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Superintendents’ forum: Passion, Purpose and Path:  Educating for an Evolving Workforce

This article was originally published in the Reading Eagle:

By: Dr. Lisa Hess, Governor Mifflin School District
Thursday, February 15, 2024

If there were three words that describe today’s job market, they would be fast, evolving and unconventional. We are living in an age of technological advancement in which industries are plentiful and ever-changing, what constitutes a workplace is ambiguous, where the gig economy thrives, and the culture of committing to a single company for the extent of one’s career no longer reigns supreme.

This cultural shift is especially prevalent among younger members of the workforce. While opinion writers muse on the reasons for this shift, they all boil down to one common thread: members of the next generation are looking for a workplace about which they can feel passionate.

As educators, we have the opportunity to play an integral role in helping the next generation discover their passions early, explore their aspirations continuously, and lay the groundwork for a fulfilling and purpose-driven career.

For previous generations, education was widely viewed as a means to an end; a necessary steppingstone to the ultimate goal of a career, which often had little to do with what was taught in the K-12 school system and was chosen based on perceived stability, projected income and one’s theoretical skill in the profession.

While getting students to the next step in their lives may be the technical goal of a school system, this view makes the educational journey finite and ignores the true purpose of education: to foster discovery and progress both in our society and oneself.

In my first month as superintendent of the Gov. Mifflin School District, I worked with my administrative team to develop a vision statement; something every member of our staff could commit to regardless of their role that would genuinely impact the lives of our students. What we committed to was creating an environment where each student is empowered to pursue their passion, purpose and path.

Empowering our students to pursue their passion, purpose and path means that education looks much different than it did in the past. While we continue to cover the core concepts, our curriculum is centered around real-world learning activities. Classes are specialized based on student interests and industry trends, and students are encouraged to pursue individualized learning opportunities.

Whether it be founding their own nonprofits, running awareness campaigns for endangered species or working collaboratively with local businesses to get experience in their industry of choice, students know that our staff will be there to provide support.

Encouraging students to explore their passions and individual pathways not only affords students a head start toward career success but instills a thirst for knowledge, a desire for continuous improvement, a sense of resiliency and a unique ability to adapt around any obstacle that may stand in the way. In an age of rapid technological evolution, these traits are prized assets that will not only set employees apart in the workforce, but also propel development forward in their chosen industry.

Each day, educators are encountering our future leaders, innovators and change-makers. While it may not seem imminent that our students will be taking up the mantle in our society, the world is moving fast, and we have every responsibility to ensure that this generation is well-equipped when the time comes.

As we strive to create a more inclusive, equitable, and prosperous society, let us champion a holistic approach to education — one that celebrates the unique talents, passions, and aspirations of every individual. By embracing purpose-driven education, we pave the way for a brighter and more promising future for generations to come.

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