(Pittsburgh, PA) Imagine this. A parent and a student sit down together at a computer. The student keys in a username and password and together they discover that the student has the reading skill set to become a Pharmacist making $63,030 per year. Across town, another parent and another student realize that she has the math skills to follow her dream of becoming an electrician like her father. In downtown Pittsburgh, a human resource manager is posting jobs and internships to a website knowing she is reaching out to applicants who have the key workplace skills required to do the job. This is reality in Pittsburgh. During the 2001-2002 academic year, nearly 3,000 10th grade students in Pittsburgh Public Schools participated in the Keys2Work skills-oriented career exploration program for the purpose of seeing where their current skills can be used in today’s job market as well as what opportunity lies ahead through further training.
Keys2Work, a non-profit project of the Tides Center of Western Pennsylvania, provided the basic skill assessments and related online, skills-based career exploration activities to Pittsburgh Public School students through a grant provided by The Pittsburgh Foundation. The regional Keys2Work program is underwritten by Richard King Mellon Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, and Mellon Financial Corporation Foundation.
Unique to the Keys2Work program is a mailing to the parents and/or guardians of these students. It will be distributed jointly this week by Keys2Work and the Career Development Department of the Pittsburgh Public Schools. The mailing emphasizes to students and their parents the relationship between the basic skills learned in school and the basic skill requirements for any occupation.
The mailing provides parents three important pieces of information: 1) a summary of the Keys2Work program and how it impacts their student, 2) statistics from the Human Capital Policy Initiative at the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics which outline the workforce and population trends of our region, and 3) instructions on how to access the www.keys2work.com website from home or at the Carnegie Public Library of Pittsburgh to those who need free Internet access.
Whether a student plans to enter the workforce after high school or after college, Keys2Work provides students and their parents the opportunity to see how academic accomplishments build upon themselves against the real needs of the workplace. According to Keys2Work Executive Director, David Mosey, “The goal of Keys2Work is to help students and their parents realize that what they learn in school really does matter. We do that by relating students’ academic achievement to the needs of jobs. Think of it as Pittsburgh’s SAT test for the workplace. It sounds simple, but it may be the very first time a parent sees how what the student has learned in school is directly tied to economic opportunity.”
In December, 10th grade students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools completed the first component of the Keys2Work program by taking three assessments from ACT’s WorkKeys® system: Reading for Information, Applied Mathematics, and Locating Information.
These assessments, which measure reading, mathematics, and graphic interpretation skills, are used nationally in workforce development and education programs. Their purpose is to measure a student’s ability to apply what they’ve learned in school to solving common work-related problems and to inform the student of his/her basic skills work-readiness. Employers can also use these assessments for identifying, recruiting and hiring qualified job applicants.
At the end of the school year, each tenth grader received a score report, a user ID and a password for the Keys2Work website. In this week’s mailing, parents are encouraged to explore the website directly with their student. Students can examine jobs that match their current skills levels as well as pinpoint gaps where greater skill development is needed.
Students can also review skills, abilities, knowledge, working conditions, personal characteristics associated with each job, employers in the Southwestern Pennsylvania region who hire for these jobs, and where these job openings currently exist in our region.
During the summer months, through a joint program with the Carnegie Public Library, students are encouraged to come to the library to explore the website and use training materials designed to improve their skills and expand their career opportunities. Keys2Work also provides each school with the training materials to address identified skill gaps.
Including all high schools in the Pittsburgh Public School District, the Keys2Work program is currently being used in 32 high schools throughout Allegheny County. In total, nearly 5,000 high school sophomores participated in the skills assessment-career exploration program. Based in Pittsburgh, Keys2Work is also being utilized nationally. In Jacksonville, Florida, Keys2Work has partnered with the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce. Over 50 high schools and almost 7,000 high school seniors are participating. Other Keys2Work projects are also in place in Syracuse, NY, St. Louis, MO, and in eastern Arkansas. # # #