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5 Things Businesses Should Know About the Future Workforce

How school districts across Colorado are teaching and preparing today's students


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Experts predict 85% of available jobs in 2030 have yet to be invented. While we don’t know what jobs our kids will have in the future, we do know they will need ingenuity, collaboration and emotional intelligence to succeed. As we’ve searched the state for the most transformational schools and districts, here are five things businesses need to know about their future workforce.

Some of the most relevant learning happens outside the classroom

The best opportunities for students to develop new skills and explore career paths may not happen inside school walls. In Cañon City, students learn through the lens of relevant career pathways that lead to certificates and credentials in high-demand industries. In Aurora, the district leverages a digital badging program to provide educators and students a tool for acknowledging learning. Through “NoCo Inspire” in the Poudre School District, a team of educators works tirelessly to foster partnerships with local businesses to provide work-based learning opportunities for students. In Pueblo District 70, a partnership with Parkview Medical Center provides students exposure to the inner workings of a hospital and the wide range of healthcare careers.

These programs, and similar programs throughout Colorado, are producing two things that are extremely difficult to teach in class — yet, vitally important to hiring managers — students with on-the-job training and soft skills by the time they graduate high school.

Encouraging learning through curiosity doesn’t stop in preschool

Play-based learning takes on new meaning when you incorporate robotics, STEM labs and maker spaces into classroom learning. The HackSchool at STRIVE Prep Excel and the EDGE Program at Legend High School are helping students become critical thinkers and change makers by giving them the space to make things, break them and tinker around.

Curiosity-based training’s impact is tremendous and designed to propel the workforce of the future, making them more likely to propose big ideas and knowing how to improve them, or importantly, fail fast and move on. No more “we’ve always done it this way” or “that will never work.” Instead, they are providing students an opportunity to learn through hands-on activity.

Individualizing a student’s education is critical to their growth and development

At the Academy of Advanced Learning in Aurora, educators work closely with students to help them understand what they need to master the content. At La Veta High School, students work closely with educators to bring a personalized learning plan to life, using planning tools to map the opportunities available to them after high school. At Grandview High School in Cherry Creek, students have a wide range of courses available and the opportunity to take classes aligned to a current passion, and to discover new ones. Roaring Fork School District seniors are required to identify something personally meaningful to them and develop a capstone project that serves as a culmination of their learning. 

Individualized learning teaches students to take ownership of their future. As a result, employers will be able to have meaningful and productive conversations with future employees, aligning their strengths, needs and interests to the business’s growth goals.

Teachers and principals are the unit of change

No matter what kind of program or resources you provide, it ultimately takes great teachers to help many students overcome the achievement gap and access the wealth of opportunities lifelong learning can offer.

At Longfellow Elementary in Salida, the principal leads morning mindfulness practices knowing the importance of mental health for his students. Manassa Elementary is a close-knit community of teachers who know students well. Aurora Quest teachers are committed to ensuring students are challenged to reach their full potential through rigorous lessons and projects. McAuliffe International in Denver leverages their strongest, most experienced teachers to support the rest of the staff in their growth and development. At Loveland Classical, teachers are the facilitators of student learning, creating a collegial atmosphere built around Socratic seminars that push students’ critical thinking skills. 

When students grow up with this collaborative training, they internalize a culture of working together to solve problems, develop innovative ideas and perhaps most importantly, lead by example.

Technology-enabled learning is a necessity

St. Vrain students are exposed to the latest technology in the district’s Innovation Center and mobile lab. At Altona Middle School in St. Vrain, a group of students serve as the equivalent of the “Geek Squad,” supporting teachers. At Warren Tech in Jefferson County, students learn the ins and outs of computer science and cybersecurity, grasping the necessary coding and software skills, and learning how the hardware works.

This level of training will produce a future workforce that embraces new technology and understands it’s vital role in evolving businesses.

Danny McCormick is a program manager for Colorado Succeeds, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of business leaders across the state working to ensure all of Colorado’s children are educated to their greatest potential, and all the state’s businesses have the homegrown talent needed to thrive.

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