Recently, while speaking with a healthcare executive who oversees 38,000 employees I asked about how the organization finds their next generation of leaders. She shared with me the challenges her organization faces hiring highly motivated, skilled talent for well-paying, high-growth jobs. In fact, one of the most frequent refrains I hear from frustrated employers is the difficulty they face filling great jobs with qualified applicants. Nationally, an estimated 2.4 million of these jobs will be left unfilled next year.
Educators face a different manifestation of this same challenge. They often tell me about how they seek affordable, easy to access resources to keep their students engaged, particularly in abstract courses like advanced science and mathematics. Nationwide, half of all high school students are disengaged.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
Research on identity development and motivation offers a compelling insight for employers seeking to develop and attract future talent to their organization. Young people begin to form their occupational identity as early as age eleven, a process that continues into the late twenties. As they mature, they seek out learning opportunities that they find relevant and interesting. Research demonstrates that personal interest and experience are primary motivators to engaging young people in the types of demanding coursework that prepares them for success in high-opportunity careers.
Today’s adolescents seek careers that meet personal and social - as well as professional - goals. Over two-thirds of secondary students indicate that the greatest influences on their career plans are their own interests and experiences—greater than the influence of parents, teachers, or social media. Students cite lacking the opportunity to connect what they are learning with their personal short and long-term goals as a primary reason that they drop out of school.
This makes intuitive sense: if you find something to be meaningful to you, you are significantly more likely to be interested in it. As a result, you desire to learn more and persevere when things get tough because you see the relationship between what you are doing and the end goal.
In our experience at the 114th Partnership, young people thrive when offered the opportunity to apply what they are learning to an on-the-job task drawn from a real employer. Not unlike the case study methodology popular in graduate schools, these “career challenges” engage adolescents while drawing explicit connections between course objectives and relevant problem-solving scenarios.
Employers and educators need high-quality and affordable alternatives to current offerings that connect meaningful, high-growth career opportunities to the thinking, problem-solving and communication skills taught in today’s secondary and post-secondary education settings. By co-developing career challenges in formats that can easily integrate into these learning environments, educators and employers can motivate students to pursue and complete the challenging coursework crucial to success in future careers.
For more information on how to create these career challenges that engage and motivate young people, or to read our Motivation Matters White Paper, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.