Massachusetts Connecting Activities


History of Connecting Activities

The Connecting Activities initiative was formally launched in 1997.  It was designed to provide a sustainable funding stream for the important work that began in 1994 when Massachusetts received thirty-three million dollars from the federal School to Work Opportunities Act to connect school and work-based learning opportunities for students across the Commonwealth.  As those federal funds were sun setting, many states were left with no sustainability plan for the critical work that the federal legislation began. Massachusetts was proactive about that eventuality, and drafted state legislation called School to Career Connecting Activities to carry forward the work of linking schools and students to career development opportunities through the sixteen local workforce investment boards.  Hundreds of dedicated professionals in the education, workforce development and community-based sectors have participated in Connecting Activities since its inception. Their hard work has yielded a robust infrastructure to help make connections between employers, schools and students across the Commonwealth. .




National School to Work Opportunities Act (STWOA).   Through the STWOA, Massachusetts funded the creation of thirty-seven School to Career Local Partnerships across the Commonwealth through a five year federal grant.  As this federal grant sunset, (which was designed to provide seed money to build the initial infrastructure for connecting school and work-based learning), Massachusetts created �School to Career Connecting Activities� legislation on the state level to continue to sustain this important work.  


The School to Career Connecting Activities line item language was created in the state budget to sustain the work-based learning component of the federal school to work agenda that the STWOA began.


The School to Career Connecting Activities state line item was appropriated with funds competitively distributed to the sixteen local workforce investment boards working in collaboration with the School to Career Local Partnerships and districts/schools throughout the Commonwealth. 



A working group of Connecting Activities staff, employers and educators from across Massachusetts created the first iteration of the Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan (WBLP).  The WBLP is a diagnostic, goal-setting and evaluation tool designed to drive learning and productivity for students in youth employment programs across the state. The first version of the School to Career Connecting Activities database was also launched.

The first version of the program's database -- the PC-based School to Career Database -- was launched in 1998-99.


Connecting Activities funding and programming priorities were formally aligned with Academic Support, providing successful "work and learning" models to help students from the class of 2003 and beyond acquire their Competency Determination.  Since 2003, Connecting Activities has given priority to students who need to pass the MCAS retest in order to graduate.  Many regions have created "work and learning" academic support programs, which combine both work experience with classroom instruction in English Language Arts, mathematics and science/technology and engineering.  The classroom instruction in these programs is supported by Academic Support funds while the employer connection and job placement is supported by Connecting Activities funding through the sixteen local workforce investment boards.  


The current iteration of the Massachusetts WBLP was developed by an interagency working group of staff, employers and educators convened by Connecting Activities.  



The Online Work-Based Learning Database which includes the online version of the WBLP was launched through a summer pilot that involved both Connecting Activities and YouthWorks summer jobs programs. Gradually, the pilot database grew to be a statewide database and is used by all Connecting Activities programs as well as any other programs that want an online version of the WBLP, including youth served through WIA, YouthWorks, Cooperative Education and other statewide and local youth employment programs.


The implementation of Race to the Top in Massachusetts provided a focus on college and career readiness with a particular emphasis on increasing student graduation rates.  The Connecting Activities initiative introduced new "work and learning" program elements to guide programming and organize reporting to support this agenda.  These elements (using the acronym AGROWE) focus on coordinating with other school-based initiatives to: 1) help raise graduation rates; 2) help students develop college and career plans; 3) provide students with workshops and classes coordinated with work-based learning placements; 4) implement the Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan to structure work-based learning placements; and 5) continue to connect employers and schools.



The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopted the Report and recommendations of the Task Force for the Integration of College and Career Readiness which identified Connecting Activities as integral in providing increased career development activities for students across the Commonwealth. 


The Board of Higher Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to adopt a Massachusetts definition of college and career readiness that included the Foundation Skills found in the Massachusetts Work-Based Learning Plan and recognized workplace readiness as essential in preparing all students for success after high school.  Through Connecting Activities, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education published a Career Development Education Guide and Glossary to support schools, employers and students.


A new Connecting Activities homepage to expand the Connecting Activities network was formally launched at to house the Massachusetts Career Ready database (formerly called the Work-Based Learning Database) and provide tools and resources (including a video for employers on how to implement the WBLP) for workforce investments boards, schools, students and employers.  In addition, a new mobile site for the WBLP was formally launched. 

2015 Connecting Activities is a partner in the Massachusetts Creativity and Innovation Initiative, an initiative seeking to build opportunities for creativity and critical thinking into classroom activities and school programs. Connecting Activities emphasized the importance of these skills in many segments of the economy.
2017 Connecting Activities plays an important role in the High Quality College and Career Pathways (HQCCP) initiative.  Innovation Pathways were launched in 2017, as a new career pathway option for districts, combining classroom and work-based learning focused on broad industry themes.
2018 20th Anniversary. At the May 15, 2018 Connecting Activities conference, participants enjoyed a presentation celebrating the 20th anniversary of the initiative. Connecting Activities was formally launched in the 1997-1998 school year, to sustain the work started in Massachusetts in the five-year-long National School to Work Opportunities Act. View 20th Anniversary PowerPoint.
2019 Connecting Activities programs continue connecting students with STEM opportunities and with opportunities in industries highlighted in the Regional Labor Market Blueprints. These priorities are reflected in the new program elements used in the annual goal setting process.    
2019 Also in 2019, the Connecting Activities initiative launched a new version of the Work-Based Learning Plan, based on the work of the statewide Connecting Activities leadership group (representing all the workforce regions) and based on surveys of employers and staff in the Connecting Activities network. The new version consolidates steps to create a two-page version and introduces a new "Skills Dictionary" with sample skills and tasks.