The new Simulated Workplace initiative in West Virginia’s public schools is making a positive impact on rural workforce development in that state. The West Virginia Department of Education worked with numerous businesses and industries throughout the area to design the program. This initiative helps schools implement a workplace environment in all Career and Technical Education classes. These classes run as a business would, taking on real-world projects that benefit their surrounding communities.
This gives students not only academic knowledge and technical skill, but the ability to solve problems, work with a team, and take on leadership roles. Simulated Workplace gives students the chance to take ownership of their individual performance, while thriving in an authentic workplace culture.
Kathy D’Antoni, Ed.D. is the Assistant State Superintendent of Schools with the West Virginia Department of Education and oversees this program. She joined me to discuss the impact it is having on students and the rural business community in West Virginia.
She shares why she left education early on and then returned after a successful career in the private sector (2:17, 9:33). We go through the thinking behind Simulated Workplace and how it is transforming education in West Virginia (12:18), and discuss the ways it prepares students to find jobs after high school (14:57). D’Antoni also gives specific success stories of classes engaged in real-world work benefiting their surrounding communities (17:34). She also talks about her high hopes for the future of the program (24:41).
Key takeaways include how these real world “simulated companies” are instilling confidence in kids as they fulfill important roles within their organizations. Also significant is how the program naturally generates partnerships with other organizations within a community to provide needed goods and services that make a real-life difference. One simulated company built benches for a nearby state park. Another built tiny homes for families in need following a devastating storm.
Students are coming away from the program better-equipped to transition to the working phase of life and contribute to rural economies throughout the state.