CINCINNATI, OH—For more than three years, Deer Park High School has been working with the Project Management Institute Southwest Ohio Chapter, along with consultant Doug Arthur of Transform Consulting, to build a curriculum around Project Management in an effort to offer a one-of-a-kind opportunity to students at Deer Park.
In January, the Deer Park Career Academies will roll out Project Management 301 to students for the first time—an offering to students who have already completed PM 101 and 201, which were started in August 2015 and January 2017, respectively.
This particular approach to a Project Management Career Academy is one that is not offered by any other school district in the country, and will allow students to sit for the Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) examination—a highly valued professional credential that is not typically offered to high school age students—at the conclusion of the 301 level course at no cost to the student.
What is a Project Manager?
According to the Project Management Institute, a Project Manager is responsible for overseeing a team throughout a project to ensure the team is completing its task on time, everyone knows his or her job, everyone on the team knows what successful completion of the project means and everyone has an equal chance to express their opinions.
While the official job was cultivated in the construction field, project management now extends to numerous industries spanning from information technology to government agencies.
According to PMI, the project management-oriented labor force is expected to grow by 33 percent, or nearly 22 million new jobs, in the next decade. This program allows Deer Park students to get a foot in the door on one of the fastest growing industries in the world.
“This can go in a student’s file, on their resume or on a college application that can really set them apart from another student who has not completed any of these programs,” Arthur said. “Summer jobs are going to be falling off of trees for these specially qualified students.”
How were the Project Management classes designed?
Before the first offering of Project Management 101 in August 2015, Arthur and Deer Park Superintendent Jay Phillips—who was then the Assistant Superintendent and Director of Curriculum and Instruction—began looking to increase opportunities for the students of Deer Park through the Deer Park Career Academies.
Arthur discovered several bits and pieces of instruction from the Project Management Institute that would eventually contribute to the course curriculum.
“It was wonderful stuff, but it was not lesson plans,” Arthur said. “It was guiding principles for the science teacher on how to incorporate project management into their science class. It was guiding principles for the social studies teacher on how to bake project management into their social studies project. That is wonderful stuff, but it was not a project management academy, teaching project management skills as the core. So we gathered representatives from the local PMI chapter and held a workshop to write the lesson plans that we needed.”
The classroom instruction comes from Career Academy educator Adam Gergen, a full-time faculty member of Deer Park. According to Lacey Strete, a member of the PMI Southwest Ohio Chapter and Project Management Profession, having a full-time teacher is something that makes the classes unique.
“Every other chapter in the United States is depending on professional project managers to come in and teach these classes,” Strete said. “It is not sustainable. That is not how a Career Academy can work—with volunteers. The incentive of making it someone’s profession and be able to scale the message to the audience, makes this sustainable and that no one else in the country has.”
Strete went on to add that the Project Management coursework was unique because it was built from scratch exclusively for Deer Park and with the idea of a full semester of coursework in mind.
“We were so far ahead of the curve that nobody had the content that we have,” she said. “We had to create it because what was available was not complete enough. If it was there, it was for a Saturday prep course or a one-week symposium. Nothing existed for 18 weeks, five days a week, of content and activities.”
How does it work?
The Project Management coursework is divided into three sections, PM 101, 201 and 301. The coursework is designed to become more specific as a student advances through the sections.
PM 101 is an introduction to project management, offering students foundational terminology and application. PM 201 enables students to use their acquired project management skills to perform hands-on service projects in the school or community. PM 301 is a CAPM prep class with student membership and application preparation so graduating seniors may take the CAPM as soon as they graduate. You must be a high school graduate to sit for the CAPM exam.
“By definition, a 101 class is a survey. Any student without pre-existing knowledge can take a 101-level class to get exposed to the course,” Arthur said. “A student could jump from Project Management 101 to Sports Medicine 101 to Entrepreneurship 101, semester by semester, to get a wide exposure to career opportunities. That is track A. Track B is when a student finds a real affinity for a topic, takes Project Management 101 and says, ‘I like this stuff. I want to continue on the path.’
“We then offer 201 which goes way deeper and eliminates a lot of the general topics and begins to focus. Ultimately, if they make it through 201 and are still enamored with the topic and willing to work hard, 301 offers them not just industry intense exposure and knowledge, but also the chance at an industry certification.”
The coursework also takes a hands-on approach to project management by bringing in industry professionals to discuss their experiences in the field. This is done through in-person visits, as well as remote connections.
Strete said this portion of the class is essential to developing students into employable adults, who understand how the whole thing works.
“It embraces the real-life work environment,” she said. “No matter what type of organization I’m involved with, we’re connecting in remotely. Our commutes are too long. Our teams are spread all over the country, all over the world. That is not just a reflection of the project management environment. It is getting those students ready for the real work environment.”
The Deer Park Career Academies are an effort to connect Deer Park students to the real-life work environment and to provide students with the skills that will prepare them for whatever direction they want to go after high school; whether it's college, work, or the military. Phillips said he hopes the Project Management Career Academy and the other Career Academy courses will serve as a model going forward for the rest of the state and the nation.
"It's important for our school districts to embrace a philosophy that develops our students into thinkers, problem solvers, and with the ability to apply the soft skills that all professionals are seeking from their employees," Phillips said.
“Developing a menu of Career Academy offerings is a monumental undertaking that isn't possible without a huge commitment from a lot of different people," Phillips said. "I specifically want to thank the Southwest Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute and Doug Arthur of Transform Consulting for their countless hours of work helping us to design and launch the Project Management course offerings for the students of Deer Park. We are lucky to have such great partnerships.”