Scaling the Next Summit (Thoughtfully)

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Scaling the Next Summit (Thoughtfully)

For those of you with whom I have had the pleasure of knowing over the years, I’m sure you noticed that I’ve struggled with celebrating success. With each summit attained, I’m off to learn about and solve the next hairy challenge. As we cruised through the new year, Couragion celebrated its third anniversary. I remember wrapping up 2016 thinking “how can we possibly top this year?” with an NSF SBIR Phase I Grant, graduating from the AT&T Aspire accelerator, and finishing the year winning the Emerging Tech Company of the Year from the Colorado Technology Association.

Well let’s say things didn’t slow down in 2017. We won an NSF SBIR Phase II Grant, forged a partnership with CareerWise Colorado, welcomed new school districts, and won an Advanced Industries Grant from the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade.

2018 is starting off with a bang. We’re welcoming two new members to the Couragion team – joining us are Lauren Eimers as our Education & Workforce Partnerships Manager and Keenan Hursh as our Digital Storyteller. We’re thrilled to have them on board – please help me welcome them to the team!

Cheers to another year of continuing to champion career literacy, informed and inspired student decision making, work-based learning and workforce credentialing, and teacher professional learning initiatives!

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Career Aspirations Limited by Stereotypes and Lack of Role Models

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Career Aspirations Limited by Stereotypes and Lack of Role Models

Education and Employers, a UK based charity, aims to provide young people with the inspiration, motivation, knowledge, and skills they need to help them achieve their potential. Couragion shares in that mission. So when their new collaborative research findings were just published, we took notice. 'Drawing the Future' explores the career aspirations of 20,000 primary school children from around the world aged seven to eleven who drew a picture of the job they want to do when they grow up. To understand the factors influencing career aspirations, kids were asked if they knew anyone personally who did the job they selected, and if not, why they had chosen the job.  

Here are a few observations from the research: 

  • Career aspirations have little in common with projected workforce needs and if unaddressed will result in severe resource deficiencies.  #workbasedlearning #careerliteracy 
  • Thirty-six percent of children from as young as seven years old, base their career aspirations on people they know.  #rolemodelsmatter 
  • STEM-related careers ranked highly as some of the top jobs that children aspired to become - however over four times the number of boys wanted to become engineers and nearly double the number of boys wanted to become scientists as compared to girls.  #STEMjobs  
  • Based on previous baselines, this research shows increased diversity (breadth) and aspiration (interest) of girls' career choices. Woohoo! 

The primary survey research was complimented by drawing on the astute insights of a collection of preeminent researchers. Below are two of the more salient contributions.  

Professor Becky Francis, Director of UCL Institute of Education, had this to say: 

"Economically it is desirable to see jobs allocated on merit, rather than based on gender. As the report points out, some sectors face staff and skills shortages, which are compounded by the lack of uptake by women or men respectively. Such trends suggest that many people are still having their ambition and potential capped by horizons that are narrowed by gender." 
 
Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills, OECD, commenting on the survey said: 

"The lack of access to role models and awareness of the different jobs is a particular concern for children from disadvantaged backgrounds. All children, regardless of their social background, where they live or the jobs their parents do, should have the same chance to meet people doing a wide range of jobs to help them understand the vast opportunities open to them." 

If young children do in fact carry forward their career aspirations into their decision-making years, we need to support career exploration at an earlier age. Couragion strongly believes that career literacy should be integrally woven into education to improve relevance and better inform student choice. Have you had your kids 'draw their futures'? 

 
 

Source:  https://www.educationandemployers.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/DrawingTheFuture.pdf   

 

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Want More Women In STEM? Show Them The… Purpose!

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Want More Women In STEM? Show Them The… Purpose!

There is extensive coverage about the limited number of women pursuing STEM jobs, especially in the areas of engineering and computer science. But often times this coverage fails to inform about what changes could be made to STEM jobs to make them more attractive to women.

A recent report from Pew Research Center offers insights into what qualities women value in a job. Such information can be invaluable to hiring organizations by helping them to craft job roles and communicate job openings in ways that better attract females.

One area that is especially important to women is having a greater purpose in their work. For example, when Pew Research asked men and women what was important to them personally when choosing a job, 31% of men cited that ‘having a job that focused on helping others’ was important. For women, the importance of this quality almost doubled with 59% of women stating that it was important to have a job that focused on helping others.

Couragion’s own data shows that having a greater purpose in a job will be even more important to the incoming workforce. Among our middle and high school students, 76% desire a great purpose in their work. And as in the Pew Research Center report, Couragion’s data also shows that this desire is strongest among females with 81% desiring greater purpose compared to 72% of males.

So what can hiring organizations do with this data? Showing how a career has purpose is easy if it naturally comes as part of the job – such as a biomedical engineer creating medical devices or a water engineer that is bringing clean drinking water to a region. But for other jobs where there may not be as much intrinsic purpose to the role, here are other suggestions for infusing purpose into the workplace…

  1. Institute an apprentice or internship program whereby employees have the opportunity to give back by training and mentoring the incoming workforce.
  2. Offer 2 or 3 extra days off per year that employees can use to volunteer at one of their favorite charitable organizations.
  3. Create a corporate giving program that enables employees to donate a portion of their income to a charity of their choice with your company matching a portion of the donation.
  4. Establish a corporate-wide ‘give back’ day in which all employees work together to do something for the local community. Ideas include cleaning a local park, visiting a local school to give career talks, serving meals to homeless people, etc.
  5. Give employees the chance to lead internal initiatives that improve the working environment – such as allowing a person to allocate a portion of their time to researching and instituting a company-wide recycling/composting program.

What does your organization do on this front? How do you infuse greater purpose into job roles and your culture? How do you communicate this in job postings or demonstrate it during the recruiting and hiring process? We’d love to hear your ideas (info at Couragion.com).

And if you are interested in reading the Pew Research Center report, you may download it here.

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Crisis of Confidence: Workforce Skill Gaps

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Crisis of Confidence: Workforce Skill Gaps

This week I had the chance to read the recent Strada-Gallup research entitled “Crisis of Confidence: Current College Students Do Not Feel Prepared for the Workforce”.  One data point was particularly telling. When higher education chief academic officers were asked how effective they were at preparing students for the workforce – 96% stated they were very or somewhat effective. Compare that to the impressions of business leaders (11%) and students’ (36%). It’s obvious that there is a big gap between what industry needs and how higher education is preparing the next generation workforce. It also points to a skills gap that we can’t ignore. Here are a few other highlights about the perceptions of STEM degree seekers, the role of advisors, and career services resources.

  • Of STEM majors, students were 36% confident that they will graduate with the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in the workplace. However, it’s interesting to note that students pursuing STEM degrees reported the most confidence about their job prospects in comparison to other degree types.
  • 46% of students found academic advisers beneficial when choosing courses and majors, but only 28% believe they are helpful in identifying or evaluating potential career options.
  • Nearly four in 10 students have never visited their school’s career services office or used online career resources.
  • Of students who have visited career services, 57% obtained advice about potential career options or jobs – but only 29% of students found the service helpful.
  • Black and Hispanic students found career services more helpful at 40% and 32% respectively than their counterparts.  

Couragion strongly believes that career literacy should be integrally woven into education to improve relevance, better inform student choice, and increase retention in real-world career paths. Career literacy for educators exposes faculty to career pathways, helps them to understand high demand careers and the skills that industry demands, and encourages faculty create links between academic studies and real-world careers.

Read the full report to discover more about students' confidence in their preparation for life after college.

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How Do Health Care Jobs Rank With Our Future Workforce?

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How Do Health Care Jobs Rank With Our Future Workforce?

On January 5, the Bureau of Labor Statics (BLS) released its Employment Situation Summary. During 2017, employment growth totaled 2.1 million jobs. One of the sectors that saw the highest growth was Health Care, which added 300,000 jobs during 2017. Such growth is anticipated to continue with the BLS projecting that from 2016 to 2026, Health Care occupations will grow 18% - a rate that is much faster than the average for all occupations.

Given that Health Care workers will be in high demand, we looked at Couragion’s application data to see how the sector fares with our middle and high school students. These students are the people we need to inspire to pursue Health Care careers if we are to fill the projected future job openings.

Couragion’s application includes careers across all sectors and students freely select which careers they want to review. In looking at the top 10 lists of the most frequently selected careers, one Health Care career makes the list for males – Physician Assistant as the 8th most selected career. For females, two Health Care careers make the list – Physician Assistant as the 2nd most selected career and Cancer Researcher as the 4th most selected career. So from an interest perspective, Health Care performs well.

Now from a fit perspective… The Couragion app enables students to see how a given career meets their own desired interests, values, and desired work characteristics. Careers with a great match are called Best Fit careers. Here, Health Care performs well when it comes to females. For example, 73% of females that complete the Physician Assistant career receive a Best Fit rating. And for the Cancer Researcher career, 68% of females receive a Best Fit rating. Males, on the other hand, do not have such a strong match. Only 38% of males receive a Best Fit rating for the Physician Assistant career.

After experiencing each career, Couragion encourages students to comment about what they liked/disliked about the career. The following verbatim remarks highlight themes we see in student comments about the Physician Assistant career:

Comments from those that would want to pursue this job…

o   ‘I really like to protect & help others.’

o   ‘I am good at listening so I would be good at this job.’

o   ‘I like that you can choose your own schedule.’

o   ‘I like interacting with people.’

o   ‘It has a great salary level.’

o   ‘I love that you can cure someone and change a person’s life.’

o   ‘There are lots of available jobs in this career.’

Comments from those that would not want to pursue this job…

o   ‘I am not very good at working with people.’

o   ‘I would like to be more involved with a patient than just seeing them for a few minutes.’

o   ‘I dislike blood and bad injuries.’

o   ‘I have a soft heart and if I can 't help the patient or something happens while they're under my care I'm not sure what I'd do.’

o    ‘I would get sick from being around sick people all day.’

o   ‘Seeing 20 patients a day would be too much pressure.’

The ability to help others, interacting with people, strong salaries, and many job openings are seen as positive to students considering Health Care careers. On the flip side, being responsible for peoples’ well-being and having limited time to spend with each patient are seen as negative to students considering Health Care careers. These are important considerations for those trying to attract students into the Health Care field – offering insights into the attributes of the job that should be emphasized when recruiting workers while also providing guidance on aspects of the job that could be changed to make the field more attractive to the incoming workforce.

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Celebrating 'I Am a Mentor Day'!

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Celebrating 'I Am a Mentor Day'!

Today is 'I Am a Mentor Day' - which is a time to celebrate and reflect on the impact and beauty of mentoring. I've always been a champion of coaching and mentoring. I remember partnering with human resources at Sun Microsystems to build a mentoring platform that 'automagically' paired 'mentors' with 'mentees' based on skills they wanted to develop. With Couragion, I love spending time in the classroom mentoring our students. I took the pic above at STEM Launch K-8 on the last day of school before the holiday break while mentoring the 6th grade about the importance of STEM career exploration and literacy. 

January is National Mentoring Month (NMM). As we celebrate NMM, I wanted to share some cool facts about mentoring at-risk youths from the National Mentoring Month Toolkit:

  • 90% who had mentors were interested in becoming mentor themselves.
  • 78% were more likely to volunteer in their communities regularly. 
  • 52% less likely than peers without mentors to skip a day of school. 

Here are a three ways you can participate: 

  1. Become a mentor for at-risk youth - 1 in 3 kids are growing up without a mentor in their lives!
  2. You are never too old to be a 'mentee' - so engage in a little 'reverse mentoring' and find yourself a younger 'mentor' to learn about the hottest technologies and cultivate new ways of thinking. 
  3. Thank a mentor that you've had in the past. January 25, 2018 is #ThankYourMentor Day! Mark your calendar!

 

Source: National Mentoring Month Toolkit

 

     

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    Kid Tested And Approved STEM Gifts - V2

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    Kid Tested And Approved STEM Gifts - V2

    Two years ago, I published a list of ‘Kid Tested And Approved STEM Gifts’. I’ve had several folks ask me for my STEM ideas this holiday season, so I decided to publish a new list – just in time for those last-minute Christmas shoppers! Each of these gifts have been ‘tested’ by my daughters (ages 7 and 8). The items have stood the test of time in that my daughters not only enjoy the items but have played with each one multiple times.

    1. A personal URL & Squarespace Subscription – My 8 year old showed a keen interest in building a website. So we decided to let her do so for one of her school projects. We bought her a URL and then a subscription to Squarespace. I got her started by teaching her how to make one page and she took it from there – spending over 10 hours creating a site that teaches people about arrays. This is the perfect last minute gift as there is no shipping! If you want to check out my daughter’s site and try your hand at completing some arrays, visit it here.
    2. Snap Circuits – both daughters have enjoyed learning the basics of electronics with these kits (kit 1 & kit 2). I like that they can build their own circuits or create experiments outlined in the instruction books. Their favorite components are the LED lights and speaker whereby they can make things light up in response to sounds.
    3. Museum Tickets – my daughters have always loved museums – especially kid/hands-on museums. Museum tickets or annual passes are great gift ideas for families that want to avoid an influx of toys. This directory provides an expansive listing of museums in the United States to help you find the perfect location in your gift recipients’ area.
    4. Magic School Bus Chemistry Lab – this cool kit comes in a bus shaped package and includes 51 experiments that have helped my daughters to learn about pH, chromatography, density and more. They especially enjoyed the colorful experiment cards and writing in the lab notebook.
    5. Couragion App – our app is another great gift that requires no shipping! You purchase it online and kids can login to build self-awareness and career literacy. Via the app they undertake virtual career field trips from seeing how a Food Scientist creates the next big drink flavor to hearing firsthand how a Climate Change Scientist is working to save endangered ocean coral.

    Let me know if you have ideas to add to this list and happy holidays to all of our readers!

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    Computer Science Skills Increasingly More Important in Wider Range of Jobs

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    Computer Science Skills Increasingly More Important in Wider Range of Jobs

    As we kick off the start of Computer Science Education Week, I wanted to share some recent research published by Oracle Academy and Burning Glass. The data is foundational in explaining why Computer Science for All (#CSforAll) is compelling – and it also helps to paint a clearer picture of a personal passion point. The impetus of the research is grounded in how jobs are classified since “computer science” careers are often narrowly defined as computer programmers and software engineers. Not all people in tech are developers, engineers, and computer scientists. Many technologists (myself included) specialize in design, user experience, data science, or marketing.  

    Alison Derbenwick Miller, Vice President of the Oracle Academy, contributed to the research forward and aptly states, "By a wide margin, the fastest growing and highest paying jobs require computer science skills, and the ability to work with and analyze data—any kind of data, in any industry—is increasingly linked with computer science skills. Interestingly, by an even wider margin, the same jobs that value computer science skills do not require a degree in computer science."  

    Here are a few other interesting highlights from the research:  

    • Hybrid roles where candidates are expected to have a combination of programming skills, data analysis skills and domain-specific skills such as marketing or business strategy are becoming more the norm (read my previous blog about hybrid jobs here
    • Specific skills, more than a particular college major or prior experience, are key to landing jobs 
    • Data management and analysis skills are at least as important as teaching coding 
    • Computer science skills are a key differentiator which can have a significantly impact earning potential  

    The bottom line:  computer science skills are increasingly more important in a wider range of jobs. Read the full Rebooting Jobs report to learn more about the fastest-growing and highest-paying computer science skills in each job category – and the implications for students learning computer science.   

    Happy Computer Science Education Week!  

    #CSforAll #CSEdWeek @CSforAllTchrs

    Source:  http://burning-glass.com/wp-content/uploads/rebooting_jobs_2017.pdf 

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    Advice For Apprentices From The Companies That Hire Them!

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    Advice For Apprentices From The Companies That Hire Them!

    Every November, The United States Department of Labor celebrates National Apprentice Week (NAW). NAW gives employers a chance to highlight the benefits of their apprentice programs. The week’s events also help to educate the public about the role of apprenticeships in preparing a highly-skilled workforce.

    As the November apprenticeship celebrations draw to a close, I wanted to reflect on lessons that I have learned in working with CareerWise and its partner employers over the last couple of months. CareerWise Colorado is building a statewide system of youth apprenticeships that create pathways for students to access high-demand, high-paying careers. Student apprentices work toward high school graduation and earn postsecondary credit, industry credentials or both in their chosen career path.

    In working with our partner, CareerWise, we have had the pleasure of interviewing several employees at the organizations that hire apprentices. These employees offered sage advice to youth who are considering or are actively employed in an apprenticeship. Below is a summarization of thoughts they shared with us…

    • You don’t know where you want to go in the end at the start – so, if the company allows it, move throughout various roles/departments (operations, food & beverage, engineering, etc.) to find where your passion is! – Training Specialist at a Hotel Management Company
    • Apprenticeships often lead to fulltime employment; therefore during your time as an apprentice assess how the company treats employees and how teams interact with one another to make sure the culture is a great fit for you. – Logistics Specialist at a Bike Component Manufacturer
    • Use your time as an apprentice to network with other employees at the organization and to learn about their jobs. - Loan Officer at a Community Bank
    • Companies make huge investments in you buy helping you to ‘start from nothing’ and build relevant industry skills – be sure to thank your co-workers for the things they teach you during your apprenticeships. – Paint Technician at Aircraft Maintenance Company
    • There are a lot of things that companies do and use in a workplace environment that you are not going to get trained on at school – consider an apprenticeship in order to get real-life experience that makes you more employable after school. - Quality Assurance Manager at a Home Improvement Digital Marketplace Company

    If you have additional thoughts/advice, please share with us (info at couragion.com). And if you (or students in your life) are looking to learn more about apprenticeships, here are some recently published articles to help…

    1. Room To Grow: Identifying New Frontiers For Apprenticeships – Burning Glass Technologies & Harvard Business School
    2. Jobs Now! Learning From The Swiss Apprenticeship Model – Forbes
    3. Apprenticeships, Long Common In Blue-Collar Industries, Are Coming To White-Collar Office Work – The Washington Post
    4. Betsy DeVos: Stop 'Forcing' Four-Year Degrees As Only Pathway To Success – Education Week

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    Industry Certifications as a Means to Workforce Readiness

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    Industry Certifications as a Means to Workforce Readiness

    Career pathways are messy – and are no longer the carefully documented corporate tracks of the past. Research shows Generations Y and Z will have far more careers than past generations. So how will the workers reinvent themselves to stay relevant? A new report from Burning Glass entitled "The Narrow Ladder" may have an answer as they use job posting data to examine the market value of industry certifications. 

    Here are some fast facts and interesting observations from the report:  

    • Certifications which outline career ladders and give employers and job seekers guidance about the skills necessary to advance are the exception.  
    • Industry certifications signal a validated proficiency of job skills and help new labor market entrants break into a field.  
    • Career fields that value certifications carry a significant salary premium especially as a career accelerator for workers seeking upward mobility.  
    • Fields like IT Networking are completely shaped by "stackable" certifications which outline the career paths from beginner to expert.  
    • Other fields are ripe for certification pathways when they validate hard to find skills and struggle to find qualified talent. 

    Industry certifications provide an economical alternative pathway for workforce readiness and career advancement with a promise to reduce labor skill gaps. In the Burning Glass research, there is however a call for a more clear, transparent information about the market value of certifications across the board.  

    As a parent or educator, would your support your student's pursuit of industry certifications as an alternative postsecondary pathway?  

    As an employer, would you hire someone who has industry certifications but not a degree? Do you have a model for career advancement that involves credentialing via certifications?  

    Let's keep this conversation going.  

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    Career Literacy:  Celebrating Career Development Month

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    Career Literacy: Celebrating Career Development Month

    November is National Career Development Month - so naturally Couragion is excited to celebrate! Did you know that career development and school counseling dates back to the 1800's and began as a means to provide vocational guidance to assist in the shift from an agrarian to an industrial society? In the 1960's, counseling shifted from being focused exclusively on career development to include personal/social issues. This was a sign of the times as social justice and civil rights were paramount. In the 1990's, the three core domains of counseling were established as academic, career, and personal/social.  

    All told, that's a seriously demanding charter for school counseling. Now add on top of that globalization and technological innovation – and the colossal impact it's having on our evolving workforce. It's no wonder education struggles to understand the needs of the labor market and emerging careers available to our students. With all these competing agendas, we just don't have enough focus on career development and readiness. Career literacy is an imperative! Our students need to understand the opportunities available to them. Families and educators need to support that decision making as students select career pathways. Couragion was created in part to provide solutions to these challenges.  

    In the spirit of making National Career Development Month actionable and productive, here are a few activities that we can all benefit from:  

    • Reach out to someone who has supported you in your job or career and THANK them! Be specific about how they inspired or backed you. A few weeks ago, I participated in a 'STEM Women from Egypt' event and recently received this message from Rana (pictured above with me), one of the amazing teachers I worked with.  

    "It was an honor to meet you. It was an amazing time and I had great benefit from our conversation. I introduced my ideas about STEM schools and fusing it with an American system and now have an appointment to speak with the owner of our school."  

    • Continue to build your network of mentors. Mentors are not singular – you'll find that you need many in order to ask for and receive the support you need. In the AT&T #WomenInTech Talk that I participated in last week, my advice in 140 characters was as follows. 

    "Map your mentor goals, seek wisdom + experience not celebrities, date before asking to go steady" 

    November is National Career Development Month. November 13th - 17th is National Career Development Week. November 15th is National Career Development Day.  

    Do you have any other advice on how to celebrate? We'd love to hear your stories and ideas.   

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    Implementing Work-Based Learning In K12 – Six Tips From Industry

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    Implementing Work-Based Learning In K12 – Six Tips From Industry

    I just returned from the 2017 TalentFOUND Sectors Summit – an event focused on accelerating Work-Based Learning (WBL) opportunities for students. For those not familiar with WBL, here is a definition from the Colorado Development Network:

    Work-Based Learning (WBL) – learning opportunities that occur in part or in whole in the workplace and provide the learner with hands-on, real world experience. Work-based learning opportunities include but are not limited to internships, apprenticeships, residencies and incumbent worker training.

    A major theme in the conference was how industry, community partners, workforce organizations, and K-12 and post-secondary education entities can partner together to increase the number of WBL opportunities that are provided to students.  

    I attended the K-12 education track in which a major focus was on helping K-12 educators understand how to best engage with industry to create WBL experiences. Here are my favorite pieces of advice that the industry representatives gave educators…

    1. Attend local industry association meetings to get to know local businesses and the type of competencies and skills they are looking for.
    2. Find a way to make WBL count as credit toward graduation. Be creative if need be and include the student in crosswalks of how their WBL experiences map to education standards.
    3. Discuss social good with your target industry partners and emphasize the fact that when employees help students with WBL activities, employee engagement increases.
    4. Investigate workplace tours, job shadows or even summer externships for your teachers. Educating teachers about careers and industry is critical so that they can best counsel students about WBL opportunities.
    5. Don’t forget about parents and guardians. Not only do students need to learn about career options and local industries, their families do too! Think about ways to include parents in industry tours, career days, or in sessions where students share details about their WBL experiences.
    6. When you do have success with an industry partner, summarize key results and student impact in an email that they can share within their organization and beyond. This makes it easier for them to get resources for future WBL activities with your students.

    If you have other best practices from your own WBL efforts, please share them with us (info at Couragion.com).  Thanks!

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    Who Gives The Best College Advice? It’s Not Who You’d Expect!

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    Who Gives The Best College Advice? It’s Not Who You’d Expect!

    Another informative report from Gallup and Strada Education Network was released last month. In June, my co-founder Mel shared highlights about the Gallup/Strada report that focused on which education decisions adults would change. The September report is titled ‘Where Students Get Valued Advice On What To Study In College’.

    This most recent report was created using data gathered from "2,087 responses from U.S. residents who were asked to identify where they received advice about which major to pursue and then asked to rate the helpfulness of that advice".

    The findings that I found most interesting were:

    • Only 11% cited getting college major advice from their high school counselor and this source had the lowest percent of respondents citing the advice was helpful!
    • Among the most frequently mentioned sources, the two with the highest percent of respondents stating that the college major advice was helpful were ‘a person with experience in the field’ and ‘an employer or coworker’.

    These responses point to the importance of career role models (like those featured in Couragion’s app) and work-based experiences for our youth (such as the CareerWise Apprenticeship model). The report showed that those who received advice from these sources had the least percent of respondents having second thoughts about their major. 

    As educators and parents, it behooves us to find ways to increase students’ access to role models and work-based experiences. How are you doing this with your children and/or students?

    Visit this webpage to check out the entire report.

    Image Credit: in the image above is one of our role models, Alicia, a logistics specialist at DT Swiss. She is pictured with her work mentor, Carlos, who has been instrumental in providing her with career advice.

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    Inspiring The Next Generation of Manufacturers

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    Inspiring The Next Generation of Manufacturers

    Manufacturing Day is the first Friday in October — and this year it occurs on Oct 6, 2017. It’s a celebration of modern manufacturing intended to inspire the next generation of manufacturers. Current manufacturers invite students, families, and educators to their facilities to educate them about career opportunities and improve the awareness and perception of manufacturing. Students who participated in Manufacturing Day last year reported some encouraging results which you can see in this infographic. 84 percent stated that they were more convinced that manufacturing provides careers that are rewarding and interesting – while 64 percent were more motivated to pursue a career in manufacturing!

    Couragion is focused on improving the perception and awareness of all STEM careers. We’ve had the honor of featuring some incredible advanced manufacturing companies in the outdoor recreation, aerospace, and aviation fields. The Couragion career exploration application enables students to 'visit' manufacturing facilities virtually any day of the year - not just on Manufacturing Day. Here are a few student comments after being exposed to these manufacturing careers:

    • “I have a class where I can 3D print and it was awesome, so I think it would be the same thing but more challenging!!”
    •  “This job sounds really fun being able to work with your hands and other people to make products that are made to make other people happy.”
    •  “I've helped in building mechanical robots for robotics and I thought it was fun, so a career similar to this would be great.”


    Back in June we published a blog about the US Public Opinion Of Manufacturing study written by Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute. This 6th release of the study provided insights about manufacturing job growth and summarized the public’s views about the sector. We'd recommend that you reference that blog to help prepare for Manufacturing Day, but we also wanted to share a few additional fun facts:

    In 2015, the average U.S. manufacturing worker earned $81K annually. Manufacturing jobs pay well above average! According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for U.S. workers is $44K per year.

    U.S. manufacturers now post more jobs for software developers than production workers. This is a signal that the products we make and methods used to make them are increasingly driven by computers! Check out the Burning Glass report here.

    Most U.S. manufacturing firms are small. In fact, three-quarters of manufacturing firms have fewer than 20 employees. This is good news since per Couragion’s student workforce data 42 percent of students are interested in working for small companies!  

    How are you preparing for Manufacturing Day? Be sure to share your activities and adventures with #MFGDay17 and @MfgDay on social media!

     

    Photo:  Role Models at West Star Aviation and DT Swiss

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    Career Exploration – You Cannot Afford To Skip It!

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    Career Exploration – You Cannot Afford To Skip It!

    Recently, a friend shared a graph with me that portrayed price changes in the U.S. between 1997 and 2017.  While nonessential items such as TVs or Toys have experienced a nearly 70 to 100% drop in price, essential items such as education, childcare, or medical care have seen exorbitant increases in price. College tuition prices, for example, have increased by 170%! Meanwhile, the average wage index has increased by only 75% during the period from 1997 to 2015.

    This data caused me to reflect on our June blog post that highlighted results from Gallup and Strada Education Network’s report entitled ‘On Second Thought: U.S. Adults Reflect On Their Education Decisions’.  The report is based on surveys of 350 U.S. adults and it explores the ‘extent to which education consumers in the U.S. are pursuing and completing postsecondary education programs that advance their chosen careers and life goals’. It is disheartening to see the high percentage of adults who would change their past education decisions – 51% would change either the type of degree earned, their major, or the institution they attended! 

    The above data really drives home the point that career exploration is necessary for our youth. With the high costs of college tuition, youth cannot afford to make uninformed purchase decisions regarding their post-secondary education. Career exploration teaches students about the factors they should consider when comparing career options and educational pathways. It enables them to benchmark options against their own interests, values, and desired work characteristics. It also provides students with insight into what their working life would be like after completing their post-secondary education. Armed with such information, youth are setting themselves up to make better post-secondary education choices, boosting their chances of long-term job satisfaction, and decreasing the chances of incurring college debt without the payout of a viable job offer.

    How are you helping your students and/or children to make informed choices about one of the largest purchase decisions they will make in their lifetime? Make sure career exploration is part of their post-secondary planning process!

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    Latinitas En STEM

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    Latinitas En STEM

    The Latinx share of the U.S. population has steadily increased over the past fifty years, yet the demographic still makes up less than 10 percent of STEM graduates and the STEM workforce. Frankly, many students and families are not aware of the STEM opportunities available to them. Couragion’s mission is to broaden participation in the STEM fields and to inspire underrepresented youth to pursue STEM credentials and competencies.

    Last week Couragion supported an amazing event called Latinitas En STEM for the second year in a row. This 3-day event is sponsored by the Rose Foundation and Imaginarium-Denver Public Schools in partnership with Denver Startup Week. The event is designed so that young Latina middle schoolers can meet successful STEM professionals to build awareness, motivation, and preparation towards careers in STEM. All the girls are invited to participate in a special panel discussion during Denver Startup Week to discuss what they learned and gained from their time together.

    Couragion’s co-founders held a career exploration workshop for the girls while also highlighting our personal longevity in the technology sector. In our efforts to create a new STEM identity based on Couragion research and insights, we wanted to share some fun facts about the Latinitas’ interests, values, and desired work characteristics:

    1. Frequent Flyers – Willing to travel 2x per month for work
    2. The Bachelor – Prefers to complete 4 years of postsecondary education
    3. Big Hearted – Having a job with a greater purpose is important
    4. Creative Genius – A high desire for a job that utilizes their creativity
    5. Scholar – Learning new things on the job is very important

    We pride ourselves on featuring role models who mirror a diverse demographic – and it was heartening to see so many of the girls select role models in the Couragion app who looked like them! Couragion’s roots run deep with this program in that not only do Laura and I support the career exploration workshop – but 3 other Couragion role models featured in our application also supported the event.

    • Dr. Violeta García is the Latinitas in STEM program champion and facilitator who worked tirelessly to recruit the incredible volunteers and design an engaging agenda. She is an entrepreneur and the founder of STEM Learning by Design.
    • Vanessa Diaz is the Vice President of Market Insights at Transamerica. She hosted a group of Latinitas onsite in her office where they got to visit 3 STEM women on her team: a data engineer, a data scientist, and business analytics engineer.
    • Dr. Nicole Garneau is the Curator of Human Health and Principal Investigator of the Genetics of Taste Lab at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science where a portion of the event was hosted. Dr. Garneau led a ‘meet the scientist’ session and is an advocate for women in science.

    National Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15 - October 15, 2017. Are you aware of any more activities to support this annual observation?

    @DrVioletaGarcia @yopearlscigirl @imaginariumDPS @DenverMuseumNS

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    CS Education Proponents – Don’t Forget Rural And Small-Town Students

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    CS Education Proponents – Don’t Forget Rural And Small-Town Students

    In August, Google and Gallup released a CS report focused on rural and small-town school districts. It is entitled Computer Science Learning: Closing the Gap. According to the report, rural and small-town students make up nearly half of the U.S. K-12 population – so anyone that is passionate about solving CS talent shortages needs to pay attention to these students!

    Data in the Google/Gallup report highlights that while rural/small-town students show similar interest levels in learning CS, their access to CS education opportunities is more limited.

    For example, when students were asked how interested they were in learning computer science in the future, the percent of students that were very interested or somewhat interested was the same (82%) for both the rural/small-town and large city/suburban student segments. On the flip side, rural and small-town students had fewer opportunities for CS learning. According to Google/Gallup, rural and small-town students are:

    • Less likely to have CS classes (58% rural or small-town, 57% large-city and 65% suburban).
    • Less likely to have CS clubs in their school (47% rural or small-town, 59% large-city and 65% suburban).
    • Less likely to say they have courses that specifically teach coding (37% rural or small-town, 41% large-city and 49% suburban).
    • Less likely to have advanced-placement CS courses (8% rural or small-town 9% large-city and 12% suburban).

    When Google/Gallup queried principals about the reasons behind having fewer CS learning opportunities, the most common answers given were a:

    • Lack of CS-skilled teachers (64%).
    • Lack of budget to train or hire teachers (56%).
    • Need to devote most of their time to courses related to testing requirements, and CS is not one of them (52%).

    In Couragion’s own K-12 research (completed in Q1 2017 with generous support from the National Science Foundation), we saw similar trends in rural CS education. In looking at rural versus non-rural populations, the data showed that:

    • Rural schools were less likely to offer Java (50% of rural, 53% of non-rural).
    • Rural CS teachers were less likely to have a CS degree or CS certification (46% of rural teachers report no CS degree/certification, 31% of non-rural teachers report no CS degree/certification).
    • Rural schools report ¼ of the ‘per student CS budget’ than non-rural schools report.
    • Rural schools are less likely to offer CS family education events such as coding nights or maker days (13% of rural, 18% of non-rural).

    So where does that leave us? Google/Gallup make the following recommendations to help increase CS learning opportunities for rural and small-town students:

    • Broaden support for CS education among parents, teachers and school-board members.
    • Strengthen mechanisms and support for teachers in rural settings.
    • Use local, national and global partners to increase awareness of CS careers in rural areas.

    I would add that those of us involved in creating CS programs and curriculum need to think beyond place-based solutions. Many of today’s programs (such as job shadowing or mentor programs or out-of-school learning events) are place-based and by nature exclude those in rural or small-town areas. When putting such programs in place, an excellent addition would be to think about how the program can be adapted to include online components that reach our students outside of cities and suburbs.

    If you have implemented creative ideas for increasing CS education access for rural/small-town students, we would welcome hearing about those (info at Couragion.com).

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    A New Spin on Workforce Readiness (& Labor Day)

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    A New Spin on Workforce Readiness (& Labor Day)

    Growing up in the Northeast, my memories of Labor Day focused on wrapping up your summer jobs and starting a fresh school year. This Labor Day we're not only celebrating back to school with all our amazing educators and students - but we also just announced our new partnership with CareerWise and we couldn't be more excited.

    CareerWise is shaping Colorado's workforce through innovative, business-led youth apprenticeships that will ultimately shift the paradigm of labor readiness. The new CareerWise infographic highlights many of the reasons we are so aligned in our collective work. Here are just a few…

    • Multiple student pathways – encourage students to gain skills today that will prepare them for the multiple careers they will have in the future, especially skills in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)
    • Alternative postsecondary education options – illuminate industry certifications and debt-free college credit opportunities, while helping to dispel the myth that every student needs to pursue a 4-year degree immediately after high school as the only path to success   
    • Engaged industry partners – ensure that businesses are 'producing' the next generation of talent in ways that will meet their workforce demands and meaningfully contribute to their bottom line today

    Perhaps future Labor Days can be celebrated for the pride we take in helping our students achieve livable wages in rewarding, high-demand careers that they’ll love! 

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    Increasing CS Interest Among Girls – 3 Tips Based On Couragion Data

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    Increasing CS Interest Among Girls – 3 Tips Based On Couragion Data

    According to the National Center For Women In Technology, while women make up 56% of the overall workforce, they make up just 26% of the computing workforce. And in 2015, although 57% of bachelor’s degrees were awarded to women, only 18% of the bachelor’s degrees in Computer and Information Sciences were earned by women. So clearly there is much work to do to increase interest in CS among girls. My co-founders and I have all spent the majority of our careers building software apps – we have seen firsthand the lack of diversity in tech and as such we have personal missions to help boost that diversity. So, we decided to make some of our app data public in order to offer insights and advice to others like us who want to help girls see the opportunities that CS provides. Here are 3 ideas based on Couragion’s CS Career-related data:

    1. Help girls see the applicability of CS in other fields – especially Science-related fields. When asked to select the STEM category of greatest interest, Science is the most selected category with 43% of girls choosing it. That compares to 22% of girls choosing Technology, 19% selecting Math, and 16% opting for Engineering. With Science being such a strong choice among girls, it may be helpful to share examples of how Science relies upon CS. For example, our Climate Researcher role model shared that she needs to use Python in order to better study the effects of global warming on coral reefs.  She expressed regret that she didn’t take CS courses in college and instead had the tough path of teaching herself programming while also juggling the responsibilities of a full-time research job.
    2. Think beyond robotics projects! It seems that every time I turn around, I learn of another robotics camp or curriculum option. I get it, I think robots are cool and I like that they demonstrate how written code translates to action/movement in the robots. However, our data shows that middle and high schools girls have limited interest in robotics so these projects are not the best route to spark CS interest in girls. For example, one of our featured STEM role models is a Robotics and Computer Vision engineer. This is a popular Career Quest among boys with it being on the top 5 list of most selected Careers Quests. A high percent of boys (55%) also find that the Career Quest is a best fit for their interests, values, and desired work characteristics. But among girls, only 7% select the Robotics Career Quest and of those completing the Quest only a third find it to be a best fit.
    3. Select CS projects that focus on helping people, animals, or the environment. Our data consistently shows that girls want to have a greater purpose to their work. For example, in one of our profile questions we ask girls and boys how important it is to have a greater work purpose. Girls rate this as extremely important while boys rate it as just important. This trend remains true looking at the individual job level as well. For example, the CS job that receives the highest percent of best fits among girls (67%) is the CTO of a start-up that instantly mobilizes resources to help find lost children! So to spark CS interest in girls, consider selecting projects that incorporate a greater purpose – such as helping a non-profit with their website or designing an app that solves a local community problem.

    How have you increased girls’ interest in CS? We’d love to hear your ideas (info at Couragion.com).

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    Teaching Java Prepares Students for Next Generation Workforce

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    Teaching Java Prepares Students for Next Generation Workforce

    If you are responsible for setting or influencing the strategy for STEM, Computer Science (CS), or Career and Technical Education (CTE) curriculum, you might struggle to understand what industry needs and exactly how to prepare your students for the workforce. And as coding becomes increasingly more critical as a foundational skill, how do you decide which programming languages will provide the most employment opportunities for your students, especially when there are so many opinions out there about the most popular technologies? When we shared this Couragion Java Infographic (pictured also above) with our partner schools one of our amazing CTE champions responded, “This reinforces our strategies.” I hope it helps you as well!

    While there are several studies regarding which programming language skills hiring entities want, we like the 2016 study conducted by New Relic and Indeed due to its huge sample size. In this study, Indeed reviewed 16 million job openings to determine which programming languages were mentioned most frequently as job requirements. Java was the clear winner - with 2,992 mentions per million listings - and this is more than the next 9 mentioned programming languages combined. According to Terence Chiu, vice president at Indeed, “It is not surprising that Java is such a popular programming language. It’s been around for a long time, runs in many computing environments, and has advantages of readability, scalability, and robustness.” I can attest to Java being around a long time as I have a Java t-shirt from the late ‘90s still in my drawer from my time distributing Sun (now Oracle) products when I worked at GE.

    Job demand is one way to understand key technologies, but another important angle is what developers are using on the job. Stack Overflow conducted a Developer Survey in 2016 that included responses from over 50K developers across the globe. In fact, they proclaim it’s the most comprehensive developer survey ever conducted. The survey asks developers about what they build, which technologies they use, which jobs they hold, and the education they’ve received. Interestingly 69% of developers today are self-taught! But with your help – that will change! As Stack Overflow puts it “JavaScript is the most commonly used programming language on earth.” JavaScript emerged as one of the three core technologies of World Wide Web for content production. Initially only utilized by Front-End developers, even Full Stack and Back-End developers are more likely to use it than any other language today.

    Since we are curious people, we wanted to understand what secondary schools are teaching today. So Couragion, with generous support from the National Science Foundation, conducted primary research around K-12 CS education. We were excited to find that Java and JavaScript were the two most popular programming languages being taught today by our CS educator respondents. Unfortunately, we saw disadvantages in access among regions with higher proportions of students of color or poverty levels. Here’s what we learned in numbers:

    • 53% of schools offer Java, while 42% of schools offer JavaScript
    • 57% of private schools and 52% of public schools offer Java
    • 45% of public schools and 32% of private schools offer JavaScript
    • Regions with higher populations of students of color offered Java 6% less
    • Regions with higher populations of students in poverty offered Java 17% less

    What Should You Be Teaching?

    Our vote based on the data is to opt for teaching your students Java and JavaScript. If you are already teaching them – congrats and keep it up! If you aren’t, here are some curriculum resources and considerations:

    1. Oracle has a great website with several resources and recommendations for younger learners.
    2. Greenfoot offers free software, a book, and an instructor community, all focused on teaching and learning Java.
    3. BlueJ is a free Java Development Environment designed for beginners.
    4. If you are looking for JavaScript resources, check out Khan Academy’s offerings.
    5. Keep abreast of reports that give insight into what hiring entities are looking for and what developers are using in their day-to-day jobs. Look not only for the most frequently mentioned languages, but also consider the year-over-year growth rates. A programming language with a large growth rate may indicate an up and coming language that will be very important in the future. In recent reports, PHP appears to be falling out of favor (especially in the enterprise) as programming languages like Node and Angular emerge.

    We’ll continue to keep an eye on things – check back for more infographics and insights in this series!

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