Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) is the fourth-largest school district in the United States, serving 355,000 students in 365 schools. Over 140,000 students are enrolled in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, which help prepare students to become college and career ready. With such a large and diverse population to serve, the challenges that the CTE department at M-DCPS faces are enormous.
In August 2016, M-DCPS adopted VirtualJobShadow.com to integrate into their middle school curriculum in order to better engage students in career exploration and planning. Now serving all 50 middle schools and 16 K-8 centers, M-DCPS has experienced tremendous success with VirtualJobShadow.com after only a few months.
In 2015, Dr. Lupe Ferran Diaz, Career Technical Education Executive Director, was looking for an engaging way to empower middle school students to take ownership of their educational and career direction. With a wide range of CTE programs available to Miami-Dade’s high school students, Dr. Diaz felt that the best way to drive student enrollment in these critical CTE courses was by improving the career exploration curriculum at the middle school level. Dr. Diaz believed that once students can envision a career path for themselves, their chances of graduating high school dramatically increase.
She discovered VirtualJobShadow.com at an educational conference and was intrigued by its video-centric career exploration platform, which would engage her middle school students as well as support other district CTE objectives. “The beauty of this program is that it can be used as a curriculum for a self-standing course, or it can be infused into existing classes,” Dr. Diaz said.
After thoroughly vetting VirtualJobShadow.com at the district’s largest middle school, Dr. Diaz was able to prove the platform’s value and effectiveness with students. During this short testing period, students watched over 3,000 videos, validating her belief of student engagement.
“We found out from kids that first of all they enjoyed it; they love the videos. And when you compare this platform with some of the other competing software applications and programs that are out there, VirtualJobShadow.com just engages the kids a lot more.”
Based on the enthusiasm of the students and teachers, the district adopted VirtualJobShadow.com for all 50 middle schools and 16 K-8 centers. Once the online platform began to rollout across the district, students quickly watched another 20,000 videos, spending almost 3,000 hours exploring careers.
While it’s too soon to measure the impact on high school CTE programs and graduation rates, the importance of having access to such an engaging career exploration platform is clear to Dr. Diaz. “It’s another way of changing the perception of CTE away from the old vocational. It’s not the old woodshop anymore. Today’s students have to know about these new career fields and have other opportunities.”
Dr. Diaz predicts that usage will continue to increase across the district. A direct effect of the middle school success has led to demand for VirtualJobShadow.com from the high school teachers, who now want to adopt the platform for their schools. Dr. Diaz predicts the impact on the M-DCPS student body will be significant. “What I think is going to happen is we’re going to have a better focused kid at the high school level and teachers will have the luxury of keeping up with them.”
In the coming years, as CTE Programs and Work-Based Learning initiatives continue to expand, the CTE staff at M-DCPS will continue to integrate VirtualJobShadow.com into their career education curriculum in order to empower students to become better prepared for life after high school. “Work-based learning experiences are becoming a lot more critical when companies are looking for talent. It’s not all necessarily about a degree, but ‘Do you have the experience?’ And kids are coming out of school with certifications that are allowing them to go right to work, receive hefty paychecks, and soon realize, ‘Well I still have to go to college, but let me have the company pay for it.’”