Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: A Regional Conversation on Redefining Readiness

Topics: Community Partnerships, Education Policy, ESSA, Future of Learning

As detailed in  The Future of Learning: Redefining Readiness from the Inside Out, work is changing rapidly due the rise of smart machines and the decline of the full-time employment. These drivers of change are calling into question the role of people in the workplace, the ways work is organized, and ultimately what it means for a person to be ready to enter into the workforce.

Based on a series of in-depth interviews with employees at cutting-edge organizations, as well as site visits to workspaces and strategic foresight research into current trends, we explore how career readiness may be redefined to better prepare students for an uncertain future.
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In the years ahead, communities will have to grapple with how best to prepare people for the new realities of work. The Pittsburgh region, an area that is all too familiar with the changing nature of work — having once been the center for the US steel industry, then a manufacturing hub, and now leader in medicine, higher education, and technology — has begun the process of thinking through how readiness might come to be redefined and what types of learning experiences will need to be developed to make sure the region’s learners are ready for what is next as work once again changes.

With the help of Remake Learning, the region has been engaging in cross-sector conversations with a broad range of stakeholders, including representatives from public and higher education and from the non-profit, workforce development, business, and out-of-school-time learning sectors. The conversations are to help participants analyze the current state of readiness and workforce development pathways in the region; explore the future of work; surface what skills, knowledge, and dispositions a future graduate should pose to be ready as work changes in the region; and explore what types of learning experiences and readiness pathways might need to be altered or developed to help cultivate such readiness traits.

The conversations being held and the work being done in Pittsburgh should be applauded. More importantly, they should also be replicated. Communities would benefit from seeking to understand the changing nature of work in order to prepare learners to thrive in the future. To help jump start such conversations, KnowledgeWorks’ newest strategic foresight publication, Shaping the Future of Readiness: A Discussion and Facilitation Guide©, is intended to help stakeholders hold conversations about what the future of readiness looks like in their communities. The guide contains three activities the KnowledgeWorks’ strategic foresight team uses for workshops and engagements with stakeholders. The activities, along with details of how such a conversation is unfolding in the Pittsburgh region, are highlighted below:

  1. Exploring the Future of Work: Explore broad and local changes on the horizon and consider how the future of work might unfold. For example, this publication exploring the future of work in the Pittsburgh region included workforce projections, demographic shifts, the effects of automation, worker migration patterns, and more.
  2. Creating a New Profile of a Graduate: Consider what knowledge, skills, and dispositions might help young people thrive in a new world of work and what learning experiences they might need. Based on their view of the future of work, stakeholders in the Pittsburgh region see soft skills, knowledge of the making process (project planning, design, applied math and technical skills, and understanding how to use tools in making), and knowledge of basic manufacturing as key readiness components.
  3. Leveraging Cross-Sector Opportunities: Highlight ways different sectors and organizations can collaborate to support future college and career readiness. Already a national leader in catalyzing collaboration in education, the Pittsburgh region is home to Remake Learning, an open network of over 500 interconnected, creative, and innovative organizations working together to transform learning. To help deepen and extend their work in the region, Remake Learning has been holding ongoing cross-sector conversations on the future of work; how readiness might be defined; and what pathways, partnerships, and other efforts will be needed to prepare students for the future.

Work is changing rapidly, and the need to redefine readiness is one of the most critical issues facing our collective futures. It has deep implications for issues such as equity, community health, economic productivity, and more. Community conversations about readiness, like those being held in the Pittsburgh region, will be necessary to help redefine readiness and create a future that works well for everyone. Stakeholders bear the responsibility of thinking deeply and critically about what the changes on the horizon could mean for work and readiness – and for thinking broadly and creatively about how to harness the possibilities that those changes present to prepare young people for what is next.

The efforts to redefine readiness for the future must begin now. How can your community redefine readiness for the new realities of work?