ASU Working Learners Program

Arizona State University — Goal 1 Initiative ASU Working Learners Program

The ASU Working Learners Program creates career courses, programs, experiences, and tools  to prepare learners for an integrated working-and-learning future. The Working Learners Program redesigns student employment across the university, understanding that work and learning realms are fundamentally connected, and that student experience in applying what they’ve learned to real-world problems is a top indicator of workplace success. The program will equip students with flexible and durable skills, bridging the divide between work and school.

In these redesigned jobs, supervisors in university-sponsored jobs act as mentors and career guides with their working learners, supporting their professional goals through a series of regularly scheduled meetings. To support this, all Working Learner supervisors will complete a robust training program with ongoing professional development. Working Learners can build valuable work skills through experiential courses in communications, cultural awareness, and data literacy, among others. They will develop a portfolio consisting of work products/artifacts and reflections to showcase their professional development and growth.

Launched in the Fall 2020 semester with a pilot cohort of 370 students, ASU commits to the expansion and development of the Working Learners program through Taskforce participation.

If successful, the program will be adopted and scaled across all of the ASU system, with Working Learners achieving increased engagement and professional success. The program aims to create more fulfilling student employment opportunities, develop students' professional networks, and help students to articulate their skills through a digital portfolio.

ASU is a comprehensive public research university measured by whom it includes and how they succeed. The Working Learners program contributes to this combined mission of access and excellence by supporting ASU’s diverse student population in showcasing their unique skills and talents and by ensuring that all students have the opportunity to develop the networks, portfolios, and skills necessary to succeed in the workforce.

Initiative Differentiators

The Working Learners Program is unique in both design and scale. The program aims to reshape the worker-supervisor dynamic, fostering a growth mindset among both parties. Work within the program is designed to be digital and flexible for workers in multiple modalities, ensuring broad access and embracing a digital future. ASU is also uniquely positioned to lead this initiative, with more than 10,000 on-campus student job opportunities, robust local and national partnerships, and an institutional focus on integration of work responsibilities into student academic life.

Key Interventions and Milestones

Nine courses have been developed and launched, including “Life by Design,” a course based on the principles of design-thinking, and eight micro-courses focused on skill development in areas like communication and critical thinking; additional skill-based training will also be available, beyond the core courses. Two complementary programs are launching to drive program scaling and iteration, including a new project-based, work-integrated learning program.

ASU is developing enterprise-wide technology platforms that will contribute to the success of this program and others, including a digital portfolio platform, a blockchain-powered learning record, and a search and recommendation engine to help students find opportunities across the Working Learners program to improve their career readiness.

Expected Impact

During the Fall 2020 semester, the Working Learners program was piloted in several units within ASU’s University College, with a focus on programmatic design. This first iteration of the program enrolled 370 students. In January of 2021, an additional 230 students  joined this cohort. By 2022, ASU will scale the Working Learners program to include 1,500 students.