Future Ready Career Centers are on display this week across Pennsylvania
Each day, educators and mentors at Pennsylvania’s Future Ready Career Centers focus on a vital goal: Through in-school and afterschool programming, they help kids build the skills they’ll need to thrive in the global economy of the future.
It’s not a simple job. No one knows exactly what jobs today’s students will one day pursue. But it’s clear that they will need solid math, science and engineering skills to succeed in our increasingly tech-driven world. And it’s likely these young workers of tomorrow will find better jobs if they become creative problem-solvers who can effectively collaborate and innovate.
Fortunately, the Future Ready Career Centers are staffed with people who are creative problem-solvers themselves.
EMBODYING THE MISSION OF REMAKE LEARNING
The concept of “Future Ready Centers” was created by the Remake Learning Cabinet, and these physical locations are essentially the embodiment of the idea of remaking learning” for the 21st-century. Each Center includes five key elements:
- Physical Space: Either school-based or community-based with access and intended use by school districts
- Dedicated Coordinator: A person dedicated to operating the space
- Out-of-School Partners: Business, labor, higher education, government, nonprofits, etc., are involved
- Inclusive Body of Users: Students, parents, educators, business partners, higher education
- Variety of Purposes: Planning sessions that include community partners and educators, employer demonstrations, higher education workshops, student association and parent convenings, student testing and learning experiences. These activities should be customized to the needs and demographics of the school districts and the communities in which they reside.
But though they have these features in common, each location approaches the educational challenge of getting kids future-ready in a slightly different way, using its particular strengths and specialties. The diversity of these approaches will be on display later this week as part of the Remake Learning Days festival, which is happening throughout the state from May 12 through May 28.
Four Future Ready Centers – each one identified by Remake Learning as a great example of what’s possible – will be hosting showcase events this week. Here’s a look at what’s planned:
“Wheel-ding Fire” at MCG Youth & Arts: May 17, 1 p.m.- 3 p.m.
This week’s showcases kick off on Tuesday with a daytime event at Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild (MCG) in Pittsburgh. Visitors are invited to explore MCG’s world-class facilities and even sit down to learn how to throw clay at a pottery wheel for their own hands-on experience.
For decades, hands-on learning has been a priority at MCG, but the work happening there goes beyond building artistic skills.
“I have students that might not say a word, but through these arts experiences, and this hands-on learning, they have an opportunity to figure out what makes them special,” says Justin Mazzei, MCG Youth &Art’s executive director. “They talk to their peers, talk about their artwork, and gain confidence in who they are and what they do.”
The programs at MCG introduce students to working artists and help them showcase their own work and build contacts through a National Portfolio Day event, university visits and professional studio engagements. But every activity is fueled by mentorship and positive relationships with caring adults.
“When they come in our program, no matter what studio they go in, no matter what program they engage in, they’re going to grow personally,” Mazzei says. “They’re going to grow artistically. They’re going to grow civically, and then the last piece is they’re going to become future-ready.”
Future Ready Center, Inspired by Student Vision & Voice: May 18, 12 p.m.-2 p.m.
During the first hour of this event, students at the Brownsville Area School District Future Ready Center will help their teachers tell visiting adults all about their learning center. But during the second hour, they’ll shift into different roles as they sit for mock job interviews for regional companies including PNC Bank, Nemacolin Woodlands and WVU Medicine.
“We work with local employers, and we really equip kids with the skills they would need to be employable in those local establishments,” says Dr. Beth Hutson, assistant to the superintendent at Brownsville Area. “It’s career exploration, post-secondary institution exposure, and then we’re a hub for hosting different workshops that help prepare kids and equip them with success skills.”
Those skills include everything from financial literacy and interpersonal communication to emotional coping skills – something Hutson says is essential, especially post-pandemic.
One impactful program that will be on display during Wednesday’s event: Guest speakers regularly visit the Center to talk about their careers and the kinds of jobs available where they work. To maximize the value of these visits, a video production crew made up of students interviews each visitor, and those edited videos are added to the Center’s growing library of career knowledge. During the Remake Learning Days event, students will share some of the videos they’ve made and explain how they created them.
Code at the Chamber Night with PA Rural Robotics Initiative, May 18, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m.
On Wednesday night, Students in grades 4-8 will work with adult mentors to use FTW Code to pilot a Parrot Mambo drone.
“Our Remake Learning event is intended to be a fun, interactive night for students to engage in STEM through computer science and drones,” says Tim Heffernan, president and CEO of the Innovation Institute for Tomorrow, Inc. and the Pennsylvania Rural Robotics Initiative.
Heffernan and his team have included adults in the mix for two reasons: “We wanted to give the kids an opportunity to engage in an educational experience with an adult that they are close to, and we wanted the adults to get a look at what STEM looks like for their student,” he says. “We try to give our kids extraordinary STEM opportunities and sometimes the adult in their life might not know what that means. Events like this give them a snapshot of these experiences and a glimpse into the value of them.”
Like many of the Future Ready Centers, the PA Rural Robotics Initiative embraces the work of connecting folks from K-12 education, higher education and local businesses to collaborate on helping kids get career-ready.
“We have always said that our ecosystem is our greatest strength. Our partners all have a hand in creating and delivering content and experiences, and we wouldn’t have it any other way,” Heffernan says. “We all align in creating sustainable experiences that will prepare our kids for 21st-century careers. When we all commit to that together, it is powerful, and we usually see some pretty spectacular outcomes.”
Fluxspace STEAM Festival 2022, May 21, 10:00 a.m.-4 p.m.
The full range of STEM learning opportunities at Fluxspace and the Experience Center where Fluxspace is located will be on display during this final showcase of the week. The goal is to show families “what creating and working and inventing and making can look like, and just give opportunities for families to come out and play in a certain area, like get excited about 3D printing and be able to take something home that’s 3D printed,” says Ryne Anthony, director of innovation at Fluxspace.
Some of Fluxspace’s industry partners will also be offering demonstrations to “celebrate some of the cool things that kids can get excited about.”
Along with its role as a place for students to learn and use their imaginations, Fluxspace also offers teacher professional development and learning support for local schools. And it’s a place where the entire community is welcome, Anthony says.
Fluxspace isn’t “just a place for students to come,” he says, “but also educators, parents or the community, to truly have it be this team effort to try to revitalize an area and try to transform the experience of learning.”