How Communities Are Helping Students Succeed Through Career-Connected Learning Opportunities

On February 13, 2020, Colorado Succeeds members braved an icy and slick Denver morning to speak with fellow business and education leaders about the latest headway being made within our state’s education system and local communities. Every quarter, leaders in business, education, and policy gather to network with one another and discuss important developments on our shared advocacy initiatives. Scott Laband, president of Colorado Succeeds, opened the meeting with an update on our December calls to action:

  • Supporting the College Credit for Work Experience Bill
  • Supporting the Homegrown Talent Initiative
  • Supporting the Succeeds Prize

Each of these initiatives is gaining momentum quickly as the year progresses, and after reviewing the most recent successes, Laband quickly shifted the discussion to a different topic: hope.

Today’s students need hope more than ever, especially in light of rising student loan burdens and misalignments between the education system and modern workforce needs. He shared how Colorado Succeeds believes that educators can provide students with a greater sense of purpose through career-connected learning, where relevancy and interests for students can be fostered and grow. Additionally, research from Gallup suggests that hope is one of the top predictors of student success and engagement in school (even more so than GPA or test scores).

The concept of career-connected learning provides a framework and a path for how we make sure every child in Colorado is educated to their greatest potential, and that all of Colorado’s businesses and communities have the talented homegrown workforces they need to thrive.

We know that every community’s manifestation of a career-connected education system will look slightly different. To emphasize this, we were joined by educational leaders nationally and right here in Colorado, two different places who shared their unique experiences shaking up the status quo to better prepare students for fulfilling modern careers.

Ed Hidalgo, Chief Innovation and Engagement Officer, and Dr. David Miyashiro, Superintendent, from Cajon Valley Union School District in San Diego, CA introduced an innovative (and effective) program called World of Work that the district uses to transform the way students think about their future careers during the earliest years of their formal education, particularly during elementary and middle school.

Hidalgo asked, “How does a child aspire to a career they don’t even know exists?” It’s a question that gets at the root of what World of Work does: gives kids a chance to learn about different careers, including which paths might fit their personality, strengths, skills and values best.

Attendees had several questions about the program, particularly related to gaining buy-in from school board members. Dr. Miyashiro noted that, “By doing the community work first, board members are more likely to be on board.” He explained that initial teacher training and ongoing professional development were essential — in fact, every adult went through the same career discovery process that is now used in schools with students.

Bill Summers, the principal of Cañon City High School (CCHS), shared stories about the challenges and successes in his own rural Colorado district. He explained that given the rural context: “We are the only school of choice in Cañon City and we have to be all things to all students.” This desire to give every student opportunities has driven Summers and his team to innovate throughout the district, especially in regards to career-connected, student-empowered learning.

Our meeting was adjourned with three new calls to action for Q2 of 2020:

  • Continued support of policy and advocacy efforts, namely My Colorado Journey and the College Credit for Work Experience
  • Seeing career-connected learning in practice with a field trip to the Cherry Creek Innovation Campus in April.
  • Participation in the Succeeds Prize selection advisory committee.

Our next all-member meeting will take place in mid-May, and we look forward to sharing more updates and insights from our inspiring community of leaders in education and business.

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Colorado Succeeds