How Do We Get Students Ready For the Jobs of the Future?

Getting students ready for the workforce and college is about teaching specific skills and nurturing a can-do mindset.

This story is the second in a six part editorial series exploring the balance between student learning and job skills. We’re asking leaders and thinkers in education and technology fields: Can America educate its way out of the skills gap? This series is brought to you by GOOD, with support from Apollo Group. Learn more about our efforts to bridge the skills gap at Coding for GOOD.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

How do we get students prepared for the jobs of the future? At Los Angeles' Foshay Tech Academy—a 150-student school-within-a-school at Foshay Learning Center and where more than 87 percent of students qualify for free lunch—I'm teaching high school students the skills and mindsets they need to be ready for the workforce and college.

As lead technology teacher, that means I ensure my students learn theories about computer science by making the content relevant to student knowledge. I regularly change and adapt my lessons to reflect the current landscape in technology. Far from dry lectures, my instruction is based on problem solving and making inquiries, which generates the curiosity needed to engage students in computing.

My students know how to do everything from programming a vocabulary game for their foreign language class and animating a chemical reaction for their chemistry class to coding and designing a website about a discovery in genetics. But in the field of technology—and in life—they must learn to discover how to do things on their own. My lessons must motivate them to make a plan, carry it out and then review, reflect, and redesign to improve until it is successful.

I believe my students are capable of achieving anything, but success requires more than just learning marketable skills. They need work ethic, perseverance and gumption, too. Two years ago I started having my students from tenth grade onward create digital portfolios that contain their resume, student work, and letters of recommendation. I require them to update this portfolio every semester.

We started the portfolios using Google Sites, but then I got smart. Last year I asked the sophomores to find free web sites to build their portfolios. Then they worked in pairs to make a sample portfolio for a teacher. Finally, they presented the different sites and then chose the one they liked best. The portfolios are now more professional and the students also have more pride and ownership over them since the work came from them versus a direct order from me.

My students also need to learn to navigate the working world in order to seek and create opportunities for themselves. To facilitate that, I've connected them with a wide range of science, tech, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) professionals who give them real world feedback about the quality of their work. The portfolios are critiqued by mentors, used in mock interviews, and are the starting point for the students to create job shadow and informational interviews.

The juniors send their resumes and cover letters to human resource people and writers in order to get feedback about how they can improve. My seniors present their final ad campaign projects to actual advertising executives in their company’s conference room and defend their digital portfolios in a group of peers and ad agency mentors. Their final grade is based on the scores from the audience. The students as a whole then vote for their peers to determine who has the best projects and the winners are celebrated on our website and at our end of year "Techies Got Talent" event.

A handful of students got in touch with me the summer after I first taught them how to create the portfolios to tell me that when it came to finding summer jobs and internships, they're far ahead of the pack due to the portfolios. As a result, I spread the word to the other academies on campus and now my students are teaching everyone else how to create them.

I recently asked them what they have learned from me and aside from answers like web design, Photoshop, and Flash animation, a surprising amount of students said something to the effect of, "You have taught me that I can do anything, I just need to put the work in and promote myself to others." Ultimately that mindset—combined with their skills—is what will enable them to thrive in the 21st century economy.

Bulb on a computer chip photo via Shutterstock

via David Leavitt / Twitter

Anyone who has ever worked in retail knows that the worst thing about the job, right after the pay, are the unreasonable cheapskates who "want to talk to your manager" to get some money off an item.

They think that throwing a tantrum will save them a few bucks and don't care if they completely embarrass themselves in the process. Sometimes that involves belittling the poor employee who's just trying to get through their day with an ounce of dignity.

Twitter is rallying around a gal named Tori who works at a Target in Massachusetts after she was tweet-shamed by irate chapekate, journalist, and Twitter troll, David Leavitt.

Keep Reading

Childbirth is the number one reason American women visit the hospital, and it ain't cheap. In fact, it's getting more and more expensive. A new study published in Health Affairs found that the cost of having a baby with employer-sponsored health insurance increased by almost 50% in the past seven years.

The study evaluated "trends in cost-sharing for maternity care for women with employer-based health insurance plans, before and after the Affordable Care Act," which was signed into law in 2010. The study looked at over 657,061 women enrolled in large employer-sponsored health insurance plans who delivered babies between 2008 and 2015, as these plans tend to cover more than plans purchased by small businesses or individuals.

Keep Reading

A meteorite crashed into Earth nearly 800,000 years ago. The meteor was 1.2 miles wide, and the impact was so big, it covered 10% of the planet with debris. However, scientists haven't been able to find the impact site for over a century. That is, until now. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal believes the crash site has been located.

Tektites, which are essentially rocks that have been liquefied from the heat of the impact and then cooled to form glass, help scientists spot the original impact site of a meteor. Upon impact, melted material is thrown into the atmosphere, then falls back to the ground. Even if the original crater has disappeared due to erosion or is hidden by a shift in tectonic plates, tektites give the spot away. Tektites between 750,000 to 35.5 million years old have been found in every continent except Antarctica.

Keep Reading