Rockford Public Schools District 205 Launches Work-Study Program, Badges for Soft Skills

The state’s employability competencies — like soft skills — are embedded in Rockford Public Schools’ (RPS) college and career readiness pathways curriculum, but students don’t always have the opportunity to practice those skills. To address the skills gap, next semester, the College and Career Readiness department will launch a work-study program, allowing students to earn elective credit for their employment outside the district. This credit — starting in the spring semester — will be available to any 12th-grade student who is employed with a business willing to work with the district on this program.
RPS wants every student to engage in one work-based learning experience during each year of high school. Right now, all 9th graders attend the Academy Expo, 10th graders experience a job site visit, and 11th graders participate in a job shadow experience. The experience for 12th graders, however, has been largely undefined and difficult to scale up. To address this, RPS will hire five work-based learning (WBL) liaisons — additional non-certified staff — assigned to each of the five high schools. These liaisons will work to inform employers of this work-study program and train them on an innovative soft skills digital badging system. Employers will use a badging system to award students badges for soft skills and complete a checklist for each student based on monthly visits. As students successfully earn badges for completing soft skills – like critical thinking, decision making, planning & organizing, reliability & accountability, teamwork & conflict resolution – they can earn one credit per semester. Students can also use these digital badges on their resumes and online job profiles.

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