Alysia Ordway of the Boston Private Industry Council Discusses Connecting Students’ Interests & Skill Sets to Careers
An important first step for applying to college, and eventually finding the perfect job, is evaluating and connecting skill sets. But sometimes evaluating interests can be hard without some help. According to Alysia Ordway, Employee Engagement Director for the Boston Private Industry Council, helping people expertly navigate their interests is the best way to find a fulfilling learning experience.
“I think the most important work right now is helping people navigate [this] range of options and make the right match, so that they are connecting to learning experiences that are going to have credibility with whatever audience they want to share them with,” she says. “But also learning experiences that are going to extend their knowledge and skills and not to be duplicative.”
When planning a future career, it’s easy to get held up by stereotypical job expectations. But as the work landscape shifts, employers need to hire wide range of workers to keep their companies running smoothly. Alysia says it’s difficult, but crucial, to start your career search by narrowing down the overwhelming amount of job possibilities to fit your interests and skills.
“I think the most important thing that we can do is showcase for them the range of options,” she says. “So that they don’t think that healthcare is just doctors and nurses, and I.T. is just coders.”
“Really we need to show them the range of teams and individuals and how they work together, so that they can pick an environment where they’re going to be successful. But also a role that makes the most sense based on their skill set.”
Listen in to our interview with Alysia Ordway to learn more about job opportunities for people like high school students and veterans, and how to best connect employers with qualified and passionate employees.
Hannah Nyren: Hi, this is Hannah Nyren with EdTech Times. And today I’m speaking with Alysia Ordway from the Boston Private Industry Council. Hi Alysia, how are you doing?
Alysia Ordway: Oh excellent. Thanks, Hannah.
Hannah Nyren: Tell me a little bit about your role and what you do at PIC.
Alysia Ordway: The PIC serves as the city’s Workforce Development Board. And in that capacity we serve as the intermediary between the education and training preparers and industry. So I lead the Employee Engagement Team, which is about five people, plus myself. And we are cultivating new relationships, maintaining existing employer relationships, and providing opportunities for them to connect to targeted populations, whether it be high school students, veterans—you name it.
Hannah Nyren: That’s awesome. So we’re here today at Work+EDU and you are going to speak pretty soon. Are you ready?
Alysia Ordway: Oh yeah absolutely. It’s a great topic.
Hannah Nyren: Yeah you can talk about this stuff in your sleep. Tell me a little bit about what you’re going to be talking about today.
Alysia Ordway: So, I have the privilege of working with two great panelists. One who will be presenting what I think of as like, two case studies. One is an employer perspective on how a anchor industry leader transforms and focuses on digital transformation. And both what that means in terms of operations, and preparing their incumbent and future workforce. And then talking to the folks from Woz U about a new learning tool, frankly. And what it means to be a lifelong learner and how people can make those kinds of connections.
Hannah Nyren: That’s really cool. What do you think the most important things that are being done right now in connecting workers with jobs or with the skills they need to get jobs. What do you think the most important initiatives are right now?
Alysia Ordway: I think there’s a couple of different things. I think we’re at an interesting time where there are a lot of options for people. While that’s a good thing, tt can also be a challenge. And I think the most important work right now is helping people navigate these range of options and make the right match so that they are connecting to learning experiences that are going to have credibility with whatever audience they want to share them with. But also those learning experiences that are going to extend their knowledge and skills and not to be duplicative.
Hannah Nyren: And to put them on a career path that they actually want to pursue and that they will continue to pursue. Because I think that a lot of the skills and the credits are lost when people don’t really know what they want to do.
Alysia Ordway: Absolutely. And I also think that, you know, understanding yourself, what you’re good at, and what you enjoy is an important component to career success. And then figuring out how you add value for an employer. Often we talk about pathways as if they’re kind of these linear sequential things. And I mean, really all you can do is take the steps to get to your next place with an eye on, you know, step seven. And who knows how the landscape will change in the intervening times. So that’s why the navigation is probably the most important component of what’s happening now in the career space.
Hannah Nyren: So I know that you work with a lot of student groups at the Boston PIC. And I know that you help put them on these career pathways. So what are you doing to help these students get started for their future careers?
Alysia Ordway: I think the most important thing that we can do is showcase for them the range of options, so that they don’t think that healthcare is just doctors and nurses, and I.T. is just coders. Really, we need to show them the range of teams and individuals and how they work together, so that they can pick an environment where they’re going to be successful, but also a role that makes the most sense based on their skill set.
Hannah Nyren: Yeah there are technicians, and there are UX designers, as well.
Alysia Ordway: Exactly. And so as a young person you know just appreciating the environment is sort of the first thing that we’re trying to do with young people, is provide them with as broad of exposure and awareness as possible.
Hannah Nyren: And your role is connecting them with employers. So, how do you get employers involved? How do you get them on board? How do you work with them?
Alysia Ordway: There’s a couple of different ways. We’re really lucky in that we have a lot of strong political leadership both at the state and city level. So career development, youth employment, is a regular component of many of their speechmaking and engagement with business and industry. So there’s that kind of connection. We often meet with a lot of employers through industry groups.
Alysia Ordway: That’s another venue. And then I would say the third way is through just peer to peer recruitment. It’s always best coming from someone who’s in a similar space. And I think our best recruiters are our fellow employers. And so then we engage them and identify ways for them to connect with students. Oftentimes it’s sort of light touch one time experiences. And then over time build up the connections so that they’re doing a more involved partnership with schools and student groups.
Hannah Nyren: So far what do you think the value of this convening is? And why do you think it can be beneficial for employers and educators and all parties involved to gather together and kind of share and discuss these solutions?
Alysia Ordway: Yeah I think this goes back to my earlier comment which is that, you know, the landscape — was it Michelle Weiss? Emphasized architecture and infrastructure. And I think that people know that it’s happening but it’s another thing to act on it and take a chance. So I think bringing educators and employers together to talk about hiring from nontraditional talent sources is an important first step to making these kind of systemic changes real.
Hannah Nyren: Right. And it’s not just training all students to get into the jobs that they think they want. It’s getting into the jobs that are in demand. So what are some of the jobs that you think we need to train more students to get into and kind of have a lot of open slots right now.
Alysia Ordway: I think as a general premise most students need to be thinking about their technical skill set, period. And there will be demand. In some fields it’s a skill demand more so than a particular occupational role. So I think everyone needs to up their technical game, whether it be around data, design, graphics. That’s one area. And then another I would say is, you know, health care continues to be a driving force in our local economy. And so thinking about a lot of the sort of supporting roles, like allied health roles that don’t often necessarily hire in at the same scale as say a nurse, but they’re nevertheless really important roles as well.
Hannah Nyren: Right. Definitely. And technology isn’t just used in engineering roles. Like technology isn’t just used in software development roles. It’s going to be used everywhere more and more. Even working at a drugstore like CVS you need to know how the machines work and how to fix the machines. And then you need to be software savvy and it needs to be relatively intuitive for you.
Alysia Ordway: Exactly. Exactly. Everybody is a tech company. At some level regardless of what your service or product is, everyone is a tech company. And everyone needs to be prepared accordingly.
Hannah Nyren: Well that’s a really interesting perspective and I can’t wait to see what you speak about today. It’s going to be awesome.
Alysia Ordway: Yeah, thank you.
Hannah Nyren: And yeah, stay tuned for more on that.
Alysia Ordway: Okay, thank you.
This podcast episode is sponsored by Penn Foster.
For over 125 years, students, employers and partner organizations have relied on Penn Foster to build the skills and knowledge to power the middle-skilled workforce. Penn Foster provides career pathways to opportunity for youth and adult learners through diverse and affordable online diploma, certificate, degree, and apprenticeship programs.
To learn how Penn Foster’s online education and training solutions can upskill and educate today’s learners, visit partners.pennfoster.edu/.
Mariel is a Boston-based freelance writer and audio producer who has covered news, technology and innovation for public media groups including WBUR and WGBH. Outside of work, she performs and writes spoken word poetry and voraciously reads true crime novels.