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A few months ago, GPS Education Partners assembled a Student Design Team that addressed this challenge: How might we amplify our recruitment efforts for Youth Apprentices, especially when it comes to marginalized populations? This team was asked to create solutions that would impact how we reached out to high school students for youth apprenticeship opportunities.

Spoiler alert: They rocked it. The Design Team developed four solutions that energized audiences across education and business. Interested in their results? Then please consider this a shameless plug and reach out for more information. We’re excited to share with you!

In short, the Student Design Team solutions reaffirmed what we already knew at GPS Education Partners: student voice should be the driver of what we do.

Why should we engage student voices and bring them to the decision-making table?

It’s more efficient. When students design solutions with us, we can test our work in real-time. The days of creating a product for students, only to find out it doesn’t resonate with them are GONE! We get feedback through every portion of the design process.

They are experts on their demographic. Obviously. Let’s cut out the guesswork we do when it comes to the younger generations. Let’s ask them. And even better yet, let’s listen.

They think more freely than we do. The process of adulting adds constraints to our own thinking. Consequently, we unconsciously run ideas through our “but-is-it-realistic” filter. Because of that, we may dismiss unrealistic concepts that could actually be the breeding ground for innovation. Most students haven’t yet adopted those constraints.

If these reasons resonate, let us tell you how you can start to incorporate student voice and work-based learning opportunities in your organization:

Find a methodology that has a framework for amplifying student voice (and limits our own). We like to leverage human-centered design strategies as a way to value student voice.

Student surveys should be the start of capturing student voices, but not the entirety of it. Yes, they’re a great resource but are too often the default for collecting student perspectives. We challenge you to start with those surveys but then activate students differently to really dig into the responses you got and pursue work-based learning opportunities for students. 

Get real. Put real issues, real barriers, in front of your students. You’d be impressed with their willingness to help you solve them.

The reason to engage students is obvious: Youth have diverse thoughts and ingenuity that WILL advance the mission of an organization if we tap into it. So, as an adult, my challenge is to create a space for their voice and find ways to involve them in decisions and solution design. And by doing so, I start to embrace a paradigm shift: Instead of saying “I work with young people”, I take pride in saying “Young people work with me.”

Want to learn more about bringing student voice and work-based learning opportunities into your organization? Contact us today, we would love to share!

Written By


Mandy Janssen
Solutions Development Manager
mjanssen@gpsed.org
GPS Education Partners

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