The Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments (UCPCOG) is working with education and technology partners to develop innovative ways to introduce area youth to career pathways available within the five county region. The current initiative, named the UCPCOG Regional Simulation Partnership (RSP), is intended to use virtual game simulations that match up with local area industries or occupations, and use […]
The Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments
(UCPCOG) is working with education and technology partners to develop
innovative ways to introduce area youth to career pathways available within the
five county region. The current
initiative, named the UCPCOG Regional Simulation Partnership (RSP), is intended
to use virtual game simulations that match up with local area industries or
occupations, and use a designed career exploration format to generate youth
interest in jobs that don’t require a four year college education.
“Many of these simulations are designed so
well that they essentially create a virtual work environment for the youth, and
they allow the youth to perform simulated tasks that a typical worker may
encounter while being employed in one of the occupations” said UCPCOG Executive
Director Robert Hiett.
The simulation games can be used with designed curricula to provide a structured approach to exploring a career occupation, and incorporated into existing activities like field trips and access to occupational experts employed within the region. The current simulation library for the RSP covers occupations that deal with agriculture, car mechanics, logistics, computer building, heavy equipment operation, and medical office management.
“The simulations are not the same as those you
would find if someone was earning an industry level credential. However, they
are designed to be fun for youth, and generate interest in an occupation. They can also introduce and enhance teamwork,
financial literacy, leadership and coordination skills. They can also provide a high level overview
of an industry or occupation”, said Mr. Hiett.
The UCPCOG serves as the regional Economic
Development District (EDD) for its five county area, and this project lines up
with its strategic goal of engaging in activities that help to create a
talented and innovative workforce. The
partners joining the UCPCOG in the regional simulation partnership are the
Turning Point Workforce Development Board (TPWDB), Wilson County Schools,
Northampton County Schools, and foundry10.
Foundry10 is a research organization that uses a philanthropic approach
to identify new ideas, approaches to learning, and tools to improve the
education experience for students across the world.
A key strategic partner in this effort is the
Turning Point Workforce Development Board (TPWDB) because it funds job training
activities for area youth, and it has a strong coordinating presence with its
area youth council.
Point Workforce Development Board is excited to partner in this initiative of
enhancing career exploration to young customers through simulation. Studies have shown that workplace based
simulations can be used to assess a prospective employee’s skills. These simulations not only assess candidate
ability in the technical areas but also assess problem solving, communication
and team abilities”, said Michael Williams, Workforce Director, Turning Point
Workforce Development Board.
The first phase of the RSP will focus on youth
attending school in the Wilson County School District and the Northampton
County School District. The TPWDB will
play a critical role in developing a similar learning option for youth, ages
16-24, who are not attending a school.
The RSP, once a format is completed, could work with additional partners
to develop similar programs in Edgecombe, Halifax, and Nash counties.
Wilson County Schools (WCS) is working with
RSP to develop their section of the project and incorporate the simulations
into the Career and Technical Education (CTE) career exploration classes.
County Schools is extremely excited to be a part of this initiative. The ability to provide students an
opportunity to experience simulation activities in a variety of fields will
open new opportunities as the students continue to explore possible areas of
career interest. Placing the simulation
activities at the middle schools will allow students to begin fostering interest
in areas before they go to high school.
Students will then be able to use these interests to guide them as they
begin selecting courses at the high school level, further preparing them for
their future plans”, said David Lyndon, Executive Director for Secondary
Education, Wilson County Schools.
“The simulations can increase student awareness about occupations in the area and be worked into existing course offerings to enrich the overall CTE career exploration process. Wilson County Schools currently offers a Career Exploration curriculum at the middle school level. While it has served students with limited success over the years, it is our hope that the simulation activities will provide a more real-world feel for what is involved in these careers”, said Mr. Lyndon.
Foundry10, a philanthropic research
organization, is spearheading the technical side of the project, and providing
educational resources to help the learning process and achieve optimal
results. Foundry10 staff visited the
school systems in April to discuss curriculum design and assess the technology
footprint, and they will work with the RSP in the weeks ahead to get the
simulation project ready for launch in the Fall of 2019.
“The team at
foundry10 has been looking at games and their impact on learning for
years. We were excited to hear about a
new idea for using commercially produced, engaging simulations to create real
value for students and communities. Our
hope as we continue forward is that this idea, once tested and understood, can
be useful for rural and semi-rural areas all around the country” said Tom
Swanson, Organizational Development, foundry10.
Foundry10 will also provide simulation
training to both school systems, and work to create a resource library that can
be used to orient teachers and students.
A critical part of the project is to ensure
the information and resources are there to help youth continue learning about
careers based on the simulations. The
UCPCOG and TPWDB will reach out to the broader community partners to assemble
that phase of the project.
“Ultimately we have to help the youth make
connections to the second level resource network so they can continue their
education and/or training after the simulations class ends. We will certainly
be working with our community leaders to ensure those connections are
established”, said Mr. Hiett.
The UCPCOG and TPWDB have created a project website (www.ncsimulationstation.com) to provide more information about the RSP, why it matters to businesses, and to post updates for those interested in working with game simulations as part of a career pathway strategy.
“We branded it to be inclusive from day one,
and to encourage partners across North Carolina to work with us to develop a
concept that could bring more youth into careers in occupations that need
skilled workers. Game simulated career
pathways are another tool that is relevant to youth today, and they have a very
modern appeal to the new generation of potential workers”, said Mr. Hiett.
certainly understands the online gaming world, and how it translates into real
earnings. He has an official game design
credit for Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR), he has been a speaker/presenter
at the national Austin Game Developers Conference, and he performed consulting
and supporting community management roles for the online game Shadowbane which
was published by Ubisoft.
most people early in their career, I had a second job. Mine just happened to be in gaming, and it
helped me to understand how games can open up new career opportunities. I am excited to work with partners like the
TPWDB, the Wilson County School District, the Northampton County School
District, and foundry10 to do something that may help more of our youth explore
all the great jobs available in the Upper Coastal Plain Region”, said Mr.
The Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments is a regional planning and
development organization for Edgecombe, Halifax, Nash, Northampton, and Wilson
counties and 41 municipal governments in the five-county region. The council
administers several federal and state programs within its region. Its major
program areas involve aging services, business and economic development,
community planning programs and workforce development programs and services.