Tag Archives: workforce

Preparing For the Future Together

One week last May, more than 30,000 people gathered throughout Pittsburgh to celebrate learning. Participants in the first annual Remake Learning Days could choose from hundreds of events hosted by our diverse Network members—who also marked the occasion by committing more than $25 million to learning innovation.

Apparently word got out.

Remake Learning Days got a shout-out in January in a World Economic Forum white paper on the future of education and work. The paper highlights the event as a model of an educational system that loops in families and other community members.

“An effective multistakeholder approach to education ecosystem governance should look beyond government, education providers and businesses, to include teachers, parents and students,” the paper says.

That “all aboard” approach to learning is the only way to develop an education system that allows all kids to meet their own potential and the demands of a changing workforce, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). Networks like Remake Learning can overcome obstacles like parental skepticism or misalignment between the school system and the workforce by bringing everyone into the conversation and fostering unlikely partnerships.

“What are the key features of a future-ready education ecosystem?”

This “multistakeholder consultation and leadership” is just one of the items on the agenda laid out by WEF in the white paper, “Realizing Human Potential in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Twice a year, WEF convenes members of the business, public, and academic sectors to develop a global agenda for the future of education, gender, and work. In fall 2016, the group focused in part on answering the question, “What are the key features of a future-ready education ecosystem?”

Around the world, education systems and educator training models have “remained largely static and under-invested in for decades,” says the paper. The same is not true for the economic landscape. Most kids starting school today are likely to end up with jobs that don’t even exist yet, and might not get adequate preparation even for those that do, notes WEF.

Despite the tremendous diversity that exists among education systems, the forum aims to establish a general shared agenda for curricula, programming, and pedagogy. All curricula should focus on linguistic, mathematical, and technological literacy, WEF says, to better prepare students for the workforce. So too should educators promote interdisciplinary learning, “global citizenship” values like empathy, and the kind of noncognitive skills like collaboration and project management that will help students in future employment.

Many kids starting school today will end up with jobs that don’t yet exist.

The most effective pedagogies are those that do not focus heavily on content, but also teach students “how to learn,” the paper notes. Hands-on lessons with reflection exercises built in allow students to engage in self-directed learning through adulthood, and to better weather whatever changes and obstacles they encounter.

WEF also encourages more access to—and less stigma around—technical vocational training, which can prepare those who are not necessarily college-bound for success in growing fields. All students’ experiences with education should include direct exposure to the workplace, whether through technical training, internships, or site visits, says the paper.

The next time WEF members gather, they could have an even clearer sense of the kinds of employment training students might benefit from. Those in education and business will continue to keep tabs on exactly which fields are growing and what technology is expanding. In 10 years, the activities at Remake Learning Days could look a lot different from this year’s, which include documenting biodiversity using a smartphone app and coding a robot with LEGO software.

“Skills such as coding may themselves soon become redundant due to advances in machine learning,” says the WEF paper.

But that’s precisely why networks and other education ecosystems are so critical to preparing children for the future. Networks like Remake’s help build the important foundations and skills that can survive economic and technological change by keeping everyone in the conversation and continually adapting.

Pittsburgh’s Pipeline Problem and How the City is Solving it

Over one week this last summer kids in Pittsburgh’s Carrick neighborhood turned into urban agriculture experts, building a greenhouse from water bottles. In another neighborhood rec center, kids tested a virtual reality tool from Carnegie Mellon University. At still another, they dissected a pig heart and printed 3D models of the organ.

The kids in these Rec2Tech programs aren’t only having fun. They’re building valuable skills, by design. The Pittsburgh region is set to add thousands of new jobs in the next decade, and it has to be ready.

LaTrenda Leonard Sherrill, deputy chief of education at Pittsburgh’s Office of the Mayor, is one of many who saw a great opportunity.

“Why not turn our [rec] centers into these places where people can come and really gain access to 21st century skills?” she told Remake Learning last summer.

Critical thinking, teamwork, basic engineering concepts—they’re all in high demand, says Linda Topoleski, vice president of Workforce Programs and Operations at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, which just completed a major survey of local employer needs.

“We need to make sure our skill sets are aligned with workforce demand.”

Yet while Rec2Tech is working hard to create future innovators, storm clouds are gathering. On the eve of hosting the National League of Cities’ annual City Summit Nov. 16-19, which brings leaders from across the country to hear about Pittsburgh’s transformation from steel capital to technology and medical hub—the city and region stand at a crossroads.

While Pittsburgh is receiving well-deserved accolades for its economic rebirth, the city isn’t out of the woods.

The pipeline of children graduating with the right sets of skills isn’t enough to meet future demand, finds “Inflection Point,” a new workforce study by the Allegheny Conference. Even if every child remained in the city after graduation—a big if—the region would still lack enough skilled workers to fill the demand. In short, too few kids are thinking about jobs in fields that the city is building—fields like high-tech manufacturing, radiologic technology, and other middle-tier jobs.

Pittsburgh is looking down the barrel of 340,000 retirements in the next decade, but only 260,000 high school seniors are entering the workforce, says Topoleski. Manufacturers in the region will lose one-fourth of their workforce in the next 10 years. That means that “we need to make sure our skill sets are aligned with workforce demand,” says Topoleski.

The Dream Factory at Elizabeth Forward Middle School. Photo/Ben Filio

The Dream Factory at Elizabeth Forward Middle School. Photo/Ben Filio

Everyone Has a Role to Play

Remake Learning is doing its part to prepare the next generation for the future, with its network of in- and out-of-school programs that help develop the STEM, collaboration, and creative thinking skills needed in the jobs of tomorrow. Further, says Topoleski, Remake Learning has “ignited a level of interest and excitement about looking at education in new ways,” and is helping kids develop the concepts and activities that are important building blocks to later success. “When you’re exposed to 3D printing at summer camp in 8th grade, that’s a key skill later,” she says.

The most forward-thinking schools in the region are rethinking learning, placing hands-on experiences alongside the traditional models. Students at the Elizabeth Forward schools in Elizabeth, Pa. have access to 3D printers in the Dream Factory, a state-of-the-art maker lab, and Chevron-funded FabLabs at the Carnegie Science Center and the Intermediate Unit 1 let kids and their families build creations with high-tech machinery.

Employers are getting directly involved with their pipeline of workers: schools.

The region is also working to expand opportunities for marginalized youth. Programs like TechHire Pittsburgh, a Three Rivers Workforce Development Board effort, create opportunities for disadvantaged young people to receive short-term technical training for jobs like computer user support specialists, for example (also called quality assurance positions) who test software. These programs can function as quick onramps to better paying jobs that do not require a four-year degree. With a typical salary of $44,000 and an 11 percent growth rate, according to Inflection Point, these support specialists jobs offer a ladder to the middle class.

Employers are getting involved more directly with their pipeline of workers: the schools.

Catalyst Connection, an economic development organization focused on small manufacturers, for example, connects employers with students directly. The organization runs ten-week programs that have students solving real-world problems for the business. Students visit the company, learn about an issue or problem that has arisen, and then go back to the classroom to come up with a solution.

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Exploring virtual reality at Rec2Tech. Photo/Ben Filio

Intervala, a company that assembles component parts for different precision products, was looking at a $20,000 investment in new machinery to assemble a device for Stork, a home conception device. High school students in the Burrell school district were tasked with improving one aspect of the assembly process. They found a $1,000 solution by adding a simple gadget to the assembly process, saving the company its $20,000 investment, says Scott Dietz, manager of Workforce Education Initiatives at Catalyst Connection. Dietz is the liaison between education and industry for the organization. The program has been running at Burrell for six years, and science teachers have taken the lead in helping students work through the process, applying the scientific process to the company’s problems. “That’s critical thinking 101,” says Dietz.

Manufacturers in the Pittsburgh region will lose 1/4 of their workforce in the next 10 years.

In addition to building skills, “kids get out of the four walls of their classroom and see what industry looks like. And teachers can see how things work, and carry it back to classroom,” Dietz says. Catalyst Connection, with support from ALCOA and Chevron, offers a two-day training session for teachers to learn about the program and about problem-solving principles and methods in industry. Many teachers are applying those principles in their project-based learning in the classroom, says Dietz. They have trained 60 teachers so far this year, with 150 more scheduled between now and June.

“For us, it’s about influencing the influencers,” says Dietz. “Guidance counselors have too much on their plate. But teachers are go-to people to encourage kids on career pathways, or encouraging the skills in math and science that are needed.”

It’s not just middle and high schools that are developing these skill sets. Community colleges and others are also working to better align courses with employer needs or emerging job clusters. “Westmoreland Community College has a whole new facility around advanced manufacturing,” says Petra Mitchell, executive director of Catalyst Connection.

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But Jobs, Education—and Expectations—Must Be Better Aligned

Though many are doing their part to ensure that kids have secure futures, one thing is missing. Parents, youth, and educators need to shift their thinking about what constitutes a high-growth, important, worthwhile occupation, says Topoleski.

A first step is to better align education and training with the jobs in high demand. Currently, these systems are far from aligned. “We have a machinist track in high schools with only 350 students, but 700 open jobs,” says Topoleski. Machinist jobs are projected to grow by 11 percent over the next decade.

What constitutes a worthwhile occupation in today’s economy?

Part of the misalignment starts at home, with parents, says Topoleski, who typically want their children to get a four-year college degree. Yet two-thirds of the new jobs in the region will not require a BA, the workforce report finds. National figures back that up. Projects by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce find that while a majority of jobs by 2020 will require education beyond high school, half of those jobs require less than a BA.

“The reality is that the economy of the future will require highly skilled talent but not necessarily skills from a four-year program. Not to denigrate BAs, but we need both,” says Topoleski.

But many parents in Pittsburgh lived through the turmoil of downsizing in the manufacturing sector with mass layoffs. Parents don’t want their child to live with that volatility, says Mitchell of Catalyst Connection. But, she notes, most of today’s layoffs occur in the biggest employers, not the small manufacturers that make up the Pittsburgh region. Small manufacturers, she says, are not as prone to layoffs as the big companies who are beholden to their shareholders, so volatility is less of an issue.

“There’s an emotional piece of this,” says Topoleski. “[Parents] have to let go of where things were and realize the future is going to look different. If they want their kids on a promising, relevant path, they have to take a look at workforce demand and what it will take to get there.”

If Pittsburgh is to continue to innovate, it must prepare its children for the future. That means tapping their potential early, imbuing them with the technological and critical thinking skills they will need, and providing clear pathways into viable jobs that can accelerate Pittsburgh on its goals of inclusive innovation.

 

Generation Y Taking Charge

Huffington Post, with the help of some infographics from UNC, recently identified the key traits of millennials that may prove to be of value to an employer. With a population of 80 million, millennials are strong in number and even stronger in the workforce.

  • Millennials, otherwise known as Generation Y, were born between 1976 and 2001. The oldest Millennial is 36 years old, and most likely, extremely successful, as most millennials tend to possess the traits and characteristics that make leaders in the marketplace. In fact, by 2020, it is estimated that nearly half, 46% of workers will be millennials, dominating the workforce.

    Millennials 2/Huffington Post

    Huffington Post

  • As the most diverse generation that has yet to come, they are situated in the mind state of the other. They value the ability to create and maintain friendships in their place of employment and seek to have others’ respect within their work field.
  • They are also forward-thinkers. When considering a new career, millennials pay attention to the opportunity for career progression and personal development as a professional. More than half of all millennials, consider these aspects of a career to be of most importance.

    Millennials 1/Huffington Post

    Huffington Post

  • They’re no goons, either. Millennials have been affected, directly and indirectly, by the shift in the economy and 92% of surveyed people felt that entrepreneurship education was extremely important in the new economy!

    Millenials 3/Huffington Post

    Huffington Post

Millennials are all throughout the current education system, the youngest millennial being 11 years old, and in the sixth or seventh grade. Given the statistical potential of millennial traits, it is no wonder that testing scores are rising and college enrollment skyrocketing compared to previous generations. By paying attention to the millennials of today, and giving them the best education opportunities available, we can attain the most beneficial leaders for the future.

Check out Huffington Post’s article to see the awesome infographic UNC developed.