A new research-practitioner collaboration is proposed to examine 21st Century skills, cognitive and non-cognitive competencies necessary for high quality employment in the 21st century, in urban youth. The project aims are to better understand 1) the relations between cognitive and noncognitive competencies and employment trajectories, 2) competency ratings and the context of evaluation, and 3) the role of evaluating competencies on a training program. Specifically, this research project will examine the role of assessing and training 21st Century Skills on ethnically diverse, economically disadvantaged youth’s employment and post-secondary schooling trajectories in the context of a novel internship program providing skills training and corporate IT employment for high school seniors . Approximately 300 rising seniors selected to participate in Genesys Works in Minneapolis will be followed through an eight-week summer training program, after which some of the youth will be hired into one-year paid IT internship positions in major local and national corporations in an afterschool capacity. The research program will examine relations between a) 21st Century Skills as assessed by a range of people across three contexts: employers, teachers, and community members, b) Cognitive processing skills including working memory, executive function, and relational reasoning, and c) employment trajectory at three time-points: hiring decisions, employee review/raise decisions, and post-program employment or post-secondary education persistence. These scores also will be used to qualitatively examine how the use of free MHA tools for identifying and assessing key 21st century competencies (both formally and informally) impacted the training provided to individual students as measured by weekly program grades, written feedback comments, and performance on the national Cisco IT Essentials Curriculum.
University of Chicago, Department of Comparative Human Development