“Putting the Pieces Together” at TFIM Student Leadership Conference
Businesses and organizations hosting explorations this year during our annual Student Leadership Conference for The Future Is Mine (TFIM) will give kids opportunities to look at careers in fields ranging from healthcare and government to financial services and video game design.
These students explored careers in theater and the arts while visiting the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust
“We’ll have 16 different employers opening their doors,” said Program Director Gina Barrett “We always try to cover a broad range of interests and our site hosts always do a great job showing students the range of careers within their particular industries and companies.”
The two-day Conference, which takes place April 19-20, will bring teams of students and advisors from 30 high schools to Downtown Pittsburgh. More than 400 are expected to attend. The theme students identified for this year’s event is “Putting the Pieces Together.” Lots of them will be doing just that as they visit workplaces and attend a college fair at the Heinz History Center on the first day.
Following the college fair, kids convene for dinner, a dance and an overnight stay at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center. The following day, they’ll rotate through a dozen career-related workshops.
Employers hosting workplace visits include: Allegheny General Hospital; ALCOSAN; Allegheny County; Carnegie Museum of Art; iHeartMedia; Google; Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank; Heinz History Center; Huntington National Bank; Jefferson Regional Medical Center; Pittsburgh Cultural Trust; Schell Games; Steeltown Entertainment; UPMC; Urban Design Associates; United Way of Southwestern PA; and Waterways Association of Pittsburgh with Gateway Clipper Fleet.
Along with the site hosts, sponsors for the Conference so far include: American Eagle Outfitters Foundation; Dollar Bank; Duquesne Light; Highmark; HM Insurance Group; Huntington National Bank; NextTier; Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation; Range Resources; Scottdale Bank and UPMC.
Post-secondary schools so far signed up for the college fair are: Community College of Allegheny County; Indiana University of Pennsylvania; LaRoche College; Penn State Greater Allegheny; Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics; Pitt Greensburg; Pittsburgh Technical College and Robert Morris University
South Allegheny event features business breakouts
Some 21 businesses hosted workshops as part of a professional learning session that South Allegheny School District organized on Connecting Classrooms to Careers. Interest in the event proved strong, with roughly 130 educators attending, including a fifth from other districts.
Educators get briefing on region’s emerging industries
Organizers could sense they’d tapped into a vein. “We had businesses still asking to participate after the commitment deadline had passed,” said Acting Superintendent Alisa King. “Obviously, there’s interest and need on both sides.”
King said the level of interest might prompt other districts to attempt similar events. South Allegheny’s event came through collaboration between a team participating in the Consortium’s Future Ready Alliance and educators working on the district’s 339 plan.With little exposure to work settings and practices outside of school, educators need to connect with businesses to help students prepare for careers or help their schools comply with Pennsylvania’s plan under ESSA (the federal Every Child Succeeds Act.) At the same time, businesses facing looming workforce shortages as well as misalignment between available jobs and applicants, increasingly see the need to reach out to schools.
On hand to brief attendees on the region’s growing industries and the outlook for different kinds of jobs were Bill Flanagan, Chief Communications Officer for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and Linda Topoleski, the Conference’s Vice President for Workforce Programs.
Flanagan said students can look forward to jobs in a number of fast-growing industries for which Pittsburgh has become the world research hub, including robotics, autonomous vehicles and additive manufacturing. He also said demand for skilled tradespeople also is booming with billions of construction projects on the horizon, including the Shell Oil’s ethane cracker plant in Beaver County.
Topoleski said the jobs may seem disparate in all ways, but all of the fields have something in common—a need for soft skills, particularly communications.
She said one of the best ways schools can help kids develop those skills is by involving them in Project-Based Learning.
SPS launches string of projects
With a string of new projects underway, our Student Powered Solutions (SPS) program already has connected four community partners with nine schools to undertake Project-Based Learning (PBL) experiences this semester and plans to launch another project involving two schools in March.
A student tries out a Virtual Reality mask at CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center
All of the projects will conclude with formal presentations before the end of the school year, But even in the earliest stages, teachers can see positive effects from PBL. At a kickoff session where Woodland Hills High School students had a chance to ask questions before they began their project, for example, Business teacher Doreen Tabb marveled at the level of engagement. “Some of the kids who are talking the most hardly ever raise their hands in class,” she said.
“It’s always interesting to see the ideas these kids can offer,” said Program Director Aaron Altemus. “But it’s really gratifying to see the degree of personal growth they achieve. By the end of their projects, most of these students tell you without prompting that some of their biggest takeaways are better soft skills, especially communication.”
The most recent SPS launch brought Penn Hills High School students to work with Covestro on an assignment begun earlier with Pittsburgh Perry and South Fayette school districts. Kids at all three schools will be presenting ideas about what features passengers will want a decade from now in autonomous vehicles as they play a greater role in public transit.
At the same time:
- Teams from McKeesport and Woodland Hills school districts are developing ideas to build visibility and attendance for Remake Learning Days
- Students from Mt. Pleasant and South Allegheny school districts are working with Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center on making a Virtual Reality mask easier to sanitize between uses
- Teams from Blackhawk and Mohawk school districts are working with First Energy to address questions involving nuclear power.
Our final SPS project for the year gets underway in March. It pairs 412-Food Rescue with students from Franklin Regional and Quaker Valley school districts to work on finding ways to reduce food waste in their school cafeterias
UPMC provides sponsorships for TFIM and Champions
UPMC Health System has again become a sponsor for the annual Student Leadership Conference we host for participants in our career exploration program, The Future Is Mine (TFIM), and for our annual Champions of Learning Awards, which recognize individuals, organizations, and businesses that support or create outstanding learning opportunities for students across the region.
“We’re very grateful for the renewed commitment,” said the Consortium’s Executive Director Mary Kay Babyak. “UPMC is a sponsor we are delighted and proud to have. It has also been a valued partner, helping us acquaint students with the many career opportunities the health sciences offer.”