This is a continuing series of stories in which we are highlighting the winning Career Readiness Mini-Grant projects.

West Allegheny Middle School is undertaking an initiative to connect their students to viable career pathways based on their interests, strengths and market prospects. Superintendent Dr. Jerri Lynn Lippert encouraged middle school principal Dr. Frank A. Hernandez and the middle school team to implement a career awareness curriculum to promote student exploration of careers and better prepare students for high school based on the District’s priority of connecting every graduate to a viable post-secondary career and/or college.

Through the district’s Framework for Excellence, students in the West Allegheny School District are provided the opportunity to choose one of seven career and college pathways to schedule into as they transition from middle school to high school. With this mini-grant, students will be afforded the time and resources to actively explore career pathways as early as 7th grade so they may make informed decisions about their own future career pathways. The West Allegheny School District is using their middle school career project as a key step towards linking all students to a viable college and/or career pathway upon high school graduation.

West Allegheny Middle School identified a teacher committee to design their curriculum around career readiness. Their lessons will be taught during students’ Social Studies classes and will help students examine high interest and high demand career pathways. Representatives from Partner4Work, Allegheny County’s Local Workforce Development Board, have visited student classes and made presentations about in-demand careers in the region and how middle school students can start preparing for future career success. Through coordination with in-class instruction, students will use Virtual Job Shadow (an online and interactive career exploration program) to take a career interest survey and examine viable career opportunities. After completion of their career interest survey, students will be provided a recommendation that matches their skills and interests to high labor demand career clusters. Utilizing those career cluster recommendations, students will be guided towards developing a career portfolio they will use in high school and beyond.

Dr. Hernandez and the teacher committee are looking forward to the program’s culminating event, which will be a community presentation of their Career Interests Project. All 8th grade students will be required to make a presentation to school administrators, fellow students, regional business leaders, and community members identifying their career interests. Students will present the list of classes they are interested in taking in high school, jobs they found through their career lessons to be potential future careers, and the training and duties required for those jobs. Some of this information will come from virtual job shadowing opportunities as well as visits to Parkway West Career and Technical Center; which are also made possible by the mini-grant. Dr. Hernandez and Dr. Lippert are confident that this new program will help all students utilize their passions and skills to link them to high priority occupations and career goals through and beyond graduation.

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