"The Benefits of Early Work-Based Learning" issue (January)
A newsletter (for adults) about career readiness (for kids).
Evidence shows that introducing middle school students to career exploration opportunities and experiences can be a huge factor in showing them their options, and guiding them to pursue what’s best for them. In fact, research shows that 87% of middle schoolers are interested in ways to match their skills and interests with potential careers.
At ASA, we’ve been relentless in our assertion that middle school, not high school, is the place where kids need to start thinking about and preparing for adult life in tangible ways. Work-based learning — which could take the form of an internship, job-shadowing, or a pre-apprenticeship program — is one of the best ways in which to help kids understand their own personal interests and passions and how those connect with their abilities. It also lets them test and try what they might like (as well as what they don’t), meet career professionals, and build a workplace identity.
To this end, ASA recently hosted four middle school student apprentices from Apprentice Learning, a Boston-based nonprofit focused on providing real-world experiences for middle school youth. As a current grantee of ASA’s, Apprentice Learning partners with more than 60 organizations in the Boston area to create opportunities for middle school students in Boston Public Schools. During a period of five weeks last fall, the apprentices learned from professionals across various departments, including information systems, corporate social responsibility, product management, and marketing. Included among several student projects was the opportunity to create their own website on any topic they cared about, and one student remarked, “I told my friends to visit my website. I didn’t think I would ever make one!”
On the importance of starting work-based learning earlier, my colleague Ashley Hemmy recently wrote that, “So many middle-grades students, particularly in public schools in underserved communities, have become disenfranchised and disengaged. But work-based learning experiences provide these kids a sense of purpose and belonging that tells them I’m worthy of trying this. When you begin introducing these experiences to young people in middle school, they act as a portal to what’s possible.” You can read Ashley’s full piece, “Navigating a Critical New Frontier in K12 Career Readiness: Middle School Work-based Learning,” which recaps a recent ASA/Association of Middle Level Education webinar featuring experts from Apprentice Learning, Big Picture Learning, and the Elma Lewis Center at Emerson College.
This year, let’s embrace a new norm: work-based learning isn’t just an optional “extra” in the school experience. It must become such a deeply ingrained part of the middle and high school school landscape that every kid in every community gets to benefit from that portal to what’s possible.
CarolinaPower Introduces Next Generation to Construction through Middle School Job-Shadowing Program
The Story: Sixth grade students participating in the job shadowing program at a middle school in South Carolina were able to experience a day in the life of a professional in a workplace of their choosing. This local news story documents the profound impact this experience had on 12-year-old Trinton, who knew immediately that he wanted to experience being an electrician. Trinton spent the day learning about the CarolinaPower business, interacted with select employees, and got hands-on experience in the field. When asked about his day, Trinton explained, “I had the best time here…the best time I’ve ever had, really…”
The Bottom Line: Trinton is just one student who spent one day in a work-based learning experience. But even that single day will likely play an instrumental role in where he decides to focus his efforts and energy in the future. The power of work-based learning is undeniable. If not for helping kids know what jobs they do and don’t want to pursue, then at the very least for its ability to give kids from all walks of life a confidence boost and the optimism to know that they can accomplish anything they set out to achieve.
North Star Goal: Every Learner on a Personalized Pathway
The Story: Getting Smart writes about the New Pathways campaign (sponsored by ASA, among others). They describe the vision of a cross-state coalition that’s determined to change the system and get all kids on personalized pathways from education to the workforce. In Massachusetts, for example, the “North Star” goal is to have “every public high school offer multiple structured pathway options that are aligned with valuable postsecondary degrees, high-growth industries, or in-demand occupations.”
The Bottom Line: This initiative shows that the time for talk is over; now is the time for nationwide action in schools and communities. The commitment to making these changes by 2030 is a bold one, so timing is of the essence. 2023 will be a key year in which change-makers and leaders embrace the power of pathways, and commit to changes at the federal, state, and local levels. I’m especially excited to watch this work come to fruition.
Is High School Class Rank Still Important? (A survey from U.S. News & World Report)
YouScience National Survey Reveals Gender Disparities in Students’ College and Career Readiness (Research from YouScience)
Community Centered Education in Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Iowa’s BIG Transformation (A research report from The Brookings Institution)
Career-Focused Mentoring in Schools: The Impact of Relationships on Students (Research from NAF)
Here’s What the Research Says about Screen Time and School-Aged Kids (An analysis of research in EdTech Magazine)
Panic Buttons, Classroom Locks: How Schools Have Boosted Security (The New York Times reports on federal data from the National Center for Education Statistics)
Arts Education Program Increases School Engagement, Study Finds (An analysis of research in The 74)
Avelo, Town, Boy Scouts, Partner on Middle School Aviation Program (Patch.com, December 12, 2022)
A Dozen Years of Decline (Inside Higher Ed, January 4, 2023)
Is It Time We Add Career-Focused Pennants To The Walls of High Schools? (Forbes, December 14, 2022)
Could the U.S. Soon See a Federal Minimum Salary for Teachers? (EdSurge, December 13, 2022)
Santa Fe Public Schools Student Internships Expanding Quickly (Santa Fe New Mexican, December 12, 2022)
CareerWise Colorado Builds Successful Apprenticeship Program (SME.org, December 13, 2022)
Ransomware Hit U.S. Schools at Steady Rate in 2022 (K-12 Dive, January 4, 2023)
Notes from the Backpack: Your Child’s Career Exploration Starts Now (A podcast from The Center for Family Engagement, December 7, 2022)
5 Tactics to Help Students Embrace Networking and Relationship-Building (K-12 Dive, January 6, 2023)
Below you’ll find recaps of recent thought leadership events and panels featuring experts from across the education and career readiness ecosystem. The events below cover such topics as Gen Z career learning, professional development for educators, and non-degree pathways.
SXSW EDU, 2023 - American Student Assistance® (ASA) is a proud Premier Sponsor of the SXSW EDU Conference & Festival 2023, an international conference that empowers the diverse community stakeholders to advance teaching and learning. The conference, taking place in Austin, Texas, on March 6-9 and online, features a diverse array of speakers, thought leadership presentations, workshops, mentorship, an expo, learning experiences, performances, and film screenings programmed to foster learning and discovery. ASA’s presence at the event provides a unique opportunity to connect with engaged educational stakeholders and business leaders to advance our mission to change the way middle and high schoolers learn about careers and navigate paths to postsecondary education and career success.
ASA thought leaders, partners, and experts from across the education and career readiness ecosystem will share insights and proven models for student success during panel discussions on the topics of work-based learning, career readiness skills, youth activism, and education-to-career pathways.
Stay tuned to www.asa.org/events for details on our panel presentations at the conference.
How We Can Empower Gen Z to Find and Follow Their Passions through Youth-Centered Mentorship - Find the webinar recap and takeaways here
High School Work-Based Learning: An Essential Tool for Career Readiness and Workforce Development - Find the event recap and takeaways here
How We Can Scale Gen Z’s Entrepreneurial Spirit into Fruitful Careers - Find the link to the session recording here
Virtual Panels Identify Best Practices & Considerations for Career Readiness Learning - Find the link to the session recording here
The Critical Need for Career Exploration Beyond the Classroom - See the session recap here
The State We’re In: Career Readiness in America - Watch the presentation here
Unbundled Learning and How to Rebundle Pathways - Watch the presentation here
”Amplifying High-Quality, Non-Degree Pathways” - Watch the presentation here
“Gen Z Career Learning is About Agency, Voice and Choice” - Watch the presentation here
“Educator PD: Key to Increasing Student Achievement” - Watch the presentation here