Carole Dorn-Bell, Allerton Hill Communications
More than 135,000 students participated in career technical courses in 2022 while public universities saw an 8% attendance drop last year compared with 2017. Why? Because the pandemic caused many students to reevaluate their postsecondary options. Combine this with Ohio’s booming economy — the state landed Intel, a major Honda expansion, and Abbott in the last year (to name just a few) and it’s no wonder Ohio’s young people are flocking to skilled trades.
Your challenge? Making sure you are not the best-kept secret around while knowing that your current marketing needs to retool because competition for Ohio students is heating up, especially with HB1 at play. So how do you grow your enrollment and community impact?
It’s time to get investing – more than you ever have – in these three things:
Network, network, network. According to compensation software company Payscale, upward of 70% of people hold their current job because of networking. So what better way for people to learn about your school and the programs you offer than by getting in front of them — and often! Whether it’s offering tours and a behind-the-scenes look at what you do to local business and industry leaders, or making sure your administrative team is reflective of the staff at the high schools you serve as Eastland-Fairfield Career Center has done, it’s all about cultivating authentic and meaningful relationships.
Develop a library of testimonials. Building on the last tip, according to the Learning Experience Alliance, word-of-mouth marketing drives a whopping $6 trillion of annual consumer spending and is estimated to account for 13% of consumer sales. Word-of-mouth marketing can be king for your school as well. Your current and former students (and business partners) are your greatest influencers. EHOVE Career Center found participation in testimonials is highest when someone they know and trust, such as a teacher or program advisor, requests their help. These testimonials, whether in story form (like this example from Eastland-Fairfield Career Center) or a simple quote (like those used throughout Polaris Career Center’s catalog), can be used on your website, social media channels, as well as in printed materials. Graphics, images or video are known to improve performance no matter the channel, so be sure to include a photo whenever possible!
Handle your social media like a pro. Social media is all about this: what’s in it for me (WIIFM)? Referring back to #2 and the premise that your students are your greatest influencers, Penta Career Center has grown its Instagram following recently by allowing students to do a takeover, giving prospective students an inside look at its programs. Another best practice for growing your social media following is using program and industry-specific hashtags, which can broaden your reach and engagement.
At the end of the day, marketing your career-technical school is all about building community and changing with the times. Right now, that starts with being everywhere you can be at all times.
If you’re interested in completing a communication audit to see how your current strategies stack up, or you’d like help implementing some of the tools we’ve shared above, contact Allerton Hill Communications or get scheduled right now to see about your own success.