual/concurrent enrollment at colleges and universities — essentially, all related progress toward work-ready skills.

How Transcripts Could Showcase Student Skills

Several ideas mentioned during the conference that could either serve as a new transcript or be a part of one include:

  • A LinkedIn-style profile — a marketable way to share details of work experience, dual enrollment, certifications and specific skills
  • A digital student portfolio that highlights the student’s academic achievement and marketability
  • Competency-based transcripts that require students to show their mastery, knowledge and quantitative skills learned through projects, career and tech-ed courses and other experiences

Today’s traditional transcripts, they said, lack all the information employers could use to select candidates, such as work-related learning that has equipped graduates with knowledge, skills and qualities a business needs.

Among the skills and qualities employers seek are “business acumen … business and customer awareness, team-working, curiosity and confidence,” said Kaushik K. Nag, director of talent acquisition, benefits and wellness, and global change management at Amway.

“How confident are they? Are they able to articulate?” Nag said. “Because at the end of the day, when they are sitting face-to-face with another, you have to achieve results.”

The conference was a chance for local educators to get the pulse of the business community and make sense of what they’re looking for in students from area schools.

“We’re giving our kids a vision of their future (through) greater exposure to career exploration, workplaces and internships,” said Ron Koehler, Kent ISD assistant superintendent, “so let’s put that right out in front. We’re looking at a cultural change to provide these experiences.

“Then, let’s put the students’ strengths out there, which opens up a whole door for us to share a lot more information.”

Northview High School staff have launched the MiGPS, a team-approach education initiative with Metrics Reporting CEO Bill Guest that focuses on career skills and career literacy.

“Let’s take those important nuggets that students can really celebrate: what they have done, what they know, what they can do, and bundle it into career currency,” said Northview High School Principal Mark Thomas. “That would be a huge game-changer.”

Pushing Hard for Soft Skills

Other speakers focused on how students can prepare for the workplace.

Julie MacFarland, Mercy Health team lead for talent acquisition, said students need to dig deep to find what drives them — a clear self-awareness to help prepare them for their future.

“Students need to know that jobs have personalities, and people bring them to life,” MacFarland said. “Students need to understand who they are and where they fit in.”

Courtney Simmons, Herman Miller inclusiveness and diversity talent manager, focused on the need for good communication and social skills.

“We have young students who are competing with adults for these roles … (adults) who know how to communicate,” she said.

Simmons advises those same social skills should be taught to students whether at home or school. “Their ability to talk about and apply their learning and experiences is just as valuable as a strong resume and cover letter,” she said.

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