Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds face common barriers to employment, such as lack of support at home, family responsibilities, or access to transportation. Overcoming such obstacles can feel overwhelming for young people when they start thinking about college and career choices.
The Department of Education allocates over a billion dollars annually to a host of programs that support low-income individuals to stay on track for post-secondary success. Much of that funding is provided through TRIO, a cluster of interconnected national programs, Educational Talent Search one of them. Hundreds of Educational Talent Search programs operate throughout the country, supporting thousands of individuals with skills needed to break the cycle of poverty. Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit Educational Talent Search in Pennsylvania serves over 500 promising students in the region.
Eileen Olsen, Talent Search Program Supervisor, says workforce development is especially vital for college and career readiness, as its combination of hard and soft skill sets prepares individuals for continual growth well into their futures. “Exploring jobs and careers isn’t helpful for students if they don’t know how to search for jobs, fill out applications, and create cover letters and resumes,” Olsen says. “Students aren’t always taught these types of skills in school or at home.”
“When I discuss soft skills, I make sure to call them transferrable skills,” says Maria Whitted, Talent Search Academic Advisor. Soft skills don’t just help students navigate career development, but life. “Patience, grit, and good communication can help students navigate the social relationships with teachers, students, parents, and friends. And every student has personal hurdles to overcome.”
With more than three years of experience using VirtualJobShadow.com in the classroom, Olsen and Whitted find the learning platform equipped with all the tools needed to thoroughly prepare students for college and career readiness. What helps differentiate VirtualJobShadow.com from other products are the integrated workforce development tools, such as pre-built FlexLessons, life skills videos, career journals, and resume and cover letter builders.
Whitted says students particularly enjoy the FlexLessons that cover topics like grit and patience. “It’s the personal development subjects that tie directly into career exploration. It gives them that extra component and is the piece that’s missing from a lot of traditional career and college exploration.”
Olsen echoes this thought, “Workforce development helps students eliminate barriers towards their success and prepares them for jobs in the future,” she says, “all while learning soft skills along the way. Making our students aware of what workforce development is and its benefits is necessary for them.” TRIO programs such as the Educational Talent Search set students up for future college and career success. Providing students strong workforce development skills is an integral part of that mission.