The Massachusetts School to Career Connecting Activities Initiative

 


Overview of Connecting Activities

The School to Career Connecting Activities initiative (CA) is designed to build connections between employers and schools so they can provide work experience and other career development opportunities to the youth of Massachusetts.   

What is Connecting Activities?  

Connecting Activities (CA) is the state-funded intermediary system, led by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), linking education, business and workforce development partners through the work of skilled intermediaries.  These linkages provide the background for a network that provides career development experiences for students in approximately 200 high schools across Massachusetts.   

What does it look like in action?  A student in Cape Cod interns with the harbormaster to explore his dream career.   A group of middle school students from Blackstone Valley discovers science connections on a tour of an advanced manufacturing facility.  A science teacher collaborates with a local company to design curriculum.  The owner of a local business startup visits his high school to present at a Career Day.   Teams of school and business professionals meet throughout the year to design classroom and workplace experiences for students in new career-themed pathways in the local high school. 

Connecting Activities is funded annually through an appropriation in the state’s budget (Line Item 7027-0019).   CA funds are allocated by DESE to all sixteen local Workforce Development Boards (WDB) in the state.  In turn, the WDBs partner with high schools and other local stakeholders to offer work-based learning and career development education services to students.  The return on investment from CA is very high:  For each public dollar invested, CA is leveraging close to five dollars in private sector wages.  In FY18, with an appropriation of close to $3 million, the return was over $14 million in student wages.

How does CA work and who does it serve? 

The sixteen MassHire Workforce Development Boards (WDBs) use CA funding primarily to pay for the intermediary role that is the heart of the initiative, performed by talented workforce professionals and educators. These staff bring together a network of school-based staff in the region, broker work-based learning experiences for students, and help to create career awareness and exploration activities in the community.

Each WDB has a designated lead staff member who serves as the CA point of contact for DESE. A core group of leaders, including these 16 staff members and a comparable number of leaders who have been active in those regions as support, guides CA under the direction of DESE. This core group meets several times a year to share information and effective practices, and to support continual improvement.

In addition to that core leadership group, there is a much larger network of practitioners who provide the essential functions required in all participating communities, including school district administrators, teachers, guidance counselors, career counselors, workforce professionals at WDBs, chambers of commerce, and Career Centers, and local leaders of long-standing local School-to-Career partnerships, among others. At our FY2018 spring conference, over 175 practitioners representing many high schools from all sixteen regions along with their workforce partners, came together to share in this work.

At the state level, Connecting Activities is supported by collaboration among the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Executive Office of Education, the Department of Higher Education, and the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development (EOLWD) which guides the workforce development system, supported by the MA Workforce Development Board (MWDB).  Through the workforce boards, knowledge of local and regional industry trends helps to inform development of school-based and workplace-based experiences for students. 

Connecting Activities reaches all corners of the state, from our large urban areas to our smaller cities, from suburban to rural areas, and is designed to serve students of all skill and income levels, including students with disabilities, English language learners, and low-income students.  Career development experiences are designed to support students in comprehensive high school programs, in  Career/Vocational Technical Education, and in any of the career pathway programs described below in this report. Career development experiences are designed to support students in exploring a broad range of post-high-school options, recognizing the variety of post-high-school education and training options that provide access to high quality future careers.

Where Does the Name Connecting Activities Come From? 

The name “Connecting Activities” reflects the idea of building these connections, coming from the national School to Work demonstration program launched in the 1990s.  The School to Work model envisioned a career development system for students organized around three elements:  (1.) School-Based Activities; (2.) Workplace-Based Activities; and (3.) Connecting Activities that connect schools and workplaces. In 1998, at the conclusion of the national demonstration project, Massachusetts introduced a state-funded initiative, called School to Career Connecting Activities, to continue this work.  We are proud that the initiative has continued this very important and creative work since 1998.   

 

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