Helping schools form stronger connections with their communities has been part of the Consortium’s work since our founding. Starting in the Mon Valley, our organization began more than three decades ago to bring added support to schools in districts shaken by industrial decline. Over the years, we’ve expanded to become an intermediary and convener of stakeholders serving 65+ socio-economically and geographically diverse districts across western Pennsylvania.
Throughout that time, we’ve worked with businesses and other community stakeholders to bring enrichment opportunities to students, provide professional development for educators, and help school districts build leadership capacity. In doing so, we’ve also played a pivotal role in economic development, helping connect the region’s employers with the next generation of workers.
Building on that foundation, we began five years ago to focus on “Future Readiness.” We did so because the velocity of change — in the economy, in technology, in the whole world around us — is transforming what “readiness” means for students with breathtaking speed. Educators are challenged not just to prepare them with academic competencies, but also with the transferrable skills they’ll need for jobs that may not yet even exist. Because of that, we’ve designed programming and professional development opportunities to help both students and educators learn about changing post-secondary education options, explore today’s high demand jobs, and learn about the careers employers envision tomorrow.
Following are some of the steps we took to establish our focus on “future readiness” and a few of the opportunities we’ve created around it for schools.
Scenes from the Bridges to College Success event we co-hosted with University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg.
Our Educator in the Workforce program created opportunities for educators to visit and learn about regional employers, including Covestro, PNC Financial Group, Mascaro Construction Co., and others.
Programs including College & Career Knowledge and The Future Is Mine (TFIM) created opportunities for students to explore options for post-secondary education, including college fairs, campus visits, and partnerships with trade apprenticeship training centers across the region.
Afterschool programs that we offered middle schoolers in three different districts enlisted community partners to create STEM learning experiences, offer support for developing media literacy, and build other skills with engaging activities. Middle schoolers in these districts also could participate in the Be a Middle School Mentor program that we offered in partnership with United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
Our career exploration and leadership development program, The Future Is Mine (TFIM), has helped thousands of students begin to imagine their futures through workplace visits; team projects that connect them with community and help develop soft skills; and, opportunities to exchange ideas with peers from diverse districts spanning rural, urban, and suburban communities.
Teams of educators in our Future Ready Alliance undertake initiatives to improve career readiness for students in their districts.
We launched a Future Ready Partnerships initiative to bring post-secondary partners, employers, and K-12 educators together to encourage collaboration among them.