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

Creative Commons

National Tell a Joke Day dates back to 1944 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was having a meeting with Vice-President, Henry Wallace. The two men were tired and depressed due to the stress caused by leading a country through world war.

During a lull in the meeting, Wallace said, "Frank, to cheer you up I have a joke I'd like to share."

"Let's have it, Henry," Roosevelt replied while ashing his cigarette.

"Why did the chicken cross the road?" Wallace asked. "Not sure," Roosevelt replied.

"To get to the other side," Wallace responded.

Roosevelt laughed so hard that the bourbon he was drinking sprayed out of his nose and onto the floor of the oval office.

RELATED: A comedian shuts down a sexist heckler who, ironically, brought his daughters to the show

The joke was so funny, and did such a great job at lightening both their moods, Roosevelt proclaimed that every year, August 16 would be National Tell a Joke Day.

Just kidding.

Nobody knows why National Tell a Joke Day started, but in a world where the President of the United States is trying to buy Greenland, "Beverly Hills, 90210" is back on TV, and the economy is about to go off a cliff, we could all use a bit of levity.

To celebrate National Tell a Joke Day, the people on Twitter responded with hundreds of the corniest dad jokes ever told. Here are some of the best.


The Judean date palm was once common in ancient Judea. The tree itself was a source of shelter, its fruit was ubiquitous in food, and its likeness was even engraved on money. But the plant became extinct around 500 A.D., and the prevalent palm was no more. But the plant is getting a second chance at life in the new millennium after researchers were able to resurrect ancient seeds.

Two thousand-year-old seeds were discovered inside a pottery jar during an archaeological excavation of Masada, a historic mountain fortress in southern Israel. It is believed the seeds were produced between 155 B.C. and 64 A.D. Those seeds sat inside a researcher's drawer in Tel Aviv for years, not doing anything.

Elaine Solowey, the Director of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies at Kibbutz Ketura in Israel, wondered if she could revive the Judean Date Palm, so in 2005, she began to experiment. "I assumed the food in the seed would be no good after all that time. How could it be?" Solewey said.

Keep Reading Show less

There's been an uptick in fake emotional support animals (ESAs), which has led some airlines to crack down on which animals can and can't fly. Remember that emotional support peacock?

But some restrictions on ESAs don't fly with the Department of Transportation (DOT), leading them to crack down on the crack down.

Delta says that there has been an 84 percent increase in animal incidents since 2016, thanks in part to the increase of ESAs on airplanes. Last year, Delta airlines banned pit bulls and pit bull-related dog breeds after two airline staff were bitten by the breed while boarding a flight from Atlanta to Tokyo.

"We must err on the side of safety. Most recently, two Delta employees were bit by a pit bull traveling as a support animal last week. We struggled with the decision to expand the ban to service animals, knowing that some customers have legitimate needs, but we have determined that untrained, pit bull-type dogs posing as both service and support animals are a potential safety risk," Delta told People regarding the new rule.

Keep Reading Show less
via Liam Beach / Facebook

Trying to get one dog to sit still and make eye contact with a camera for more than half a second is a low-key miracle. Lining up 16 dogs, on steps, and having them all stare at the camera simultaneously is the work of a God-like dog whisperer.

This miracle worker is Liam Beach, a 19-year-old animal management graduate from Cardiff, Wales. A friend of his dared him to attempt the shot and he accepted the challenge.

"My friend Catherine challenged me to try to get all of my lot sat on the stairs for a photo. She said, 'I bet you can't pull it off,' so I thought 'challenge accepted,'" he said, accoriding to Paws Planet.

Keep Reading Show less
via Rails-to-Trails Conservancy

Americans on both sides of the political aisle can agree on one thing: our infrastructure needs a huge upgrade. While politicians drag their feet on high-speed rail projects, fixing bridges, and building new airports, one amazing project is picking up steam.

The Great American Rail-Trail, a bike path that will connect Washington state to Washington, D.C., is over 50% complete.

The trail is being planned by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit that is working with local governments to make the dream a reality.

Keep Reading Show less