More than five million high school and college-aged people in this country are neither in school nor working. Meanwhile, more than half of companies nationwide report that they have jobs they can’t find qualified workers to fill. Thankfully, states and industry partners have recognized this disconnect and are taking action.
A recent analysis by Education Strategy Group showed that education leaders in 49 states included a variety of strategies to increase career readiness among their students into their state action plans. Additionally, according to a recent report from Advance CTE and the Association for Career and Technical Education, in 2017, those same 49 states and the District of Columbia passed a total of 241 career readiness policies, compared to the 139 total policies enacted in 2016.
Giving students early access to career pathways, internships, and real-world job training allows them to jumpstart their future careers in high school, which has many long-term benefits. In fact, 75 percent of students who choose and complete a career pathway in high school go on to enroll in college.
Among the states leading the nation on improving career readiness, 10 of them — Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Wisconsin — are participating in an initiative called New Skills for Youth, a $75 million, five-year effort developed by JPMorgan Chase in collaboration with the Council of Chief State School Officers, Advance CTE, and Education Strategy Group.
It invests $35 million directly in states to strengthen career readiness approaches, giving students multiple pathways to training and education beyond high school. This means that while students are studying calculus and physics and literature, they’re also becoming certified phlebotomists, programming robots in mechatronics labs, and learning the basics of business management.
The work of improving career readiness is a huge undertaking and requires states to forge partnerships across many different entities. Leaders must understand the local context and economy in their states and school districts use that knowledge to build career pathways that meet industry demand, and connect with business leaders who can employ and mentor students. Done well, it’s a win-win-win for students, for schools, and for the community.
In Kentucky, for example, leaders are making it more appealing for experts with industry experience outside of the classroom to become teachers. They’ve created pay incentives based on degree levels, reduced requirements to complete additional postsecondary work if applicants have appropriate postsecondary experiences, and implemented a 24-month professional learning experience for new teachers. The state has also developed a database to track the retention rate of these new teachers in order to assess which strategies are working and how they can better attract and support these educators in the future.
Another good example is in Nevada, where they created the Office of Workforce Innovation for a New Nevada to coordinate leaders in K-12 and higher education, their workforce counterparts, and various governmental agencies to create greater cohesion and sustainability in the education workforce pipeline. The state has already convened these stakeholders to identify in-demand occupations, produced a report to align education and workforce programs, and identified industry-recognized credentials that secondary students and individuals within the publicly-funded workforce system can leverage.
We’re excited to see such meaningful progress in states to prepare students for both college and career, and we look forward to spotlighting the state career readiness programs, as well as the partnerships between the public and private sectors that are necessary to make them work.
Chauncy Lennon is the head of workforce initiatives at JPMorgan Chase. Carissa Moffat Miller serves as the interim executive director at the Council of Chief State School Officers.