Today’s workplace is not the same place that young people entered even 20 years ago. Currently, knowledge worker jobs are on the rise, and America is competing in a global work environment. A generation ago, many in the world believed that to get a strong education you needed to attend a university in the United States. The brightest and the best came to school and many of them stayed on and became an integral part of the work force as members of “think tanks”, inventors, engineers, mathematicians, and of course business leaders and professors.
Many of the young people who are graduating from high school and/or college are unprepared to tackle the world of work in the 21st Century. So what can we do in the after-school venue that will support the development of these critical 21st Century skills. To begin with, we need to identify what those skills are. Although the following is not a definitive list, over 400 employers across the United States were surveyed to identify these skills. According to “Are They Ready to Work”, a study by the collaborative consisting of The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management, there are four general areas of skill development:
•Oral and Written Communications
•Critical Thinking/Problem Solving.
The report goes on to say, “In fact, the findings indicate that applied skills1 on all educational levels trump basic knowledge and skills, such as Reading Comprehension and Mathematics. In other words, while the “three Rs” are still fundamental to any new workforce entrant’s ability to do the job, employers emphasize that applied skills like Teamwork/Collaboration and Critical Thinking are “very important” to success at work.
When you look at these skill categories, after-school is a natural to provide opportunities for youth to practice both oral and written communication skills, team and collaboration, and critical thinking and problem solving. As we develop more project-based learning opportunities for your, the work ethic will be strengthened.
The 3Rs of afterschool, relationships, relevance, and rigor, applied consistently in the program, will go a long way to support the development of the identified 21st Century skills.