Career Connected Initiatives
Providing career-connected learning in classrooms is key to helping young people explore their career options, learn about real-world expectations and industry trends, and ultimately be better equipped to choose and excel in a career path that is a good fit for them.
Pennsylvania’s Every Student Succeeds Act Consolidated Plan, which was approved by the US Department of Education in 2018, includes career readiness standards and indicators that are critical to student success – mandating that public school students have experiences in a set of key areas.
However, many schools and teachers are ill equipped to meet these standards without additional resources. PAI works to fill the gaps, especially for under-resourced schools and historically under-served students (low-income students of color). We provide a set of scaffolded career awareness, exploration, preparation and training services for students in middle and high school as well as technical assistance and professional development for teachers so they are better equipped to provide effective career-connected learning.
Middle School Initiative –
Career Awareness and Exploration
PAI’s Middle School Initiative was created to:
- empower students in high-need schools to identify career pathways at an earlier age,
- provide an opportunity to engage with career experiences and learning that fit their interests and needs,
- ensure more students have access to the career-connected learning required by the State before advancing to high school,
- increase student self-awareness and agency in their high-school selection process, and
- foster growth in their post-secondary exploration and career-goal development – all of which prepares them for greater secondary and post-secondary success
We achieve this by bringing school teams and industry partners together to build school capacity with respect to career-connected learning and by leveraging our own expertise in delivering direct career-connected student services. Programming focuses on three areas:
Too many Philadelphia middle school students lack opportunities to understand the range of career options available to them or the skills needed to be on a career path of choice. PAI remedies this by coaching teachers on how to build and implement career-connected projects and programs into their curriculum and by assuring students have the opportunity to have a host of work-based learning experiences, including, but not limited to, career-readiness lessons (e.g., career cluster & pathway exploration, learning styles inventories), career panels, industry tours, career days, and career-connected field trips. PAI provides targeted professional development for teaching staff and resources on industry-related lessons, with a particular focus on a series of Career Panels that bring industry partners into the classroom and engages students in learning that is both relevant and compelling. Students come to understand the skills, training, and education needed to be successful in various career fields.
Too many Philadelphia middle school students are not actively engaged in their high-school selection process. If students don’t get into the right high schools, they can lose interest, fall behind, or fail to graduate. PAI works with school staff to develop a structured approach to educating students on and engaging them in their high school options and selection processes and to providing early exposure to post-secondary institutions.
We work closely with school counselors to build students’ confidence in high school selection by providing joint workshops on the selection process, by chaperoning and coordinating busses for high-school fairs, and by sponsoring high-school alumni panels. Early post-secondary exposure is achieved via college tours and college student panels (with PAI working to connect middle schools with postsecondary partners and coordinating panels), where middle-school students can learn valuable information about preparing for college, college life, study habits, understanding their GPA, participating in school clubs/activities, college interviews, and scholarship opportunities.
Project-based learning (PBL), a teaching method in which students learn by actively engaging in real-world and personally meaningful projects in the classroom that are aligned to content standards, is an essential component of PAI’s middle school initiative. PAI supports teachers in designing projects using a cross-curricular approach that integrates technology as well as scaffolds student learning. The goal of the PBL experiences is to increase student exposure to such 21st skills as critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication. PAI helps school teams in developing project timelines, student handouts, task lists, online resources, and industry connections.
To learn more about our Middle School Initiative, contact:
High School Initiatives –
Career Preparation and Training
While career awareness and exposure is integrated into PAI’s high-school programming via the Industry Advisory Councils that PAI maintains (which support work-based learning in schools), the primary focus of PAI’s programming for older students is on career preparation and training.
PAI provides deeper-touch career-preparation programming related to the Hospitality Industry as well as several core signature events that enable high-school students to practice and refine their skills.
In response to the need to provide diversified, qualified candidates to fill opportunities in the Hospitality sector - one of Philadelphia’s top industries, PAI’s Hospitality Program provides a set of career-connected learning experiences designed to prepare students – in particular Black, Latinx, and economically disadvantaged students – for careers in this sector. Scaffolded over the course of 10th through 12 grades, this initiative enables students to successfully pursue post-secondary opportunities and have a clear trajectory in the Hospitality sector that extends beyond entry-level positions.
Students begin each year with intensive workshops meant to guide them to greater clarity on their options with respect to college and career, as well as to help them become more self-aware and better advocates for their own success. The content of these sessions from grade to grade are building blocks, setting a foundation from sophomore through senior year such that seniors leave the program with a post-secondary plan outlining their next steps.
Each year students participate in 2-3 workshops designed to build targeted professional skills. By the time they graduate, students will have filled their “toolbox” with specialized workshops on eight (8) critical professional skills. These workshops are designed with the PA Academic Standards for Career Education and Work in mind.
In this 5-part workshop series, which was developed in concert with and support from Aramark, 10th grade students are introduced to best practices in quality customer service including how to provide excellent customer service through effective conflict resolution, delivering on service promises, and maintaining professionalism at all times. Workshops incorporate lecture, role-play, written reflections, and group debriefing conversations.
For 6 weeks each summer, students in our program are eligible to be placed at hotel and hospitality sites associated with our business partners. Each week, students experience different aspects of careers in hospitality, ranging from working “front of the house” at a restaurant to housekeeping and laundry at a hotel to staffing a reception desk to accounting and record-keeping, etc. Students are expected to clock in on time each day, come professionally dressed, and support the permanent staff – all while learning valuable teamwork skills. After 4 days of on-site learning each week, students spend Fridays in PAI’s office with our staff, participating in professional development sessions.
To learn more about our Hospitality Programming, contact:
To enable our students to practice and refine their skills, PAI has developed a set of signature events for students in grades 10-12, which act as milestones for our young professionals. These are full day events where students hone in on a particular skill and have meaningful interactions with industry professionals. Sophomores become confident professional speakers at our PAI Speech Competition, Juniors excel at impressing business partners with their resumes and interviewing skills at our PAI Interview Expo, and Seniors in hospitality pathways develop networking skills with employers at Hospitality Education Day.
To learn more about our Signature Events, contact:
Career Training –
Bridge & Pre-Apprenticeship Programming
Establishing Career Pathways and Apprenticeship has been recognized nationally, regionally and locally as a key strategy in fostering career success for youth and young adults. Philadelphia’s local workforce development plan emphasizes beginning career pathway work within in-school settings, connecting directly to Career and Technical Education Programming. PAI has been a leader in providing this type of programming to in-school youth as well as aligning that programming with CTE pathways. PAI’s two existing Bridge and Pre-Apprenticeship programs employ that model. Its newest program that is currently in development will test providing Bridge/Pre-Apprenticeship programming to in-school students in an after-school setting.
Bridge and Pre-Apprenticeship programs share many of the same characteristics. Focusing primarily on 10th -12th grade students, these programs offer academic and technical skill building, work-based learning opportunities, industry master classes, summer internships, case management, industry certifications and post-secondary transition planning and are developed in close relationship with industry partners. Pre-Apprenticeships are aligned with a Registered Apprenticeship program and certified by the State.
In response to a regional need for a diverse, highly trained Early Childhood Education (ECE) workforce, PAI has collaborated with Parkway West High School and ECE partners to build a pipeline to prepare students for multiple career opportunities in the education field. Work began on the ECE Career Pathway at Parkway West in 2013; it was officially launched in 2017. A Registered Pre-Apprenticeship program was added to this pathway in 2019.
Teaming with the 1Philadelphia initiative, PAI is in the process of developing an after-school program focused on the Technology field for in-school students of color in West Philadelphia. The goal of this program is to ensure that underrepresented Philadelphia students are receiving the career exposure and supplemental services needed to mitigate barriers to accessing pathways to tech and innovation careers through apprenticeships and/or through continued post-secondary education.
In response to identified skill gaps among students graduating from Mastbaum’s Career and Technical Education programs, PAI has developed a Bridge-to-Work Program over the last several years that it is currently transitioning into a Registered Pre-Apprenticeship for students in the Construction Trades that ensures participants are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and networks needed to access employment or post-secondary training leading to life-sustaining wages.
To learn more about our Bridge and Pre-Apprenticeship Programming, contact: