The Surging World of Work

Key Points

  • World of Work is a career initiative that started in the Cajon Valley Union School District, San Diego CA. 

  • There are now districts across the United States who are using this model to prepare students in K-12 for their future directions.

By: Norton Gusky

The World of Work (WoW) is surging in the Pittsburgh K-12 area in 2023. World of Work is a career initiative that started in the Cajon Valley Union School District, San Diego CA. There are now districts across the United States who are using this model to prepare students in K-12 for their future directions. In the Pittsburgh region four districts have received a grant from the Grable Foundation to collaboratively work on this initiative: Duquesne City School, Avonworth, Elizabeth Forward, and South Fayette. In addition, the River Valley School District about 30 miles east of the city of Pittsburgh is pursuing its own model based on the Cajon Valley framework.

Philip Martell, the Superintendent of River Valley looks at the WoW movement from a Workforce Development perspective. According to Mr. Martell, Superintendent of River Valley, “The WoW framework makes a difference for learners because it cultivates career development and paths to gainful employment K-12.  WoW gives our River Valley students exposure to career options at an early age. Students have the opportunity to learn about careers, receive hands-on experiences, meet professionals, and practice skills needed for that career. The goal is for our River Valley students to have a personalized career experience. We currently use the WoW/Beable framework along with the RIASEC model which allows students to explore different careers to see what their interests are so that we can build career opportunities within their learning path K-12.

The Pittsburgh Consortium has similar goals to River Valley with a focus on the child at the center. According to Ashli Detweiler, the Coordinator of the Pittsburgh WoW network: At the forefront of the World of Work – Pittsburgh initiative is always the kids. Regardless of the zip code or the district, our mission is to provide all children with the opportunity to be able to explore their own strengths, interests, and workplace values.  Our long-term goals include students being able to self-identify at the earliest ages, and to continue to grow and reflect as they continue through life. We want all children to leave traditional school settings, and know what will fulfill their life based on who they are as individuals.”

Key to the World of Work framework is a series of activities aligned with the model called RIASEC that was developed by Dr. John Holland based on his research into vocational interests. The WoW framework helps every child develop their own self-awareness and make connections to careers based on their unique strengths, interests, and workplace values. According to the website for the Pittsburgh consortium:

World of Work provides early exposure and self-awareness to career paths starting in our youngest grade levels. This exposure is done by supporting the individualized needs of each student learner and matching their interests with career learning. The four steps of World of Work include; Exploration, Simulation, Meet a Pro, and Practice….  Real-life experiences are shared and students see the work they are interested in first-hand.  The final stage of practice provides students with enough knowledge and exposure to take what they learned to practice through play, school projects, homework, socialization, and volunteer work!

At this year’s Three Rivers Educational Technology Conference on January 16, 2023, David Miyashiro, the Superintendent for Cajon Valley, was the keynote speaker. He shared with the Pittsburgh audience his perspective. According to Dr. David Miyashiro we need to change the goalposts for learners. We no longer should be looking at test scores, but skills that students accrue that relate to future career opportunities and bring a sense of fulfillment to the learner. According to Dr. Miyashiro,

“Kids cannot aspire to careers they don’t even know exist — life sciences, civil engineering and public service. The traditional K-12 system stigmatizes skilled labor, military service, public service — anything that doesn’t align with a college degree. We’re trying to show K-12 we have to think differently about success and preparation.”

At TRETC, the WoW team shared some of their accomplishments. Here’s a summary of the past year’s accomplishments from Ashli Detweiler:

“This year we have been able to build a World of Work framework that any teacher in any district can implement into their calendar year. The four pilot districts for this initiative include Avonworth, Duquesne City, Elizabeth Forward and South Fayette.  Each district is focusing on one grade level, and there are lead teachers in each of those four grade levels. The lead teachers have been able to accomplish incorporate RIASEC into their daily lessons and build a common language and understanding among their students. There is a career grid that focuses on six different careers in each grade. Lessons and activities that the teachers have created are embedded into their curriculum to continue to build the capacity of having consistent strengths, interests, and a career focus for kids.

Also regarding accomplishments include allowing students to understand who they are in this great big world, but also the other kids around them. Once students understand that everyone is gifted and talented in something, other children then have the opportunity to showcase their own talents. This has been an accomplishment that wasn’t anticipated when we started doing this work. However, students understanding one another and accepting that everyone is different has become a beautiful outcome of the World of Work.”

Educators across the Pittsburgh region will have a great opportunity to explore the World of Work K-12 Workforce Development on Friday, March 3, 2023, at the River Valley STEAM Center campus. Ed Hidalgo, the Innovation and Engagement Advisor for the Cajon Valley School District, will outline the Cajon Valley model that personalizes pathways for every student. Joining Ed for this look at the importance of focusing on the World of Work will be Beth Carr from Beable, a software platform that provides personalized learning experiences using the RIASEC model, and Philip Martell, the Superintendent of River Valley.

The Beable software is a great resource, but not required for all students to use. According to Ashli Detweiler, Only Duquesne City is using the Beable software for the literacy component. Because our goal is to build a free framework for any district to implement, we have been utilizing Google to ensure we are being equitable with sharing. Should districts want our resources they could be embedded into a Canvas Course.”

All the roads for a better understanding of the World of Work are leading to the River Valley STEAM center campus, on Friday, March 3 at 12:00 p.m. Put the date and event on your calendar. It will be a great opportunity to understand the World of Work. For reservations contact Beth Carr ([email protected]).

The upcoming World of Work Summit takes place on March 23-25 in San Diego, CA and will showcase the inspiring work embedded in this school community and beyond. This conference will be a convening of trailblazers blurring the lines between K-12 and the World of Work, career development and paths to gainful employment.

For over forty years Norton Gusky has demonstrated in his teaching the power of technology as a tool for empowering kids, educators, and communities.

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