world of work

The World of Work program is opening doors for students throughout our region

Have you ever asked middle and high schoolers what they want to do for a job and found that they have no idea — or no realistic idea? Four local superintendents are changing that with a program called World of Work, and now lots of other schools want to do it, too.

Kids love to pretend what it would be like when they grow up. But at Duquesne and three other districts, kids are doing more than playing. They’re learning what their strengths are and how those could lead to specific careers.

When Demario Taylor, a third-grader at Duquesne K-8, was asked what he wants to be when he grows up, he replied, “Yes, an artist.”

Fellow third-grader Jonathan George said he wants to be, “a person who works in an office,” but he’s also dreamed of being a newscaster.

And third grader Nilayah Dean said she wants to be a lawyer “because I like to boss some people around sometimes.”

These kids began the World of Work pilot program last year at Duquesne K-8, starting with a skills and personality test called RIASEC, which shows their individual strengths. RIASEC is an acronym for Realistic, Investigative, Artistic, Social, Enterprising and Conventional.

“I got a higher number on conventional,” Jonathan said, while Nilayah told us: “My strengths are I’m good at building, I’m good at math, and I’m very good at art,” and Demario said, “I’m good at playing football, math and helping people and art.”

Ashli Detweiler is the coordinator for World of Work.

“When a child can say, ‘I’m good at this, and this is part of who I am, and I know that there are careers out there based on my own unique individual strengths and interests,’ that’s how we’re preparing kids for the future,” Detweiler says.

Detweiler coordinates World of Work for the Duquesne, Avonworth, Elizabeth Forward and South Fayette school districts. The superintendents of those four districts learned about World of Work at a conference in California and got grant money to pilot it here.

Once the kids know and explore their RIASEC score, then they explore different jobs and careers best suited for those strengths and interests.

Duquesne’s superintendent, Sue Mariani, says many kids think they can become professional athletes, but she wants them to have a “plan B.”

“We want to make sure our kids, if they’re interested in football, (to think) what else could you do around football? So there’s athletic training and there’s coaching and there’s just a host of ideas, broadcasting,” Mariani says.

Each year, the students will have at least six opportunities to learn about different careers from the people actually doing the jobs — whether the professionals come to the school or talk to them over Zoom. That means from kindergarten thru 8th grade, they’ll learn about 54 different careers, many they’ve never even heard of.

Jonathan recalls the professionals who came to his classroom last year: “We had a musician, fitness trainer, entomologist,” he says.

“We really want to showcase professionals, hopefully from the community that the kids are in,” Detweiler says, “and we want kids to see that there are opportunities out there for them.”

Not only does World of Work get kids thinking about their future, it gives them confidence by knowing what they’re good at and makes school more relevant, knowing it could lead to a career someday.

The program has been so successful in its second year that many other school districts are already asking to do it at their schools.

Learn more right here about how World of Work is being used in the Pittsburgh area.