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Signaling Success: Soft-Skills & Career Readiness Curriculum for Public Education

Our goal with Signaling Success is to offer it as a career readiness curriculum within the public school system. While there has been a significant focus on college readiness, in order to reduce the growing problem of teen unemployment, we believe that career readiness courses need to be offered to young people at high school level.

Photo of Commonwealth Corporation
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In order to ensure that the Signaling Success curriculum is accessible and relevant to a wide range of students, several layers of differentiation and accommodations are built into the design. Workshops are designed to engage learners across a variety of modalities and the facilitator guide includes suggestions for how to support participant needs.  In order to support this effort, we field tested three distinct accommodation versions of specific units:

•    Our Access: Language & Culture version offers support for English Language Learners;
•    Access: Self-Confidence & Resiliency addresses the social emotional and learning needs of at-risk populations;
•    Finally, the Signaling Success collection includes a Leadership version which allows participants to extend their employability skill building through a project-based learning model.
By developing, testing and improving these various approaches, we have been able to craft a comprehensive curriculum that offers tremendous support and accessibility to a wide-range of students.


Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them?

Signaling Success is a comprehensive career and work readiness curriculum that provides a standardized approach to soft skill acquisition and future planning behaviors that employers’ desire and young people need. The comprehensive curriculum features proven instructional methodology alongside a full set of instructor and student materials, allowing for immediate and effective implementation. Our curriculum provides the foundation for a high school level course where students gain insight into the world of work and make skills gains in dependability, communication, collaboration and initiative – core skills for success in work, education, and life. Our strategy is to provide training and coaching to teachers and workshop facilitators as a way to build capacity within schools so that they can help to create a more career ready workforce that will drive future growth in the economy.

How is your idea specifically increasing access to employment opportunities and pathways for young people?

In 2012, Commonwealth Corporation commissioned research that included a survey, interviews and focus groups with more than 200 businesses, seeking to understand and document the reasons behind declining levels of youth employment. We focused on businesses in sectors that have historically hired teens: fast food, grocery stores, retail stores, community banks, long-term care and educational organizations. We learned that many of the barriers to hiring teens can be addressed through training, coaching, and supports that develop job seeking and job retention skills of teens. Each year the Massachusetts legislature allocates funding to provide youth wages for the state’s summer and year round jobs program for low-income teens. However, even with between $8m-$12m allocated for next year’s YouthWorks program, due to the high demand for youth jobs, there will still be many more young people who will not be able to participate. While there will never be enough public money to support subsidized jobs for every young person who wants to work by embedding the Signaling Success curriculum into the public school system we can help ensure that every young person will receive the soft-skill and career readiness training that employer’s demand. With the curriculum, training and tools to prepare students for the world of work, schools can help students better-develop the skills, behaviors and attitudes to not only successfully access and attain work opportunities, but also plan and develop coherent occupational and educational goals. Behavioral Traits are Biggest Barrier to Teen Employment, New Study Reveals:

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

As a result of our findings, Commonwealth Corporation created a curriculum, named Signaling Success, which is currently being tested at two alternative high schools in Boston and will be taught at two public high schools, in Malden and Lowell, this fall. A shorter version of Signaling Success is currently being used by over 5000 youth participants who are enrolled in YouthWorks – the Commonwealth’s summer job program for low-income and at-risk youth. The pilot efforts both reinforced how widespread the need is for a structured career readiness curriculum that focuses on building key soft skills and provided a context in which to test and improve the participant materials and strategies for successful implementation. The Signaling Success curriculum and our YouthWorks Plus initiative were developed and implemented through the generous support of the Boston Foundation, Cummings Foundation, BNY Mellon, and the Peters I Fund.

The idea emerged from:

  • A group brainstorm

How do you envision your idea being implemented?

  • Keen to prototype it, find partners and pursue implementation


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Photo of Guy Viner

Great to see you sharing your thoughts here. Might you share a link or two so that the community can gain further insights into how this idea is being piloted or implemented?

Photo of Commonwealth Corporation

Hi Guy, Thank you for your question. We will post a few sample lessons in the refinement stage that people can view and provide feedback on.

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