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Real-World Success: Six Essentials for Choosing a Durable Skills Program

Submitted By Todd Macadangdang

A seasoned EdTech leader with 20+ years of experience, Todd has consistently delivered innovative web-based solutions for students and educators alike. With a rich background at Adobe Systems and Simon and Schuster, Todd holds invaluable insights for thriving in the corporate world. Additionally, consulting for clients like Mattel, Disney, and National Geographic and leading a startup based in Norway, Todd understands what it takes to thrive in an innovation economy. Now, as lead durable skills Trainer and Program Director at MindSageAcademy, he shares his wealth of expertise to empower students for success in the workplace and life.

In the last post we highlighted two simple suggestions to get started: 1) Make durable skills optional, not mandatory, working with only teachers who are excited to participate, and 2) Provide Professional Development (PD) to all teachers to expose them to the benefits of durable skills and help them develop the skills themselves. Now, let’s move to the next step: what to implement.

To be completely transparent, from time to time I will refer to the approach we have used and have found effective over the last six years, the Catalyst approach. But the choice is yours. At this time, early 2024, there are only a few who have jumped into the durable skills training arena. However, as policies begin to require durable skills training in schools, we anticipate an influx of providers to offer durable skills programs. 

Choosing a Program

Here are just a few suggestions for deciding which durable skills program to use, implement, emulate or otherwise adopt:

    1. Experience: Consider selecting a program crafted by working professionals with firsthand experience in dynamic work environments. There’s something about working on a job site, in a corporation, small business or startup that allows for the creation of functional, practical, and relevant lessons. Avoid options developed solely by academics lacking practical industry exposure. Look for a program designed by individuals who understand the intricacies of managing projects, collaborating within teams, and navigating diverse challenges. Such programs, born from real-world settings offer transformative learning experiences, ensuring practicality and efficacy.
    2. Cost: While cost is undeniably a significant factor, it’s essential to evaluate it in terms of value rather than solely monetary investment. Assessing the cost-to-value ratio is more straightforward. The cost, usually licensing fees, typically fall into a range of a few dollars per student, which is typical and reasonable. Cost is an important factor to consider if you plan to integrate durable skills training as a regular, permanent offering in your school.
    3. Student Feedback: Perhaps the most crucial gauge of a durable skills program’s effectiveness is student testimonials and feedback. While educators may perceive a program as excellent, it is the students’ opinions that truly count. If students don’t find the program valuable or practical, they’re unlikely to engage authentically. Take, for instance, two administrative leaders of very influential educational organizations, who told me that their own kids think Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is ‘stupid’ and hate doing the lessons. Remember, durable skills transcend traditional academics; they’re about personal growth, not rote learning – transformation, not memorization. As we like to say, the most profound transformation students can make is one they choose to make themselves. Additionally, feedback, whether positive or negative, should be specific. Some providers are receptive to feedback and adjust and improve their programs accordingly. Pay attention to how the program influences students’ perspectives, self-perception, and the cultivation of specific qualities or mindsets. To accomplish this, you might ask a prospective provider to pilot their program first. This is also tied to assessments. We’ll touch on that subject in a future blog.
    4. Support: Many Edtech companies often distance themselves once their product is in the hands of teachers. When I mention support, I’m not just referring to technical fixes; it’s about finding a durable skills training provider willing to make adjustments, accommodations, or customizations to meet the needs of your teachers and students. Ultimately you want a partner, not just a vendor.
    5. Relevance: Employer demands evolve with shifts in the economy, technological advancements, and trends. Ensure the program you select undergoes annual updates to align with the latest durable skills requirements sought by employers. One observation we’ve made regarding certain durable skills programs is their focus on surface-level topics such as resume writing, job searching, interviewing, or LinkedIn profile creation. While these are undoubtedly important, preparing students to excel as collaborative, critical-thinking, and creative problem-solvers demands deeper and more comprehensive training.
    6. Coverage: Lastly, you might base your decision on the target grade levels of the program. Some programs, such as our certification workshops, cater to high school and college students. Others may target middle school students, while some offer durable skills training for K-5. It’s possible that some programs will eventually cover all grades. If you’re considering such an offering, make sure that it adjusts the teaching method and content focus for each distinct age group. For instance, we initially piloted our program in middle schools for two years before realizing that our approach was better suited for older students. However, those two years weren’t wasted; the pilot gave us insight into what’s necessary to effectively teach durable skills at the middle school level. 

Ultimately, your budget may only accommodate a program that aligns with some, but not all, of the suggestions. That’s perfectly acceptable. From my perspective, as someone involved in hiring the graduates our educational system produces, any form of durable skills training is better than none. We’re all working towards the same goal of preparing our students for the workplace and cultivating high-performing employees who will make meaningful contributions in our companies. Recognizing our shared objective of strengthening our future workforce and economy enables each of us to individually contribute to the development of durable skills in our students.


There are many considerations when investing in any program. When considering which durable skills program to invest in and implement, you might start by using the following six points as criteria: the experience of the developers, cost vs. value, student feedback, support including customizations and ease of implementation, relevance and updates, and coverage, depending on the age group and grades you are targeting.

Keep your goal in mind. While any durable skills training is better than none, you’ll want a program that produces graduates that employers want to hire. So think like an employer when considering different programs. 

Navigating Delivery Styles and Methods: Crafting Effective Durable Skills Programs

In addition to the previous six points, you’ll also want to consider how you will deliver your program. So, let’s examine in greater detail how a program can be implemented.

Delivery Method: The most prevalent method of delivering any course is through an existing Learning Management System (LMS), particularly for lower grades. Therefore, ensure that the program you’re considering can be accessed through your current LMS platform and is suitable for your target student grade level. Typically, an LMS can accommodate various content types, including links, videos, and PDFs. Additionally, many high schools and colleges permit students to directly access websites, eliminating any concerns about LMS compatibility. This means that you may have more options for high school and college students who are accustomed to accessing websites on the Internet regularly.

Delivery Style: You’ll also need to decide how you want the lessons to be delivered: as synchronous class sessions, asynchronously online, completely independent of a teacher, or as a combination of both in-class and at-home use. A significant concern we repeatedly heard, which ultimately influenced our course design, was that teachers lacked the time to dedicate to teaching durable skills. So, time constraints and the structure of a program may influence your decision in choosing or implementing a program. If a program provider is willing to be flexible and adapt their lessons to fit your schedule and mode of learning, that’s even better.

Examples of customization that we’ve undertook over the last five years:

    • Created printable PDF lessons for students who didn’t have access to the internet.

    • Creating virtual documents for lessons, handouts and videos so the lessons could be implemented into an LMS and updated continuously.

    • Creating condensed lesson plans for schools that only allotted one hour per week for durable skills training, as opposed to using our 30 minute micro-learning lessons over the course of the week.

    • Creating custom brainstorming and case studies for specific groups or organizations using our program.

Many course development companies provide customization for their clients. It’s worth your time to find one that does.

In-person Professional Training: In addition, when considering delivery style, you might strongly consider partnering with a provider who can manage most, if not all, durable skills training and student interaction. For instance, one school district inquired about the feasibility of having one of our trainers come to the school to conduct professional durable skills training, or train a staff member to take on that role full time. This group believed it could be viable to have the trainer come in during class hours, and actually give the teacher a 30-minute break. Additionally, many schools have after-school programs or ‘21st Century Skills’ programs that could readily be utilized to provide time for durable skills training.

The beauty of bringing in a professional trainer is that it frees up the teacher’s time and energy, allowing them to focus on core subjects – at least at first. As we’ve mentioned previously, the PD should eventually help teachers implement simple strategies into the classroom to help foster the development of durable skills. We’ll cover this in the future in more detail.

Currently, career preparedness programs predominantly emphasize industry-specific courses such as dental, coding, welding, medical, or tourism. Consequently, state and federal funding guidelines align with this approach, often omitting approval or funding for programs centered on teaching soft skills or durable skills.

In several states, including Washington, where I’m located, initiatives exist to fund and promote in-school and after-school school-to-work programs, including grants for apprenticeship programs. While durable skills training is not yet explicitly funded, there is optimism that as policies shift towards recognizing the significance of durable skills in career readiness, funds may be allocated specifically for such training in the future – especially since durable skills training is applicable to all careers and professions.

Using these funds to bring in a training partner seems to be a viable and effective way for students to get training from business professionals, while also preventing teachers who are already overloaded, from taking on yet another responsibility. This of course would work with high school and college students very easily. But, we’ve talked to some educators who believe this can work with lower grades as well.

Finally, we have found that the best way to help students develop durable skills is to put them in a real-world workplace setting. While there will always be benefits to a teacher using our durable skills course, or any other course, in the classroom, there is no more effective, transformative method to helping students develop durable skills than showing them what it’s like to be in the workplace.

We often call our two month work-place training course an internship. We have also used the term ‘bootcamp’, and ‘workshop’. But, an internship seems to put the student into the frame of mind that this is a job. With this initial mindset, it’s much easier to have them apply the durable skills principles we’re teaching them. They’re able to put into practice what they are learning immediately and for a sustained period. Our internships/bootcamp/workshops are eight-weeks long.

The Catalyst durable skills program was originally conceived and developed in workplace settings. We’re confident that this setting produces the most consistent and high-quality results for young adults in high school and college. This approach is also in line with the policy recommendations of Durableskills.org and Americasucceeds.org, which advocates for the use of career-ready projects, experiences, and opportunities, including work-based learning.


Meet with teachers who are willing and excited about implementing a durable skills program and discuss the various options for delivery method and style. Determine if they have time restraints and what time might be available for the program. Give them the option of using after school time or a program for implementing durable skills training. Finally ask their thoughts on teaming up with a training provider/partner for assistance, and discuss the benefits of project based learning.


Consider delivery method and style. You’ll want to make sure the program is as easy to implement into your existing LMS or learning platform as possible. You’ll also want to consider if you want the program to be taught as synchronous class sessions, asynchronously online, completely independent of a teacher, or as a combination of both in-class and at-home use.

Finally, consider utilizing after-school programs if teachers feel there isn’t enough time during regular class hours to incorporate durable skills training. We also strongly recommend partnering with a training provider who can offer professional skills training either on-site or remotely, at times convenient for your students and teachers.

On a related note, there’s an article I wrote about the Open Talent trend in business. Organizations like NASA use Open Talent, by partnering with smaller, very skilled organizations to accomplish more than they could with the employees they have in house. We strongly recommend that Superintendents utilize Open Talent to relieve their teachers’ workload while enhancing student learning opportunities. It’s an interesting concept – you can read part one and part two.


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