Transfer to Career Collaborative: Workforce Development and Transfer High School Leaders Prioritize Career Development During COVID-19

In the midst of a pandemic that has hit our Transfer to Career (T2C) communities the hardest in terms of health, wellbeing, employment, and security, our high school leaders and staff, workforce training partners, and CBOs have continued to prioritize career development for students. They understand that access to work-based learning, training, industry certifications and postsecondary planning are critical for young adult economic mobility. Heading into the COVID-19 pause, T2C partners had actively engaged nearly 1,000 students this school year. Schools and workforce partners were steadfast in keeping the momentum going by transitioning career development courses and programs remotely, and reaching out to students for wellness and academic check-ins daily through phone, email, text, and Google Classroom. In spite of a digital divide affecting our most disenfranchised families and communities, and an upheaval to our educational and workforce systems, our Transfer High school students accessed career development coursework, career awareness and exploration programming, online curriculum, and remote postsecondary coaching daily throughout the Spring. 

COVID-19 has greatly exacerbated the inequities in the education system and labor market. Young adults, their communities, schools, and the nonprofits who serve them have evolving needs as the economic and educational landscape have changed dramatically. This has underscored the critical importance of career development and postsecondary pathways for overage and under-credited students who are most at risk of becoming out-of-school and out-of-work. School Design Teams—composed of school leaders, Learning to Work CBOs, and workforce development partners—have been collaborating to adapt their T2C model remotely to keep as much continuity as possible through the school year with regard to student impact and partnership communication. In May 2020, JobsFirstNYC released a working paper, Insights and Recommendations from the Young Adult Workforce Development Field on the Impact of Covid-19. The paper shares insights collected from interviews and surveys with all JobsFirstNYC partners–including those in the Transfer2Career Collaborative–articulates emerging questions that the young adult workforce development field is now grappling with, and offers recommendations to ensure that young adults and their communities are not left behind in efforts to rebuild our economy. 

JobsFirstNYC and New Visions for Public Schools have been working to support partnership communication and collaboration that is most difficult to uphold during these challenging times of change, takes immense work on the part of beleaguered school and workforce staff, and yet is necessary to provide students the opportunities they need and deserve. Just as expressed in the T2C March 2020 blog, T2C partners are still planning ahead for next year, as big ideas to create more sector opportunities for students, collaborate with school leaders during the school day, and build economies of scale across partnerships remains our North Star. Below are a few of the actions partners took this past Spring to ensure that the work to achieve the T2C mission not only continues its momentum but is elevated this Spring and Summer amidst a rapidly-changing educational and economic ecosystem. 

  • JobsFirstNYC and New Visions held the first virtual T2C Learning Community with school leaders, workforce development partners, and Learning to Work CBO staff. The guiding question was: How do we support students’ career development in a remote environment? We used Padlet to do a virtual “gallery walk” of resources, and facilitated breakout rooms to enable sharing about lessons learned during remote schooling across partners. 
  • School Design Teams have been laser-focused on postsecondary plans for graduating seniors, as changes to higher education, workforce training, and the labor market are impacting those students immediately. The groundwork was laid for an online referral network called T2C Postsecondary Pathways for Graduating Seniors, to organize the dozens of career pathway opportunities collectively offered by the workforce development and college partners engaged in T2C, and to ensure that graduating students can access opportunities despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19. JobsFirstNYC and New Visions hosted four student-facing information sessions with workforce partners, and are supporting students over the summer to transition into college and career training programs.
  • T2C schools and workforce development partners adapted quickly to changes brought on by COVID-19, transitioning programming and courses to remote learning platforms. School Design Teams created remote work-based learning workshops, including career fairs, panels, job skills training including resume and mock interview preparation. Thirty-six Career Development and Occupational Studies (CDOS) aligned course sections continued through Google Classroom. A four-day bridge training in green construction, taught by Solar One, was offered to thirty students across three schools.School Design Teams also leveraged Xello, an online platform for career development that all students and staff have licenses for through T2C. Xello provides career interest surveys, options to develop a comprehensive career plan, and a self-paced curriculum, and is ideal for a remote environment because it logs student engagement and generates educator reports. 
  • New Visions and JobsFirstNYC hosted professional development webinars biweekly on topics including Remote Advisory and Socioemotional supports, CDOS course alignment, Xello as an educational tool, Postsecondary counseling and planning for the future, and Resources for working with students and families in crisis. On off weeks, T2C office hours allowed for interactive discussions on critical topics guided by the participants who joined.
  • Upcoming T2C publications will tell stories from across the project and School Design Teams. JobsFirstNYC and New Visions are publishing briefs that feature bright spots and lessons learned across the pilot thus far, and an Innovations in the Field paper that describes the T2C journey to date, including examples of the different models across the T2C community.

Due to economic changes brought about by COVID-19, it is critically important that students find career clarity, understand the professional world and labor market, register and persist in postsecondary training and education, and secure stable employment. Now that the school year has recently ended, School Design Teams are looking ahead to the summer to provide work-based learning opportunities to grow exposure and build students’ skills, and bridge graduates into postsecondary education and training. Next steps for T2C include developing partnership coaching tools to enable whole-of-school engagement and long-term sustainability plans for career development in schools.   

The Transfer to Career Collaborative is an innovative pilot project powered by JobsFirstNYC and New Visions for Public Schools working to improve career readiness, postsecondary, and employment outcomes of over-age, under-credited students. T2C embeds career development in high schools and builds bridges to postsecondary education and training. This is achieved through the creation of partnerships between 12 transfer high schools and 11 workforce development organizations and community colleges in the Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. Each partnership has formed a School Design Team that drives the T2C implementation model and strategy based on the specific assets and needs of their school community. Learn more about T2C here.

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Written by Amanda Rosenblum, Director Of Postsecondary Innovation at JobsFirstNYC.

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