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Program Design, Development, and Quality

After Afterschool: Developing the Future Workforce

workforce, creative, interests

Most school-based efforts to introduce students into the workforce take the form of job fairs that promote traditional careers, but by all accounts, ten years from now the job market will look noticeably different than it does today. Some traditional jobs are likely to disappear. Others will survive, but the job descriptions and requirements will change. Some new fields, such as “green” technology, will evolve into major employment sectors. Entirely new professions will emerge, ones that we haven’t even imagined yet.

Facing challenges such as climate change and energy independence will take scientific expertise and innovative thinking.

Rapidly and ever-changing technology will require the ability to easily adapt and assimilate new processes. And, the information explosion will offer opportunities for workers who can amass, comprehend and act up on large amounts of data. In short, success in the future work force will require not only technical knowledge, but also vision and creativity.

Ironically, Newsweek magazine recently published an article titled “The Creativity Crisis,” which reported on research showing a new trend: in the past decade American children’s IQs have gone up, while their CQs (creativity quotients) have gone down. In other words, for the first time, kids in this country are getting smarter yet becoming less creative. Researchers attribute this, at least in part, to teachers being overwhelmed by having to meet curriculum standards. The resulting emphasis on accumulating facts has eclipsed any focus on creative thinking.

What does this mean for the future of America’s workforce, and as afterschool providers, what can we do?

According to the experts, the decline in creativity is not irreversible. They suggest educational models that incorporate problem-solving exercises and project-based activities – exactly the kind of thing we love in afterschool programs. That puts us in a unique position.

We have the programming expertise to respond to the creativity crisis, and in so doing, we can help develop the future workforce. In the short term, we can:

  • Use project-based learning to promote STEM skills, without duplicating the school day. As an example, at Woodcraft Rangers we offer a bike club. Students in the club build customized bikes, many of which are intricately designed to incorporate sophisticated accessories such as speakers and video equipment. To successfully complete a project, participants must understand bicycle mechanics and be creative enough solve problems related to engineering, technology and aerodynamics.
  • Introduce students to careers they wouldn’t think of as careers. Look for opportunities to put students’ creative work into practical contexts. Arts students from one Woodcraft Rangers program painted a commissioned mural on a wall inside a neighborhood restaurant. Through this project they learned how to work with a client, to manage a project, and saw that art can be a job as well as a hobby.
  • Bring in guest speakers who work in non-traditional fields and have them explain what they do.
  • Encourage individuals to think about their “Life Path.” In afterschool programs we have the luxury of having one-on-one relationships with our students. Through those relationships we can encourage them to think about their interests and their abilities and guide them to imagine how they might add to the workforce.

As a more long term goal, if we are serious about our commitment to job readiness, I would like to see us form a think tank composed of afterschool and workforce development groups. By combining afterschool providers’ programming experience with the knowledge workforce development groups have about the gaps in employees skills, we could initiate widespread, systemic change — change that results in a forward thinking definition of work readiness that will serve the future and position the children we serve for the success we want them to have.

Breakfast for me was fruit!

Author: Breakfast Club Guest

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