Happy career and technical education month!
Preparing students for careers is essential to close the growing skills gap, providing a knowledgeable workforce pipeline and setting students on the path toward profitable careers. It’s also vital to make sure that these opportunities are provided to all students, regardless of zip code or circumstance.
CCSSO is proud to support states as they advance career preparation for students. Six years ago, CCSSO released a document to guide our work, recognizing that career education in too many of our schools reflected an outdated model and was often misaligned with the changing needs of the labor market.
Since then, our organization has worked with states, including through the New Skills for Youth cohort and the ongoing Career Readiness Collaboratives, to support their efforts. Now, we will soon release an action guide based on promising practices and lessons learned to help state education leaders, workforce development agencies, lawmakers, industry professionals, communities and families, as they work together to offer career readiness programming for all students.
The guide is forthcoming, but focuses on three key recommendations to states, with examples of how they’ve already been implemented across the country.
First, states should ensure all students — especially underserved populations — have meaningful access to high-quality career pathways.
That means looking at state and local data to find and address any disparities in access for particular populations of students. Leaders should remove barriers to access, including obvious ones, like availability of programs, and less visible ones, like outreach to prospective career pathways students.
In Wisconsin, the Pathways Wisconsin program includes professional development modules about equity and implicit bias.
Second, states should make sure secondary and post-secondary options are linked for all career pathways, including employers and higher education institutions. All students should know about the multiple options they have when pursuing higher education.
One state that has undertaken this work is Oklahoma, where all students get an Individual Career Academic Plan which provides an anchor for career readiness work and postsecondary planning.
Finally, states should integrate all funding sources, from federal, state, local and private sources, to scale up career readiness programs.
There are flexibilities in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act and most recent reauthorization of the Perkins CTE law that states and districts can use to blend federal funding.
States should also consider per-pupil career readiness dollars, to give districts a long-term, reliable source of funding. Ohio, for instance, funds the Expanding Opportunities for Each Child program with ESSA funds; it helps connect students in remote and economically disadvantaged schools to career pathways programs.
We’re excited to share more on this important work in the coming months – stay tuned!
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