MAXX Potential

Durable Skills meet the World of Work

Impressions from the first day of SXSW EDU 2022

By Rob Simms

Austin, TX skyline

Following our first day at SXSW EDU, Tucker, John and I reflect on “durable skills”, the World of Work curriculum, and a school district where students start career exploration in Kindergarten.

Durable skills

Walking along the Austin skyline during our first evening at SXSW EDU, Tucker brought up his interest in a newfound term: “durable skills”. And while it’s new to us, the concept isn’t. Durable skills are in alignment with what most of us refer to as “soft skills” we at MAXX know are core to the success of our apprentices. This includes personal traits like collaboration and perseverance which are hard to truly measure from a resume or job interview. It’s no wonder students who show signs of these same traits also tend to be the most successful. These are also the skills you carry throughout your career, even as technology changes. So while technology comes and goes; it’s your durable skills which stay with you and allow you to meet new challenges time and again.

We love it.

The next generation of work-based learning

As dozens of conference attendees visited us on the expo floor, you could see their eyes light up when they heard about what we mean when we talk about the Next Generation of Work-Based Learning. This includes:  

  • Universal agreement those durable skills are key drivers of success
  • A recognition of the value of a hassle-free and high quality immersive internship experience
  • A sense of wonder when they understood graduates could apply for our apprenticeship program and get their first full-time paid IT job straight out of school

Where kindergarten students explore careers

During the last session I attended, the forward thinking superintendent of Cajon Valley Union School District guided us through the journey his district was making as it incorporates the World of Work into the wider curriculum. Looking deeper into this approach, we see a crossover with durable skills (e.g. problem solving) and the core elements of preparing for careers: exploration and simulation. These are fundamental tenets of the work-based learning programs MAXX delivers in schools today (Career Lab and Work Simulator). Here are a few other interesting takeaways from that session:

  • Career exploration starts in Kindergarten and continues through every grade level. This helps students connect their learning to possible future work – making what they learn in school more relevant in the process.
  • Students spend about 6 hours / day on their devices – aside from school. While managing screen time down may be desirable, we should also think about meeting students where they are.
  • Meeting students where they are means learning how to harness the digital channels and the social media outlets they use today and will be using tomorrow.


For places like Cajon Valley where today 70% of students qualify for free and reduced lunch, we see how supporting programs like World of Work with things like the MAXX Career Lab, Work Simulator and Apprenticeship could have a profound impact on the students, employers and community. 

We call that a win-win-win-win.