Engaging Middle Schoolers in Career Education

Let’s do a fun exercise – take a moment to reflect back on yourself as a middle school student. What were the fashion trends at the time? Can you picture what kind of hairstyle you sported? What did you talk about with friends between classes?

While it’s fun, and even comical for us to look back at the past to the time we were in middle school, it’s not always as easy for middle schoolers to look ahead towards the future. 

So how do you get middle schoolers to think past lunch and beyond to their future careers? Here are three approaches to engaging middle schoolers in career education. 

1) Connect the “every day” to a payday

While there’s still a lot of time before a middle schooler exchanges a backpack for a briefcase, there are many opportunities to connect what they like right now to what they can do with it in a future career.

For example, if a student enjoys playing video games – discuss how they can one day have a career someday coding the next Minecraft, or, just as globally relevant, decoding the next cyber attack. If a student loves make-up, connect the dots to the chemistry behind it. Encouraging career discussions early on will help them form their own connections to the resources and pathways to their passions later. Even if they change a million times. 

2) Meet them where they are – on their phones

It’s no secret that technology has drastically altered the world we live in. While the older generation is still navigating the ever-changing trends of modern technology, young people have fully embraced them. In fact, statistics show that roughly 95% of 13-18-year-olds have access to a smartphone. 

This makes the smartphone a no-brainer platform to engage them in career tips and tactics right where they are– on their phones. 

There are many incredible digital resources available to enhance career education. Our mission at skillsgapp is to connect youth to life-changing careers through game-changing play. Career One Stop is a one-stop hub of career resources from videos, programs and apprenticeships for individuals to explore. Aeseducation provides career curriculum and digital projects for educators to use in their classrooms. As we look to fill our talent pipelines, no industry, state or educational institution should discount the power of technology as a meaningful and scalable tool to connect kids to the careers that connect with them. 

3) Connect industry and schools….earlier.

Networking is essential in making connections for a future job, but why limit it to post-secondary? Bridging the gap between what students are learning in school and what others do as careers in the real world is important at any age. As educators, inviting local business professionals to visit your classroom to teach students about their industry can leave a lasting impression, even if it’s to cross off something a student doesn’t like to do, which is just as important. Incorporating interdisciplinary projects that interact with real companies and simulating real job assignments is another big win. When industry and educators collaborate, the former gets a potentially more qualified applicant later, and kids get a sense of real-world application immediately.

Meet them in the middle

As we reflect back to our own ‘teacher/doctor/lawyer’ middle school career education, we can all agree that unearthing the plethora of future job possibilities available at a younger age will help students navigate the life they want to build, not the ones we want them to build. 

What was your dream career in middle school?

Tech Times | Exclusives #50: Skillsgapp CEO Tina Zwolinski – Who doesn’t wanna be a Skillionaire?

Skillsgapp’s CEO Tina Zwolinski discusses how Skillsgapp transforms manufacturing and cybersecurity career awareness, access to job pathways and corresponding skills development into fun, engaging mobile video games. Watch or listen here.

Gen Z Trends for the Workforce WIN

By John Zwolinski, Chief Experience Officer at skillsgapp //

Gen Z, the topic of countless musings and a multitude of opinions, is coming to the workplace in large numbers – what will that mean for the future of work? When considering how they will impact the workforce, three big questions come to mind:

How do you attract them?

How do you motivate and inspire them?

How do you retain them?

In order to answer these questions well, it’s worth spending some time digging in and getting to know them. Below you will find a recent Gen Z trends survey from PIPER|SANDLER. Take a look and test yourself by asking how many of these responses you would have predicted. What surprised you? What does it mean, and how could it help you create more engaging conversations and experiences for your younger workforce?

Gen Z video consumption stats
Gen Z top clothing brands stats
Gen Z top restaurants stats
Gen Z top celebrity stats

Learn more stats on Gen Z here.

While the trends in this survey provide some general generational insight, remember that they are individuals first and not a monolith. Like any generation, they can’t all be lumped together and assumed to share the exact same attributes. Was EVERYONE in the ’60s a hippie? Did EVERY high schooler in the ’80s wear a Members Only jacket? Of course not, and there are a variety of intentional initiatives to consider to gain better individual insight and input from your Gen Z team members, such as forming “shadow boards.” 

“A lot of companies struggle with two apparently unrelated problems: disengaged younger workers and a weak response to changing market conditions. A few companies have tackled both problems at the same time by creating a “shadow board” — a group of non-executive employees that works with senior executives on strategic initiatives. The purpose? To leverage the younger groups’ insights and to diversify the perspectives that executives are exposed to.”

Gen Z is on the rise, and companies who make the effort to more fully understand their context and motivations will be the winners in employee attraction, productivity, and retention – with profits likely to follow!

What surprised you most about Gen Z from the survey? 

John Zwolinski is a team builder and culture champion with a thirty-year track record in branding, marketing, and education. He spent five years in the public school system as a history teacher and coach and over twenty as a mentor for high-school-age youth. As skillsgapp’s CXO, John is focused on creating exceptional experiences for our people, players, and partners to fulfill our mission of connecting youth to life-changing careers through game-changing play.

Use Case Podcast: Storytelling about skillsgapp with Tina Zwolinski

On this episode of The Use Case Podcast with William Tincup, Tina Zwolinski from skillsgapp talks about using the gamification of workforce development and recruitment for Gen Z applicants and employees. Listen here.

GSA BizWire: Announcing the 2022 InnoVision Awards Finalists

The InnoVision Awards Board of Directors is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2022 InnoVision Awards. This year’s finalists include both large and small organizations, representing an array of industries, from the upstate to the coast – a true reflection of South Carolina’s robust innovation economy.

InnoVision Awards honor South Carolina individuals and organizations for impactful innovations under development in South Carolina within the last 18 months. The annual awards are the mark of distinction for the many organizations, individuals, educators and leaders who have been honored over the 24-year history of the InnoVision Awards.

The 2022 finalists in the six competitive award categories are:

Technology Development

Foresight Data Systems LLC (Columbia)
Laminaheat LLC (Greer)
Victory ExoFibres, LLC (Central)

Community Service

South Carolina Broadband Office (Columbia)
Pickens County (Pickens)
The Sophia Institute (Charleston)

Small Enterprise

Advent Innovations (Columbia)
ASSET, LLC (Columbia)
Heartbeat Technologies (Mt Pleasant)

Education

MedEx Academy – Prisma Health System (Greenville)
skillsgapp llc (Greenville)
Sprattronics Learning Lab (Greenville)

Technology Integration

CyCrypt, LLC (West Columbia)
TTI Outdoor Power Equipment, Inc. (Anderson)
Zylo Therapeutics, Inc. (Greenville)

Sustainability

Clemson University Environmental Engineering & Earth Science Department (Clemson)
Performance Enhanced Delivery (Moore)
VBASE Oil Company (Pendleton)

Read more.

Women Talk Construction: Episode 24-Erasing Stigmas with Tina Zwolinski

In this episode, Angela and Christi talk with Tina Zwolinski from Skillsgapp. Tina helped create a gaming app for youth that teaches various trade skills with the opportunity to see information about local companies that are hiring for those trade skills. Since so many young people are playing games on their mobile phones these days (90%), doesn’t it makes sense to target our youth with an app that can actually help them plan for their careers? This is a great way to erase the stigmas that surround the trade skills in our nation. Listen to find out how!