School Districts Enhance Career Readiness Initiatives

Connexeo - 09/03/2018

When you boil it all down, a school district’s ultimate mission is the end game: to ensure that a student that enters the district in pre-K, first grade, sixth grade, ninth grade or anywhere along the way leaves the district with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in college or in a career.

While college-placement statistics get most of the publicity, the concept of career and college readiness is becoming more of a focus among states and school districts nationwide, according to an article in District Administration. Career readiness, according to the National Association of College and Employers, “is the attainment and demonstration of requisite competencies that broadly prepare graduates for a successful transition into the workplace.”

Some argue that career readiness out of high school is a relic of a bygone era. An article in The Conversation states that, “While there have been efforts to revive vocational training in high school, it has become clear that, for today’s students to be prepared for tomorrow’s jobs, all pathways must lead to a credential with labor market value, such as a certificate, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree.” 

But these arguments are not stopping some state and school districts from seeking to open up employment pathways for their graduating seniors, the District Administration article reported.

Tennessee Pathways

For example, the Tennessee Pathways initiative mandates that districts in the state with full Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs provide access to all students to early career and college opportunities. Those include apprenticeships, internships, work-based learning and dual-enrollment and Advanced Placement courses.

Meanwhile, school districts are partnering with business in three industries important to Tennessee’s economy: manufacturing, information technology and healthcare.

Dallas County Promise

Farther west, the Dallas Independent School District in Texas, in which 75% of the students are economically disadvantaged, has established Dallas County Promise. The program offers 16,000 high school seniors from 43 campuses two years of free tuition at a community or technical college if they meet the following criteria:

  • Earn at least 12 college credit hours before high school graduation.
  • Choose a career that’s in demand in North Texas.
  • Complete a federal financial aid application.
  • Avoid college remediation.

The Dallas ISD, in return, provides a weekly report of its college and career readiness data to Dallas County Promise, which then combines it with FAFSA completion information. The final result is a spreadsheet that informs educators exactly where students are in their postsecondary process, the District Administration article states.

The Tennessee program and a similar initiative in Delaware are also starting to include middle-schoolers, who are beginning to explore career choices and receive basic training in the skills necessary to pursue those careers.

These programs and initiatives do somewhat confirm the theory that some sort of post-secondary training is needed to be truly career ready. School districts and high schools recognize that at least a certificate, associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree may be needed for most jobs.

And while college prep is still the dominant pathway offered, more schools are building new channels for students who wish to enter the workforce as quickly as possible.

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