Work Ethic Certificate Program - Real World Learning
Cincinnati, OH
Princeton City Schools
Support & Sustainability

Work Ethic Certificate Program

The goal of this program is to:

1) Provide students with connections to “real-world” career exploration

2) Identify the elements of sound work ethic

3) Demonstrate to students how skills are represented through high school Princeton City Schools requirements

Connections to Real World Learning Roadmap

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Real World Learning in Princeton City Schools is all about applicable experiences and career pathways. By providing experiential work opportunities we look to empower our students for college, career, and life success. Through course offerings and project-based learning, we prepare students with life-relevant skills through partner-supported learning experiences such as internships, pre-apprenticeships, mentorships, lunch and learn workshops, and other career-related exposures to get them excited about the world of work.

Implementation: How We Did It

The first thing we sought to do was to secure local business partnerships. Rather than ask what the company could do for us, we asked them what they needed. We identified that many of our local partners were looking to expand their workforce development, and the Princeton School District is ripe with talent. After securing a grant to fund the event, we were ready to roll.The most integral part of our program is the ability to provide students with Real World learning experiences through internships, co-ops, and part-time jobs.

The facilitation of our program is a full team effort. When it comes to identifying students initially, our career counselor is the main point of contact. After students are selected, teachers are notified and asked to speak about the readiness of each student. Teachers can also refer students to the career counselor. The students are matched with a business partner based on their preferences, and we tailor their schedule to ensure all academic requirements are still being met. Business partners who collaborate in the program are asked to guarantee an interview for qualifying open jobs in their company for eligible Princeton High School students who graduate with the certification on their diploma.

The quarterly Business Community Partnership Breakfast is key to the success of our program. During the breakfast, we host our speaker series with topics that range from the importance of community service to financial literacy. This event brings together our community partners, school staff, and students. This breakfast has provides students with access to job offers, additional networking opportunities, and has played a major role in strengthening relationships in our community.

Related Resources

Community Partners

Community Partners

By asking what our schools could do for business partners, companies such as Gold Medal, Jurgensen Transportation, and Kroger came to us looking to fill their workforce development needs. Jurgensen Transportation made five internships available to our students. Kroger has developed a system that allows our students to work within different departments and gain insight into multiple disciplines. Both students and business partners are required to use our online portal; they create profiles where they are able to rate and review their experiences. By providing eager, hard-working students and alleviating workforce development needs, our relationships with business partners remain at an all-time high.


Business partners offer experience in sales, manufacturing, engineering, accounting, IT, and more. One unique partnership is our agreement with the University of Cincinnati. This partnership permits Princeton High School students to enroll in the UC-CECH Bachelor of Science Information Technology classes while in high school. Students that complete the classes with a 2.0 GPA or higher will automatically be admitted into the IT program at the University of Cincinnati with advanced standing. We offer three business classes (Introduction to Business; Principles of Marketing; and Principles of Finance), nine STEM classes at the middle school (6-8) and a 4-year STEM program at the high school. The diversity of our pathway selection allows students to utilize many skills learned throughout high school. Lastly, curriculum integration is aligned with the Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) program. DECA prepares students for leadership in marketing, finance, hospitality, and business management. Students learn how to be academically prepared for the workforce, community-oriented, and professionally responsible.


Throughout the school year, students are excited about opportunities to gain real world experience. Qualified juniors and seniors can currently connect to more than 250 business partners. The true indicator of success for our program is the number of jobs, scholarships, and other career pathways offered to our students. In addition, at least 35 students participate in the speaker series that is held six times per year. Students self-select to participate, and staff select others to participate as well. The speaker topics are: 1) Community Service/ Volunteering; 2) Attendance, Self Discipline, Punctuality and Respectfulness; 3) Dressing for Success; 4) Interview Skills; 5) Financial Literacy; and 6) Customer Service. Students are vocal and engaged, and ask pertinent questions to the speakers. To date, 13 seniors have internships with business partners, and one senior will complete a pre-apprenticeship program with another business partner. With approval by the Department of Education and the Ohio State Apprenticeship Council, we expect more businesses will join us in supporting students with pre-apprenticeship programs.

Professional Learning

Support Structures

We were fortunate enough to receive initial funding from a community donor that allowed us to hire a community/career liaison to support this program. Grant acquisitions have been crucial in the growth of our program. The growth of our business partnerships have allowed us to seek funding from additional businesses, growing from our initial 38 business partners just two years ago to more than 250 business partners today. We host a quarterly business partnership breakfast to highlight student programs and discuss opportunities for internships, job shadowing, and pre-apprenticeship programs. Students are able to network with business partners and discuss their career aspirations. These successful relationships with business partners are promoted on the district’s website and in the Viking Report that is shared with residents and business partners. Communication among staff and faculty ensures that our students are qualified, willing, and able to take on these opportunities.

The Future of this Work

The Work Ethic Certificate Program will be aligned to the Ohio State Pre-Apprenticeship program, as well as other credentialing programs that the district is pursuing. The district has received approval from the Ohio Department of Education and the Ohio State Apprenticeship Council to offer internships, pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeship programs. The Ohio State Pre-Apprenticeship program will allow selected juniors and/or seniors to work in approved pre-apprenticeship programs to learn job-readiness skills for a designated apprentice occupation or for job placement in an internship, and determine career pathways. The district is also writing grants to support students with innovative real-world learning experiences. Several grants will support credentialing and pre-apprenticeships to teach students basic technical and job-readiness skills for specific industry occupations and work environments (NIMS grant and Ohio Department of Education Innovative Workforce Credentialing Grant). These grants will fund staffing, software programs, laptop computers, curriculum-driven professional learning for staff, PBL training, field trip experiences, and job shadowing opportunities. Lastly, the district is working with the Kroger Company to launch a national pilot program for high school students who are interested in manufacturing/logistics, digital/technology, retail, and marketing.

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