What 3 After-School Programs Are Doing To Prepare Kids For The Future Of Work

A strong education in STEM subjects is becoming increasingly crucial as more and more jobs require higher levels of proficiency in these areas, especially in technology. After-school programs can play a significant role in supporting students’ STEM learning, offering additional flexibility and hands-on learning opportunities to explore career paths and acquire workforce skills. According to Maud Abeel, a director for Jobs for the Future, an organization that promotes college and career readiness, participation in STEM after-school programs has been found to increase students’ interest in STEM careers. Even students who do not intend to pursue STEM careers still benefit from the knowledge and skills gained through these programs, as they are in high demand in today’s workforce.

Education Week has highlighted three after-school programs that are expanding to meet the growing demand for tech-driven skills.

Making a splash with underwater robots

Santi Criado, a rising senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, discovered his passion for engineering through his involvement in a SeaPerch after-school program during middle school. SeaPerch is a nonprofit organization that offers an underwater robotics program, empowering students to find solutions to global challenges through hands-on experiences. SeaPerch provides students, educators, and parents with kits to build their own underwater robots, along with lesson plans and training. The program also hosts regional and international competitions for students to showcase their engineering skills. Lindsey Groark, the vice president of programs for RoboNation, which oversees SeaPerch, explains that the program can be adapted to fit into existing structures, whether it’s a semester-long high school class, a two-week unit in the classroom, an after-school club, summer camp, or even a weekend community event. The hope is that by participating in SeaPerch, students will be introduced to the engineering design process and careers in engineering. While ocean engineering is a prominent focus, the program also covers other disciplines such as circuitry, electricity, naval architecture, and aerospace topics. Many students who have participated in SeaPerch have gone on to study computer science, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, systems engineering, and other technical fields.

Teaching coding to students of color

One school district that actively engages in the SeaPerch program is the Wahkiakum district in Washington. Ron Wright, the STEM coordinator for the district, has observed how the after-school robotics program has positively impacted students who were struggling academically or facing challenges at home. For instance, one student who was getting into trouble at school discovered his talent and intelligence through the robotics program, which changed his trajectory. According to Wright, the SeaPerch challenges emphasize teamwork, collaboration, creativity, and learning from failure. Santi Criado, reflecting on his own experience, emphasizes the rewards, fun, and passion that can be fostered by introducing kids to STEM activities at a young age.

Overall, after-school programs like SeaPerch provide opportunities for students to explore STEM subjects, develop valuable skills, and cultivate a passion for careers in these fields. They contribute to a robust STEM education that is increasingly essential in today’s job market.

Discovering New Paths: Innovative Approaches to Computer Science Education

A group of high school students are actively engaged in a robotics class at Mineola High School in Mineola, N.Y. As they work together, they are not only learning the fundamentals of computer science and various coding languages, but they are also gaining valuable hands-on experience. This is just one example of how a district is successfully promoting computer science education.

The district has implemented a comprehensive curriculum that combines direct instruction with team-based activities. Additionally, they offer an incubator program for 11th and 12th graders where students can develop their own ideas and potentially create a marketable product. The program has achieved impressive results, with many students who have completed it continuing their computer science education in college.

One student, Dominguez, expresses his enthusiasm for the program and highlights the importance of meeting professionals who have created the products he uses daily. He believes that having passionate and knowledgeable volunteers is crucial for the success of such after-school programs. Now, as an intern with Code Next, he hopes to become one of those impactful volunteers for future students in his community.

In another part of the country, the Indiana Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs has partnered with Transfr, an immersive learning startup, to provide students with hands-on career exploration simulations through virtual reality (VR) technology. By using VR headsets, students can experience different professions and gain insights into how specific skills are applied in real-world situations.

The program has been widely embraced by the Boys and Girls Clubs in Indiana, with 31 clubs already participating and many others on the waitlist. During the simulations, students are fully immersed in the environment of their chosen career and must follow detailed instructions to learn a specific skill. They engage in activities such as fixing power lines, operating manufacturing equipment, and performing healthcare procedures. The Boys and Girls Clubs also provide a comprehensive career exploration curriculum that enhances students’ academic skills and encourages them to pursue certifications and credentials.

Jon York, the CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Rush County in Indiana, highlights the benefits of this innovative approach to career exploration. He emphasizes that students are more engaged when they have control over their learning experience, and virtual reality allows them to fully immerse themselves in the skills they are exploring.

These examples illustrate how innovative approaches to computer science education and career exploration can ignite students’ curiosity and provide them with the necessary skills for future success. By combining direct instruction, hands-on activities, and immersive technologies, districts and organizations can inspire students and empower them to pursue their passions in the world of computer science and beyond.


  • baileywilliams

    Bailey Williams is an educational blogger and school teacher who uses her blog as a way to share her insights and knowledge with her readers. She has been teaching for over 10 years and has a deep understanding of the school system and how to help students reach their goals. Her blog is packed full of helpful information and resources, so be sure to check it out if you're looking for help with your schoolwork!