Academic Leadership Alliance

Academic Leaders

In 2003, the McAllen Economic Development Corporation, Region One Education Service Center, RGV LEAD, and school districts introduced a new initiative to provide students with business and industry experiences that deliver learning opportunities outside the traditional classroom. These experiences make up the Academic Leadership Alliance (A•L•A).

This continuum design engages local businesses and industries with school districts to help educators identify career opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley (The Valley) and develop workplace skills lessons using essential strategies. This alliance is important because educators participate in an employers’ world and then return to their schools with real-life workplace skills to share with their students.

Providing quality educator workplace experiences is a proactive approach to bridging the gap between education and high-skill, high-wage, high-demand careers. At its core, A•L•A is about helping educators meet students where they are in their development and help them grow their futures.

Customized For Quick Learning

RGV LEAD partners with companies and organizations eager to nurture real-world problem-solving in the classroom and help mold tomorrow’s workforce. The goal is to make classroom instruction more relevant to provide more productive and successful employees in the future.  Like an apprenticeship or internship, an externship is a training program offered by educational institutions and private businesses that give educators brief practical experiences in their field of study.

Participating educators develop lesson plans identifying specific learning objectives.  The lessons include hard and soft skills.  Hard skills are the types of skills that students routinely get taught in school. When students move beyond school and into their careers, they must list soft skills like decision-making, time management, detail-oriented, and leadership.

For example, professional appearance, customer service skills, appropriate use of technology in the workplace, counseling materials, and supporting materials reflecting what they have learned in their experiences at employer worksites. Ultimately, the educators utilize the lesson plans and counseling materials with students during the academic year following their ventures. One educator works with over one hundred students annually, impacting thousands of students by the experiences their teachers and counselors have participated.

Workplace experiences are valuable career learning experiences. They allow educators to see firsthand the day-to-day work activities and responsibilities in various professions and industries.

During their externships, educators will often become involved in projects, sit in on meetings, and meet other members of the organizations. Externs can also ask the host questions about the role or industry through informational interviewing, allowing the educators to get an accurate picture of the work context, real-life challenges, and the structure of a typical workday or week.  Externships range from one to two weeks.

Up To Date Curriculum

The externship is focused on collaboration between academic teachers and Career & Technical Education (CTE) teachers.  Teams of teachers participated in a one-week externship (total of 40 hours) to identify the following outcomes:

  • Skills employers seek from incoming employees
  • Postsecondary training opportunities aligned with their pathway and targeted occupations
  • Critical employability skills that can be reinforced/enhanced within their current curriculum
  • Course and collaborative initiatives that will strengthen the 7-key components of effective pathways.

Teachers collaborate with students on an employability project throughout the school year by meeting with various employers, economic development corporations, and higher education institutions.

The employability project of each team will address the following 7-key pathway components:

  • Cross-sector partnerships
  • Alignment with labor market demand
  • Integration of rigorous core academic and career-focused learning
  • College and career information and advising
  • Links between secondary and postsecondary education
  • Credential with Value in the Labor Market
  • Continuum of Work-Based Learning.

Provide Opportunities for Exploration

Teachers actively talk with students to individualize their instructional programs as much as possible to prepare them for their career choices. ALA participants’ most crucial contribution in promoting college and career readiness among their students is adopting an approach that provides them with exploration opportunities. This approach offers their students a realistic perspective of the types of career options available and the levels of training and education required for success within each field.


DR. MARCOS SILVAExecutive Director

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