FOSTORIA — Community leaders are working together in an effort to turn Fostoria students into young professionals.

Fostoria City Schools hosted a luncheon this week, inviting business and community representatives to witness the unveiling of “Redmen Career Connections.”

Officials said the program, designed to help students recognize and learn about career options they may be interested in, will be implemented in the upcoming school year, and they wanted the business community’s input.

“We want to be a career-focused high school, giving students exposure and experience before going out into the workforce,” Fostoria Junior/Senior High School Principal Drew Bauman said.

“We’re focusing on what the students’ interests are and what our business and community leaders’ needs are. We pair those two things and get a more conducive experience for both.”

The idea stems from a collaboration by school and Fostoria Area Chamber of Commerce officials. They created four “schools” — the Redmen schools of Business & Manufacturing, Health & Human Services, Public Service & Administration, and Science & Technology — made up of 16 career clusters, which each include about 40-120 occupation options.

“We always think young kids know of all the employment opportunities that exist. They say, ‘I want to be an engineer,’ but there are a lot of very specific occupations in the engineering field,” Bauman said. “And even if they do know exactly what they want to do, this is a way we can share what the process is to help them get there.”

As students enter their freshman year of high school, they will take two surveys, a personality profile and a career interests questionnaire, available through OhioMeansJobs, to provide suggested occupations for students to focus on.

However, if they decide the suggestions are not for them, they will have the option to choose a different career focus.

Students will then be placed in one of the four “schools” where they will learn more about the career they’ve chosen. Rather than a curriculum or course, the students will have opportunities to explore their career choice through speakers, research, etc., during a weekly Success class.

Success is a class period where students take interest-based, quarterly courses offered by teachers such as stress management, adolescent psychology, figure drawing, sign language, life after high school, origami, building wealth and finance, book club, archery, and baking fundamentals.

At the start of their junior year, students, if they haven’t already, will start digging into the career clusters, choosing a more specific career focus so that by the time they are seniors, they have a better idea of what they want to do — or at least what they definitely do not want to do.

“We’re thinking we’ll take it semester by semester so students get a feel for the school or field they’ve chosen and if they decide, ‘That’s not for me,’ they are able to try something else,” Bauman said.

“We’d rather them change their minds now as opposed to when they’re in college, paying for a degree.”

This first year of implementation will include grades 9-12 taking the surveys. Bauman said he hopes to have a speaker from area businesses and organizations speak to students in each school about once a month.

Each student’s leadership notebook will include a career piece, identifying specific goals they need to accomplish before getting into the career field they desire.

“We don’t want any student to leave our school without having a clear vision of what that next step is,” he said. “We want them to be ready for something; we don’t want it to be unknown.”

As the years go on, officials hope the program will grow, giving students opportunities to take field trips to a business or company within their school of choice as well as opportunities for job shadowing or internships.