Meeting Learners Where They Are

Catalyze Challenge winners are setting students up for success with entrepreneurial and soft skills training before entering the workforce.

News November 02, 2021

By the Catalyze Challenge

Student from WeThrive

The workforce of tomorrow is in the classrooms today. To ensure that students are given the best opportunities to succeed, their education must prepare them with the skills needed to thrive in various careers. 

School curriculums must be expanded to include career exploration and learning opportunities that will benefit students as they advance on their educational and career journeys.

Catalyze Challenge winners are setting students up for success with entrepreneurial and soft skills training before entering the workforce.

Teaching High-Demand Job Skills Inside the Classroom with Education Design Lab

Education Design Lab is making students more competitive applicants for colleges and employers by creating credentialed programs for soft skills. The Lab’s research has found that collaboration, creative problem-solving, and empathy are in high demand by employers. In partnership with Polk County Public Schools in Florida and local business and alignment organizations (Polk Vision and Central Florida Development Council), Education Design Lab is creating a unique pilot program to teach 450 11th and 12th graders these skills. Participating students will receive digital micro-credentials they can include on job and college applications.

The digital micro-credentials and college credit for the learning and demonstration of soft skills do not yet exist and could be a gamechanger for young people, as a bridge to college and careers. The ultimate goal of this pilot would be to see how the intentional teaching of these skills can increase rates of graduation, job placement, and higher education matriculation. Southern New Hampshire University is analyzing the micro-credentials for the potential award of college credit.

“Education Design Lab is delighted to have identified Polk County Schools and the community of Polk County as partners in the Propel Polk! initiative. Polk County demonstrates an extensive learn-earn ecosystem with active engagement of community and business leaders in cultivation of a strong talent pipeline to drive local economic vitality.  Florida is embracing digital credentials as a means for reinforcing a rapid response to get skilled talent into high-need jobs” – Dr. Naomi Boyer, Senior Director, Skills and Data Ecosystem, Education Design Lab.

Encouraging the Entrepreneurial Spirit in Middle and High School Students

WeThrive equips low-income 7th-10th grade youth to grow into entrepreneurs. The organization provides students with mentorships, life skills training, financial training, and funding needed to develop and launch their business ideas.

“Our youth are identifying a problem in their local community, sharpening it into a solution, and then using seed money we provide them, they launch it keeping the traction and revenue. Typically, youth are engaged from the lens of ‘what are you allowed to do,’ and it’s about benchmarks and metrics. WeThrive’s approach is more like an open field, “tell us where you want to run, we have resources for you” Daquan Oliver, WeThrive Founder and Executive Director.

Ultimately, WeThrive aims to support a generation of students to unleash their intellectual and economic potential and close racial wealth and achievement gaps throughout the United States.

Visit the Winners to learn more about all of the winning Round 1 Catalyze Challenge solutions and stay tuned for more to come on Round 2 – applications opening soon!

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