Happy New Year! We here at Washington STEM have been continuing our collaboration with the Workforce Board in observing, across the state, the different Learning Labs that create work experiences for young people.

Before the New Year, we had talked about five Learning Labs that Washington STEM had visited;  since then we have had the opportunity to observe six more. Catherine Verrenti, the Washington STEM consultant who leads the assessments and documentation of the Learning Labs, had this to say about our most recent Lab visits, “All of these programs are so very, very different, both in who they are designed to reach and in the nature of the experience; however, they are all in a similar place in their development—they’re all about to launch their next steps towards growth/scaling. One thing that this could mean for the young people involved with the differing programs is that they’ll receive a deeper and richer experience.”


ANEW is a program in Bellevue that focuses on addressing gender diversity in the construction workforce. They provide programs that will tackle the challenges faced in a male dominated industry by developing a pre-apprenticeship program that focuses on proven strategies for improving the pipeline into cscreen-shot-2017-01-11-at-10-36-43-amonstruction jobs for women and people of color. The pre-apprenticeship program assists the participants in gaining the necessary skills to be successful competitors for construction, aerospace, and manufacturing jobs. Gilda Wheeler, Washington STEM senior program officer, visited this Learning Lab. “ANEW’s training program specifically preparing women for jobs in the construction trades is unique and inspiring. We were fortunate to visit there while the students were working on a ‘tiny’ house that included framing, electrical wiring, and plumbing.”


The Skills that Shine program, led by Washington State Opportunity Scholarship (WSOS), helps provide students an opportunity to develop a personal relationship with a professional mentor working in their field of interest. Washington STEM program officers Tana Peterman and Amanda Fankhauser visited the Skills that Shine kickoff even in Seattle and had an in-depth follow-up with program staff afterwards. After the event, Tana had this to say: “The Skills that Shine program represents a focused and streamlined approach to supporting WSOS scholars, beyond financial assistance. The mentoring modules are clear and straightforward. Not everyone knows how to be a good mentor or mentee, but the modules provide coaching and tips to both so they can make the most of their time together. By the end of the program, mentees are equipped with skills related to networking, résumé writing, and interviewing specific to their fields of interest. Both the mentor and mentee gain valuable experiences in the mentoring partnership.”


Summer Jobs 253 is a paid internship program located in Tacoma. They specialize in providing incoming high school juniors and seniors with the opportunities to gain life skills and work experience, and the chance to earn the general education credit needed in high school to stay on track or get back on track for graduation. Amanda Fankhauser noted, “Summer Jobs 253 has developed effective strategies to keep students on track for graduation while also developing the skills that will prepare them for success in the working world. Through internships with local businesses and participation in a career planning course at Tacoma Community College, students are learning soft skills—like the importance of time management, resourcefulness, and how to communicate in a professional environment. They are also learning the importance of networking and establishing references that will support their entry into future careers.”
I tagged along to the Learning Lab Educurious hosted at Kent-Meridian High School in Kent. Educurious provides an educational pathway and mentorship opportunities for students in school. For example, at Kent-Meridian, students were being taught genetics and DNA discrimination which was immediately followed with the opportunity to speak with experts, via Skype, in the field of genetics. Students asked questions about the genetics field, what DNA discriminscreen-shot-2017-01-11-at-10-37-11-amation is, how it pertains to their jobs, and anything else that may interest them in that field. This kind of rapport is helpful in that it can esta
blish a mentorship between the expert and students which can also create a pathway to internships, work study opportunities, and exposure to new fields of study. Educurcious also provides a curriculum for educators as a guide, that they can modify to fit their needs, and a discussion board that students can use to stay in contact with the experts outside of class.


Youthworks—Pathways to Success is a program that provides youth, who have dropped out of high school, a way to access education and supportive services. They are also given the opportunity to utilize career exploration tools, select potential career goals, learn about different career pathways, and participate in job internships and work experiences. While the integration of work skills and education is critical, they are first and foremost working to develop hope and self-worth. The ultimate goal for these young adults is not to simply to get a job, but to have a future. Jesse Gilliam, Washington STEM’s communication director, said of the program, “At Youthworks we met educators and service providers dedicated to creating education experiences tailored to the needs of out-of-school youth that connect them to great work experiences. It was inspiring to see their creative approach and passion for increasing access to education and opportunity.”


These Learning Labs are different in their deliverables and goals for their respective communities, but, as Catherine says, they all share “the same passion and thoughtfulness about their work and what they are trying to provide for the youth at large.”