Shari L. Camhi is the superintendent of the Baldwin Union Free School District in Baldwin, New York. She currently holds positions on the boards of AASA, The School Superintendents Association, and the American Association of Community Colleges.
It’s graduation season, and as high school seniors make their way down the aisle to receive their diploma, we all wonder what the future holds for them. As educators, we continue to make great strides, and graduation rates at our high schools are on the rise across the country. But we still must wonder if students are truly prepared for their future. What skills are truly necessary to be equipped for the future of work?
It is essential for high school students to be college-, career- and life-ready to be successful in the 21st century. High schools, and even middle schools, across the country need to be guiding students into career-paths that make sense, and make sure they have the skills needed make them employable; preparing them up for future success. Those skills are complex and are far more reaching then reading, writing and mathematics. They require competence in the “4Cs” of critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity.
School systems need to respond to current needs of students by providing post-high school experiences while still in high school. These experiences may take many forms. In Baldwin, we believe that every student must have a passageway toward success and that these paths vary from student to student. Making sure that the paths are varied and create opportunities instead of limiting students is paramount to success, and every path must not only address the 4Cs, but they must provide experiences both in and out of school that contextualize the experience.
By building relationships with governmental institutions, professional associations, colleges and universities, and local businesses, Baldwin students have the benefit of exercising these skills within the community and beyond. These relationships have provided opportunities and experiences, which assist in guiding students into promising career paths, starting as early as middle school. These partnerships have allowed students to “get their feet wet” in various fields, including medicine, education, law, business, engineering and the media. These partnerships involve real-life, hands-on experiences such as shadow days, student teaching and internships. Students use what they have learned in the classroom and apply it in the real world of work.
These formalized programs and experiences have helped to shape young minds, giving students a multitude of ideas and understandings of the future of work, allowing them to make educated decisions and choices entering college and professions by the time they complete high school.
The hope and expectation is that these students have a good solid understanding of various professions and careers, and either find jobs right after graduation or declare majors at a college or university very early on, reducing debt, maximizing time and getting a head start on their future careers.