Project Description

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 experiences in business and industry that deliver learning opportunities outside the traditional classroom. These experiences make up the Academic Leadership Alliance (A•L•A).

This continuum design engages local business and industry with school districts to help educators identify career opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley (The Valley) and develop workplace skills lessons using an essential set of 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 skills, high wage, high demand careers.  At its core, A•L•A is about helping educators meet students where they are in their development and helping them grow their future.

We partner 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 typically 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 move 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, etc.), 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 every year, impacting thousands of students by the experiences their teachers and counselors have participated.

The workplace experiences are valuable career learning experiences. They allow educators to see first-hand 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, which allows the educators to get an accurate picture of the context of the work, real-life challenges, and the structure of a typical workday or week.  Externships range from one to two weeks.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, RGV LEAD held a Pilot Virtual Externship in Summer 2021.

The virtual externship focused on collaboration between academic teachers and 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 met with various employers, economic development corporations, and higher education institutions to collaborate on an employability project with students through the 2021-2022 school year.

The employability project of each team addressed 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.

To Train. To Mentor. To Inspire.

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Each box link will access documents used for the 2021 Virtual Summere ALA>

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DR. NORMA SALAIZProgram Developer
LESLIE GUERREROProgram Coordinator