Cultivating Creativity and Diversity to Capture a Universe of Solutions

Youth thrive in work-based learning (WBL) when experimentation and bold ideas come together to develop relevant, in-demand skill sets for future careers.  

Livable Wage Jobs and industry collaborators bring fundamentals of design thinking— envisioned at Stanford University’s—to high schoolers through WBL and Career Technical Education (CTE) classes. Student co-designed projects reflect the ever-changing marketplace, and highlight creative decisions and new approaches to innovative thinking and collaborating with peers and adults.  

“I never really considered myself to be particularly creative, but I feel that my internship made me see myself in a new light,” says one student intern. “I was challenged to produce something I was passionate about bringing attention to. It feels amazing to show my passion and share it with everyone.” 

Interns and CTE students practice collaborative learning, and are engaged in program design, iterative improvements based on feedback, and public presentations of their work. The methodology informs career exploration and engages disproportionately impacted students who may face challenges with traditional classes, higher-level math, or conceptual learning. Youth create multi-faceted capstone projects, where they are tasked with thinking critically about a problem, surveying relevant information, and designing a solution or product. WBL is intentionally designed with youth to integrate workplace dynamics, design thinking, and coursework as value-adds to tap a universe of solutions to hard problems.  

As practitioners point out, creativity isn’t about outputs or a particular product; it’s a function of inputs and “feeding the system” with fresh and diverse perspectives to tackle problems and prioritize relevance. The disciplined pursuit of “unexpected inputs” drives discovery of previously unknown possibilities, as youth learn to empathize with users, ideate solutions, prototype, and test a design solution. (Masters of Creativity: Design Thinking, 2021).  

As students adapt to design-thinking mindsets through WBL, LWJ’s human-centered approach cultivating creativity becomes practice and mobilizes innovation.