Connecting to the World Beyond the Classroom
Over the past two years, the Economy League has convened an impressive group of leaders throughout the region to develop Global Positioning Strategies to ensure a world class future for Greater Philadelphia. As part of these efforts, I had the opportunity to serve on the World Class Education and Talent Development Strategy Team during 2012. We struggled with trying to identify strategies that would provide the greatest impact to the region for future generations. As we talked and refined our conversations, we all shared one common denominator in our lives. It became evident that we all had a “first break” that shaped our future career success. Our collective experiences led us to discuss the need for a formal system of career exposure and work-based learning opportunities within the region’s K-12 system that helps young people develop 21st century skills and gives them an understanding of career options.
Since 1999, my organization, the Philadelphia Youth Network, has aggressively worked to build a system of career-connected experiences for over 100,000 youth through WorkReady Philadelphia. Through a network of committed partner organizations, we have focused on expanding the quantity and quality of these activities. In order for our region to thrive, it is critical that we build an intentional system of career exposure and preparation for our youth – which means being willing to provide workplace opportunities for young people, including hosting interns.
I recently reconnected with a young woman who served as an intern in our office when she was in 10th grade. When she interned with us, she was painfully shy and not sure if she would attend college. In her junior and senior years of high school, she participated in an afterschool program at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The program was designed to expose youth to various careers within the health care industry. This young woman is now a college graduate and still works at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia – and she attributes her success to the various career exposure opportunities she had throughout high school.
I am thrilled to see that the World Class Education and Talent Development GPS focuses on strengthening connections between education and career opportunities, along with improving teacher effectiveness and school leadership and increasing parental/caregiver involvement in their kids' education, as top K-12 priorities for Greater Philadelphia. Career-connected education must be infused into the region’s K-12 system because the future success of our region’s economy depends on a talented workforce. This is an essential strategy that will position Philadelphia as a world class city and region.