There’s been a national call-to-action for two-year community colleges and career and technical high schools. Ultimately, educators are responsible for meeting the demand for skills in the global economy.
- There is consensus that the foundational academic knowledge needed for postsecondary education and for careers is virtually the same, with growing recognition that academic skills, employability and technical knowledge and skills are essential as well.
- We’re seeing widespread agreement that lifelong learning and ‘learning how to learn’ are key drivers of success in college, careers and civic life.
- Research shows collaborative efforts in states, districts and communities to strengthen their collective capacity to deliver results that matter.
The plan is for greater student success. It needs to be bolder and broader – “cradle-to-career” strategies – comprehensive, data-driven plans that begin early on and focus on improving measurable progress to career readiness. This new formula shows the most promise for success. Follow-up on the student’s outcome is also important to obtain the metrics to grow this philosophy.
- Rigorous coursework matched with ongoing assessments will ensure progress toward increased knowledge, high school graduation and opportunities for higher education.
- Academic offerings that allow students to earn college credits while in high school will position them to be a step ahead of their peers by taking advantage of challenging courses like: an advanced placement program, dual enrollment initiatives like early college high schools that blend high school and post-secondary study, and post-secondary enrollment options programs that allow high school students to take classes at public community colleges and universities.
- High school reforms and improvement initiatives like First Things First and Talent Development High School help establish small learning communities within the schools, increasing the rigor of the courses, offering academic support when needed, and better connecting teachers with students and schools with parents. The new What Works Clearinghouse from the U.S. Department of Education offers evidence-based practice guides for educational improvements.
- Out-of-school support for high school students, includes tutoring initiatives after school and in the summer, mentoring programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters, and efforts to reduce teen pregnancy rates.
- Concerted, in-school efforts aim to prevent students from dropping out and to boost graduation rates using proven initiatives like Check & Connect and Achievement for Latinos through Academic Success (ALAS) to monitor student progress, offer remediation and feedback, build relationships, and link schools to families and students.
Workforce Development and Education Partnerships
Public and private higher education institutions are essential components of the regional economic engine, serving as centers of innovation and research, teaching the business leaders of tomorrow, anchoring the communities, providing customized training for employers and creating jobs. Representatives from local/regional workforce agencies, educational and business communities, and economic development organizations make up Workforce Development and Education Partnerships. The partnerships meet on a regular basis to identify and prioritize the most critical workforce topics.
These partnerships are supported by existing resources and personnel that are currently dedicated to economic development efforts. By marshaling existing resources, regional workforce councils actually maximize taxpayer money by streamlining and coordinating the economic development and planning process, cutting waste, and reducing duplication.
There are many tools available to combat workforce disparities and upgrading skills. One in particular, named ‘Career Pathways’, tends to stand out. The Career Pathways approach may be the most promising new way of moving our tens of thousands of under-educated and hard-to-employ youth and adults quickly on their way to the tens of thousands of jobs that will need to be filled in the near future as baby boomers begin to retire en masse.
The approach to take is one that connects progressive levels of education, training, support services and credentials for specific occupations in a way designed to optimize the progress and success of individuals with varying levels of abilities and needs, including those with limited education, skills, English and/or employment experience.
Amid all the conventional signs of growth and prosperity at the top end, with high profits and generally low unemployment, far too many citizens underneath continue to suffer from economic distress and a lack of skills for today’s workplace. We see increasing evidence of stubborn racial disparities and large pockets of high unemployment and under-employment.
These two sets of problems are made for each other and should compel legislators to focus as never before on expanding and improving workforce training and boosting post-secondary credential attainment. What is needed are policy changes across federal and state agencies that support the Career Pathways approach including flexibility with student financial aid and increased funding and expansion of the most effective Career Pathways programs.