How to infuse industry credentials in traditional high schools

EnvisionEdPlus Guide to Ohio’s New Graduation Requirements, PART 2. A guest post by Samuel Caputo, Instructional Supervisor at the Mahoning County Educational Service Center.

Our friends in Mahoning County are doing great work building college and career pathways within different school settings, including early colleges, traditional high schools and a career center. This work, aligned with Ohio’s new graduation requirements, is right for kids, as we explained in Part 1 of this series.

The Mahoning County Educational Service Center is supporting the region’s schools both as the lead on an Ohio Straight A project and as resident experts. Samuel Caputo has been helping traditional high schools navigate unfamiliar territory: industry credentials.

Here’s what he has to share:

Most of our school districts already have plans to facilitate two of Ohio’s new pathways to graduation: 1. Earning a cumulation of 18 points on the 7 state end-of-course exams, and 2. Earning a remediation-free score on a college entrance exam. Districts are quite used to state testing and helping to prepare students for the ACT and/or SAT.

The new piece to the puzzle is providing students the opportunity to earn industry credentials and prepare for the WorkKeys exams. Ohio’s Career Centers are great at it, but traditional high schools must introduce or vastly expand this graduation pathway for their students as well. It’s important both for graduation and for schools’ performance on Ohio’s Prepared for Success report card measure.

Complement, not compete

First, district and school leaders should talk to their career and technical centers. In determining what credentials to offer, they should be mindful of how to tap into career centers’ full programs and their new senior-only credentialing programs, so they contribute to a comprehensive array of options for students.

Building on existing programs

Second, school leaders should review factors like current course offerings, student needs and interests, staffing (especially looking at staff with unique certifications), building master schedules, etc. to determine the career fields in which they can offer a credential. For example, some of our area schools have a horticulture program they can modify to deliver a full credential in agriculture. Likewise, a few schools that have woods/metals teachers who could deliver credentials in the manufacturing or construction career fields, and schools with a robotics program are developing credentials in engineering or manufacturing.

3 easy-to-add programs

The focus of our work has been creating delivery models for credentialing in the following 3 career fields:  arts and communication, business and finance, and information technology. Of the career fields in which a student can earn a credential, those three can be implemented by any school without the need of a unique program, such as horticulture or robotics; they can fit into the curriculum of a standard art, business, or technology class.

Also, many of the certifications that earn points towards graduation in the three aforementioned fields are certifications in Microsoft and Adobe products. This is convenient, because many schools are already using these products.

Microsoft and Adobe, step-by-step

Mahoning County ESC has been assisting our districts with incorporating Microsoft and Adobe certifications into their courses of study.

Step 1: Determine the number of students that will be targeted to earn credentials. Although schools will obviously encourage as many students as possible to benefit from these programs, many schools are focusing on:

  • Students who will likely use the credential/WorkKeys pathway to graduation
  • Students who are not likely to earn a remediation-free ACT/SAT score or a diploma with honors

Step 2: Collaborate with business, technology, and/or art teachers to examine the competencies a student must pass to earn a particular certification. These can usually be found on the product’s web site – the are now links to all of these sites on the ODE’s industry credential page.

Step 3: Determine what effort is needed to incorporate a given credential into existing curriculum.

Step 4: Decide how the credentialing will be delivered by addressing these questions:

  • Will the credential be delivered in new classes or in existing ones with a curriculum adjusted accordingly?
  • Will the credential will be delivered in a single class or across multiple classes?


As stated earlier, the final delivery models can look quite different depending on a number of factors. The following is an example of what several schools are using as one method of delivering a credential in a single course (alternatively, some schools are treating this as a completely new course):

Course Title: Computer Applications
Credential: Business and Finance (Earned by attaining Microsoft Office Specialist certifications in Microsoft products)
Duration: 1 Credit
EMIS Code: 036000 (Computer Applications)
Standards: National Business Education Association (NBEA) Standards
Certifications Earned: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook or Access

See also, why Ohio high schools should be continuing to implement Ohio’s new graduation requirements.

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