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To meet the needs of local employers and boost the talent pipeline in regions across the country, there needs to be better coordination between industry and schools and better-aligned career exploration and preparation in middle school. If these weaknesses are not addressed, the region risks losing emerging industries and economic opportunities to areas with a better-prepared pool of workforce talent, deepening rather than resolving the existing economic challenges. 

Good-paying jobs in almost every industry today require a stronger foundation in STEM subjects and a higher level of STEM literacy than ever before. JASON has developed a localized curricula model that addresses both challenges: STEM learning that aligns with the workforce needs of thriving local industries while also improving overall academic outcomes in STEM. JASON’s localized curriculum strengthens the area’s workforce talent pool and helps communities keep more of their young people living and thriving where they grew up. 

JASON Learning (JASON) and Stafford County Public Schools (SCPS) have been awarded funding from GO Virginia to carry out a project called “Pathways to Success” that ensures middle schoolers in GO Virginia Region 6 are receiving career preparation and exploration and gaining workplace skills that employers desire in their future employees.

This project addresses two major problems impacting the nation

  1. A disconnect between public education and workforce readiness 
  2. A lack of equal access to high-quality STEM education.

“We are seeing an increased need for an industry-lead approach to workforce development in our region. These two projects [Pathways to Success and another Region 6 program] highlight the Council’s focus on meeting the needs of the employers, and keeping homegrown talent in the region.”

-Region 6’s Chair, William (Billy) Beale

Pathways to Success includes an innovative curriculum that introduces students to a wide range of in-demand industries in the region, which includes the Fredericksburg Region, Northern Neck, and Middle Peninsula. It will be made available to all school districts in those regions. The success and implementation of Pathways to Success will deepen the level of support and awareness for careers and industries in the local area. Strengthening this connection will enable students to prepare for high school-level CTE and STEM courses, helping to address the critical shortages of skilled workers threatening growth in all of the region’s priority industry clusters, including such as Aquaculture, Commercial Fishing, Seafood Processing; Forestry; IT and Data Centers; Logistics and Distribution; Manufacturing; and Professional Services.

“Stafford Schools is proud to support other school districts in GO Virginia Region 6 by partnering with GO Virginia and JASON Learning to develop a ground-breaking curriculum that will give middle school students throughout Region 6 a chance to explore the careers of their dreams.”

Stafford County Public Schools Superintendent, Dr. Thomas W. Taylor.

Pathways to Success will be filled with engaging content, including real-world examples, role-model videos, hands-on activities, and mini-challenges. Through these components, students will gain and learn about core science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and 21st-Century skills like creativity, innovation, critical thinking, problem-solving, integrity, initiative, and work ethic. Additionally, the Pathways to Success project satisfies the Virginia requirement (8VAC20-131-140) to take a career investigations course before graduating from middle school and provide teachers with the background and training to lead the curriculum with confidence.

Lastly, area companies and their employees will be featured in the course content representing the priority industry clusters mentioned above. Inspiring interest in relevant local career opportunities through the work and stories of real role models who students may know and recognize makes a difference in students’ perception and ability to envision themselves in these careers.

Co-written by Eleanor Smalley & Jenna Davis