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Preparing New York City’s Young People for Careers

Saskia Traill

Saskia Traill is Senior Vice President at ExpandED Schools.

New York City is at a unique moment to advance career readiness for young people, and the NYC STEM Education Network can be a leader in the City’s collective efforts. The Network’s Work-Based Learning Group is uniting corporate partners that offer internship experiences with STEM-rich community organizations such as Mentoring in Medicine that prep young people for their first jobs. The group is tackling work-based learning in STEM because: 

Most future careers require STEM skills. The jobs of the future will be those that cannot be automated, and will increasingly rely on human interaction and higher-order thinking skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration and communication (See this comprehensive OCED report for details). These higher-order skills are integrated into science and engineering practices, and in this way, quality STEM activities that build science and engineering practices are important for all young people as they go into a broad range of careers, even those that may not seem to have an explicit STEM focus. 

College and career are mutually supportive. Young people in grades K-12 benefit from exploring careers with opportunities to practice their professional skills while they’re in high school and college. Having a defined career goal before deciding on a major area of study boosts the likelihood of college graduation. Building widespread understanding that work-based learning opportunities support college success can help to unite more people to build our City’s systems for career readiness. 

Work-based learning helps integrate social, emotional and academic skills. The National Coalition on Social, Emotional and Academic Development describes the importance of developing social and emotional skills and competencies, which are essential for young people to “thrive in school, career, and life.” Formal and out-of-school STEM projects, with hands-on, collaborative learning activities deeply grounded in youth development, can prepare young people socially, emotionally and academically.

It is time to build broader networks with schools, community organizations, employers, and higher education. Each of these sectors is deeply invested in career readiness, but the City will only achieve the quality, depth and breadth needed by these sectors working together. 

We can look to other cities, states and countries for ideas and inspiration. On a tour of Germany's apprenticeship system, made possible in part by Deutsche Bank and hosted by the Goethe Institut, a U.S. study group visited companies such as Siemens and Bosch to see investments made by public-private partnerships in young people's successful transition from school to career.  At Siemens, teens were being trained directly by staff of the company in real-life "scrum" experiences that prepare them for full-time careers at Siemens. Many go to college before returning to the sector, while some get jobs for which they know they are well-prepared. Similarly, Here to Here has brought the CareerWise model from Switzerland, by way of Colorado, to New York City. The model offers a three-year applied-learning environment for students, focused in growing local industries, such as IT, financial services, and business operations and offers employers work-ready local talent. 

The Network’s working group has built a best practices library to share a common base of understanding for the diverse Network members in the working group and beyond.  In the coming year, they plan to compile a case study and a directory of Network members offering work-based learning experiences. The City needs these kinds of resources on a larger scale so more people can jump into the conversation, build their cross-sector knowledge, and identify work-based learning opportunities appropriate for them.

The NYC STEM Education Network brings together youth organizations, city agencies, corporations, and cultural institutions, and will work together to build common understanding and joint next steps in providing work-based learning for New York City’s young people. For more information, please click here.

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