about us

NYC Skills Lab is an initiative funded by both the GE Foundation and the NYC Department of Education, and managed by the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Readiness. The purpose of NYC Skills Lab is to help educators and their partners – both youth employers and youth serving professionals – incorporate 21st century skills development into their work with students to prepare them for college and career success.

Process Overview


There is a disconnect between what students are learning and what the world demands.


To build the capacity of educators, school leadership, employer and youth-serving partners to provide students meaningful & effective 21st century skill building experiences that prepare them for postsecondary success.


Delivering skills-based workforce development support for school-based educators and their employer partners

Providing customized instructional coaching for classroom teachers

Convening school leadership and their youth-serving partners in collaborative professional learning workshops

Skills Lab Support Strategies

  • Dedicated coaching support which includes monthly classroom observations and coaching visits
  • Quarterly Professional Learning Communities
  • Co-creation of activities, units,  lessons, and tools
  • Mini-grants for schools to plan and implement skills -based learning activities

Schools + Partners

  • 15NYC Skills Lab schools comprises of 15 high schools representing Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens. Educators from 15 participating high schools representing Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens

    • Secondary School for Journalism
    • The Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design
    • Frank McCourt High School
    • Urban Assembly School of Design and Construction
    • East Side Community High School
    • Energy Tech High School
    • John Adams High School YABC
    • South Brooklyn Community High School
    • School of the Future High School
    • Fordham High School for the Arts
    • Richard R. Green High School
    • Brooklyn International High School
    • Fannie Lou Hammer High School
    • Hudson High School for Learning Technologies
    • Bronx Arena High School
  • 5Partners: community based organizations
  • 46Educators: principals, assistant principals, teachers, extended learning opportunities
  • 2000Students: served in the NYC area in 9 – 12 grade

Skills Framework

NYC Skills Lab uses a skills framework developed by MHA Labs . MHA Labs has used research to isolate a core set of easy-to-understand 21st century skills and organized them into domains called the Building Blocks. Each building block contains a targeted set of detailed skills that are intentionally written to serve as both learning objectives and assessment items.


Personal Mindset
  • Needs minimal supervision to complete tasks.
  • Attempts to complete tasks independently before asking for help.
  • Follows rules/directions as required by the task/situation.
  • Maintains focus on tasks despite internal (e.g., emotional) and/or external distractions.
  • Avoids actions that have produced undesirable consequences or results in the past.
  • Strives to overcome barriers/set-backs, seeking assistance when needed.
  • Adapts approach in response to new conditions or others’ actions
Planning For Success
  • Sets and prioritizes goals that reflect a self-awareness of one’s capabilities, interests, emotions, and/or needs.
  • Breaks goals into actionable steps.
  • Accurately estimates level of effort and establishes realistic timelines.
  • Manages time to complete tasks on schedule.
  • Applies existing/newly acquired knowledge, skills, and/or strategies that one determines to be useful for achieving goals.
  • Monitors progress and own performance, adjusting approach as necessary.
  • Demonstrates a belief that one’s own actions are associated with goal attainment.
Social Awareness
  • Recognizes the consequences of one’s actions.
  • Balances own needs with the needs of others.
  • Takes into consideration others’ situations/feelings.
  • Develops and implements strategies for navigating in different cultures/contexts (i.e., manages different patterns of behavior, rules, and norms).
Verbal Communication
  • Organizes information that serves the purpose of the message, context, and audience.
  • Uses and adjusts communication strategies as needed based on the purpose of the message, context, and audience.
  • Signals listening according to the rules/norms of the context and audience.
  • Seeks input to gauge others’ understanding of the message.
  • Asks questions to deepen and/or clarify one’s understanding when listening to others.
  • Completes tasks as they have been assigned or agreed upon by the group.
  • Helps team members complete tasks, as needed.
  • Encourages the ideas, opinions, and contributions of others, leveraging individual strengths.
  • Provides feedback in a manner that is sensitive to others’ situation/feelings.
  • Clarifies areas of disagreement/conflict that need to be addressed to achieve a common goal.
  • Seeks to obtain resolution of disagreements/conflicts to achieve a common goal.
Problem Solving
  • Defines problems by considering all potential parts and related causes.
  • Gathers and organizes relevant information about a problem from multiple sources.
  • Generates potential solutions to a problem, seeking and leveraging diverse perspectives.
  • Identifies alternative ideas/processes that are more effective than the ones previously used/suggested.
  • Evaluates the advantages and disadvantages associated with each potential solution identified for a problem.
  • Selects and implements best solution based on evaluation of advantages and disadvantages of each potential solution.

Core Employability Framework

The Core Employability Framework represent a subset of skills from the larger  MHA 21st century skills framework that highlight the skills research has shown individuals need to have in order to be viewed has employable / hireable. The Workforce Alliance targets building students’ mastery of these skills through their school internship programs.


To learn more about the impact using the Core Employability Framework had on our students, read our Workforce Alliance Pilot Year Student Focus Group Report!



Strategies: NYC Skills Lab funds new approaches designed to help students achieve the skills needed to thrive in the 21st century workplace.

Types of school-wide innovations:

School-wide Adoption of 21st Century Skills

CASE STUDY: Brooklyn International High School implements Building Self Advocacy

more about this innovation
Integration of Skills in Extended Learning Opportunities

CASE STUDY: Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School implements Building Skills Articulation through Blogging

more about this innovation
Assessment Strategies and Tools

CASE STUDY: Bronx Arena High School implements Shifting Towards Mastery of 21st Century Skills

more about this innovation
Curriculum Development

CASE STUDY: Bronx Academy for Software Engineering implements Design Thinking

more about this innovation


Workforce Alliance Internship Tools

In collaboration with our 2016-2017 Workforce Alliance cohort, we created a collection of tools to support educators charged with managing internship programs at their school. We invite you to use the enclosed tools in your school-based internship program.  What follows are guidelines for the use of the tools, broken down by program phase. The program phases you see reflect a NYC Skills Lab program known as the Workforce Alliance, for which these tools were first created. You may structure your program with these same phases, but many of the tools will still be useful to you if you do not. However, implicit in the tools is a certain theory of change. They will be most useful to you if it’s a theory of change you share.

Click here to download A Toolkit to Support 21st century skills Innovation in High School Internship Programs


Skills Fellowship Instruction Tools

In collaboration with our 2016 – 2018 Skills Fellows, we created a starter planning guide to help teachers begin the process of integrating 21st century skills into their classroom instruction. This mission of this guide is not to impose a new model of instruction but to reveal the skills power of a current curriculum and instructional practices. The goal to bring clarity, intentional, transparency, and recognition to the skills students are developing inside the classroom whether implicitly or explicitly.

Click here to download Power Up for Students, 21st century skills design guide.

Performance Tasks

A performance task consists of:

  • An essential question
  • Task overview
  • Delineation of academic and/or technical standards
  • Targeted 21st century skills
  • Key activities descriptions and feedback practices

Types of performance tasks:

  • Work Based Problems Work-based problems are taken directly from a work site and students use tools and approaches employed by professionals in the field to solve the problem.
  • Simulations Simulations allow students to experience real life situations by practicing the skills necessary to succeed in college and various careers.
  • Student Driven Campaigns Campaigns are driven by student interests and often inspired by a social justice problem. Students create a multi-media campaign that raises awareness of the issue, as well as a call to action to address the issue.
  • Design Challenges Design challenges are solved collaboratively and hands-on, requiring students to ask good questions, develop deep subject area knowledge, identify and solve challenges, and share their experience.
view all performance tasks