Recruiters need to take note of this growing education trend
High school students today face the prospect of graduating in a world that immediately weighs them down with student debt and out-of-control commodity prices. Fortunately, there’s a growing trend in American high school that can help them graduate already prepared for the job market: career-focused high schools.
What is even more exciting is that the White House supports this: the recent budget presented calls for a $200 million investment in these schools. If we are successful, this investment could bring generational transformation to the US education system and the US economy, as well as to businesses seeking untapped talent.
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Right now, what we’re seeing is a mix of career-focused program offerings in schools, as well as public and charter schools that focus primarily on career or vocational education. Among these programs, the most important are vocational and technical education, or CTE.
Schools can opt for programs that still include core subjects like science, math, and reading, but through the lens of practical, work-relevant experience. Such a program is The project paves the way. PLTW offers interdisciplinary learning. In the computer science stream, for example, students learn computational thinking in addition to coding skills. They learn to write Python, but also to collaborate, solve problems and analyze the social and ethical implications of computer systems.
Battery Creek High School, near my home in South Carolina, offers CTE tracks in welding, aviation, culinary arts and more. The aviation degree program offers students a chance to get a taste of aerospace engineering – a skill set highly sought after by regional employers like Boeing, Gulfstream and Lockheed Martin. Students who progress through the program may have the opportunity to pitch projects directly to industry representatives. It’s a chance to see if this is the right path for them, a path that could provide them with good job security and good pay in a field they want to pursue.
In Colorado, Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) is a model that offers high school students the opportunity to intern at IBM while simultaneously earning their diploma and an associate’s degree at no cost. They come out of the program ready to go without any debt.
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These programs are extremely promising at all levels. According to a 2019 National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) study“Eight years past their expected graduation date, students who focused on career and technical education (CTE) courses while in high school had higher median annual earnings than students who did not. focused on CTE.”
To get an idea of where we are today, 98% of public school districts offered CTE programs to high school students in the 2016-2017 school year, according to NCES. More than three out of four students participated in these programs.
After a decline in these programs from the 1980s, there is a renewed interest. The offerings are increasing, but the opportunities still vary widely from state to state, and in many cases, states must navigate these waters alone.
More consistent and comprehensive guidance at the national level could make the most of these career-focused efforts. In addition to curriculum development, CTE programs require training for teachers and administrators, industry partnerships, and community buy-in.
Read more: Why Amazon Web Services is giving 29 million people free education and job training
This is where $200 million could make a big difference.
Today there is millions of unfilled jobs, and many of them in fields that don’t require a traditional post-secondary degree: cybersecurity, industrial mechanics, manufacturing, nursing. On the other hand, university graduates come out of school with enormous debt and skills that are not always suitable for the labor market.
This could be a moment of judgment for our country – we could reduce the pressure on children to decide on a university major before working in this field, reduce the financial burden on parents and students and create a ripple effect with paying jobs that support regional economies across the country. All of this translates into a better labor market, happier people and more money in everyone’s pocket.
Employers take note too: browse recent job postings, even from a company like googleand you will find that most jobs now require a degree Where relevant work experience.
That doesn’t mean the four-year degree is going away – for many students, it will still be the best option to lead them into the career that’s right for them. A degree can also be part of a CTE student’s career path, but one that comes after gaining hands-on work experience and training in a way that enables them to make better decisions about college.
It’s about creating new pathways and equipping students with the skills and knowledge they need to achieve lasting success after high school. If it’s good enough for Google, and for a $200 million investment, then it’s a good option for American high schoolers. They should all have the chance to benefit from a career-oriented education.