Expanding student access is not a short or simple process, and “access” is about more than just adding a new course to a student’s schedule. As Rural Tech Project finalist teams continue in their second implementation year, they are seeing strong impact measurements through increased student exposure, interest, and readiness for technology career pathways. The impact goes beyond individual students, bringing fresh energy and new opportunities to the teams’ broader school communities.
Expanding avenues for pathway exposure
As the programs evolve, teams are exposing students to technology pathways and associated opportunities in new ways. As part of Premont’s entrepreneurship program in Texas, students are learning how emerging technologies — including artificial intelligence, cloud computing, and cybersecurity — are used to solve real-world problems. Students are earning IBM Credentials and connecting the dots between entrepreneurship and technology.
To further expand its cybersecurity pathway in Virginia, the Louisa team is planning to offer free cybersecurity courses in four adjacent counties and will support these counties in starting their own cybersecurity programs by sharing curricula, resources, and key learnings.
In Kentucky, the iLead team is building a new data science pathway, which is the first of its kind for high school students. The pathway aligns directly to Northern Kentucky University’s ABET-accredited data science bachelor’s degree, and iLead’s program provides students with the opportunity to earn 19-22 hours of college credit.
Developing and tracking student interest
Teams continue to support and track student interest in topics, courses, and related career opportunities. School counselors at Woodlake in California have been highlighting the Math for Aviation class in lieu of the traditional math class for freshmen, and more than 20 students have requested the class next year.
In Michigan, the Ravenna team is seeing expanded interest in local career paths — including specific industries, companies, and job titles — and postsecondary education. Students continue to track their skills and career goals in their digital talent profiles. And in the iLead program, 76% of students said what they have learned so far made them more interested in a career in computer science.
Building career readiness skills
Students also continue to show growth in confidence and career readiness through these skill-building programs. In addition to the industry-specific skills learned, students are gaining transferable knowledge about career pathways and skills. Students in the Premont program are honing 21st-century skills such as problem-solving and presenting, combining professional skills training through IBM Credentials with in-depth pitching practice.
Students at Woodlake are building communications and workplace skills through field experiences, internships, and presentations to local community groups. The Ravenna team also continues to build student competencies that can be used across industries, such as applied mathematics, market research, and prototyping.
Community as a driver of success
The teams have all experienced how student engagement goes hand in hand with educator engagement. Despite challenges, the teams have discovered strategies and tactics for increasing exposure, interest, and career readiness among students, and helping educators understand and execute these programs effectively. With these strategies, teams will continue to build momentum during this second year and beyond. Subscribe to the Rural Tech Project newsletter or visit the finalist team pages to stay up to date on their progress.