Many students don't feel career-ready
- Over half of students with a career goal say they have never received advice on how to achieve that goal, while roughly half of high school graduates who attend college have to take remedial courses, according to The Hechinger Report.
- A recent "listening tour" of parents and business leaders conducted by the Committee for Economic Development concluded that schools need to do more to help students chart their paths and to give them the basic ethical mindset and soft skills needed to succeed.
- To help reach this goal, schools need to provide more career guidance to students, incorporate soft-skills into the educational framework, and partner with businesses to provide more work-based learning opportunities.
Education is of limited value if students are not prepared for the demands of the future and if employers don't have access to the skilled workers they need. More states are recognizing that the needs of the business community and the educational goals for students need to be connected, which is part of why more states have integrated the Partnership for 21st Century Learning into their educational framework and are requiring some form of the ACT Workkeys, which helps measure career-readiness, as an assessment in schools.
Some states, like North Carolina, are also now requiring that districts set up business advisory councils that help schools and businesses better collaborate on meeting their individual and mutual needs. These partnerships are necessary for helping to create work-based learning opportunities for students. As businesses see the benefit in working with schools to create a talent pipeline, they are more likely to donate time and resources to schools, as well.
Though many school administrators are focused on meeting testing goals, many states have included career-readiness goals in their new ESSA accountability plans. This ensures efforts around teaching soft skills and focusing on career-readiness and work-based opportunities will become part of the curricular framework. The teaching of these soft skill doesn't need to be an added burden, but merely a lens through which courses are taught. For instance, critical thinking is a natural part of the teaching of math and science, and communication is the goal of English language arts courses. Even if states have not adopted career-focused initiatives to the degree that school administrators desire, school leaders still have great scope for improvement in individual school districts through the assignment of counseling resources, building community partnerships, and emphasizing career-readiness in initiatives and professional development. It is time to break down the silos and work to prepare students for the jobs of the future.