Get More People into The Workforce and onto Career Pathways

Create an integrated continuum from K-12 to Higher Education to Employment

High school education has become a less secure stepping stone on the pathway to individual economic security. The US economy will create 16 million New Collar jobs by 2024 — positions requiring postsecondary degrees, though not necessarily a four-year college degree. As the demand for higher skill jobs increase, nearly seven million jobs requiring only a high school diploma disappeared between 2008 and 2016. Youth and young adults need a higher level of skills to fill the knowledge based jobs of today’s economy.

What’s clear is that the burden of preparing workers cannot be the sole responsibility of schools. A fully prepared workforce requires a multifaceted and integrated response. Employers, educators, and government and community leaders cannot proceed in silos, but rather must collaborate, with each contributing its specific expertise and its resources, to solve complex employment needs and prepare the new generation of workers for 21st century jobs. 

Throughout the US, there are effective, proven programs, championed by public-private partnerships, designed to strengthen education and employment opportunities for young people, from school-based programs to apprenticeships. One challenge of robust programs like these is ensuring that young people are prepared for these opportunities when they present themselves, and that once they complete them, they have another significant opportunity awaiting them that will enable them to maintain a positive trajectory. The second challenge is replicating these programs so that they go from boutique opportunities to systemic ones, benefitting millions of young people, rather than just a lucky few.

By including employers, educators can ensure that they are preparing students for both college and career success. With guidance from employers on skill needs, coursework for all students can be designed to ensure students gain the skills and knowledge they will need for the 21st century workforce. These skills include the professional skills that employers state they need most, and what all young people require to become the next generation of contributing citizens and leaders: communication, problem solving, critical thinking, and flexibility.

Beyond sharing necessary skills, employers play a critical role in helping nurture those skills in young people. Employers can work closely with college and high school faculty to connect academic content to real-world situations, making learning more engaging and helping students better understand abstract concepts. Employer involvement also can include sustained and evolving opportunities that span the arc from exposure to application to employment. Exposure activities include mentoring by professionals, worksite visits and job shadowing, while application includes paid internships and apprenticeships that lead to jobs, ongoing education, or both. Ultimately, by creating a seamless system, education and employers create a community and a culture among the students that supports their long-term goals and helps students stay on track.

An Example: The P-TECH 9-14 School Model – The P-TECH 9-14 School Model began as a unique collaboration among the New York City Department of Education, The City University of New York, the New York City College of Technology (City Tech), and IBM. While beginning in one school in Brooklyn, New York, the collaborators’ intent was never to create a single successful school. It was to create an innovative, fully replicable model that would, through public-private partnership, create supported pathways to college completion and career success. In six years or less, students graduate with a high school diploma and a no-cost, two-year associate degree in a growth industry field. Each P-TECH school works with a corporate partner or partners and a local community college to ensure an up-to-date curriculum that is academically rigorous and economically relevant.

Update Legislation that Guides Career and Technical Education

Reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act Perkins Act
One reachable goal is the opportunity to Reauthorize the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act (the Perkins Act) as soon as possible. Reauthorization would enable the use of federal funding as an incentive for reform nationwide on Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, to incorporate many of the reforms that are needed. The bill has passed the House, and is now awaiting action by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. 
The legislation focuses on areas where improvements can be made to current law, building upon its past successes and enhancing aspects to better serve both workers and employers. A renewed and updated Perkins Act should:
  • Align CTE programs to the needs of the regional, state, and local labor market;
  • Support effective and meaningful collaboration between secondary and postsecondary institutions and employers;
  • Increase student participation in work-based learning opportunities; and
  • Promote the use of industry recognized credentials and other recognized post-secondary credentials.

Launch a High-Demand Career Pathways Innovation Fund

Many young adults are not making it onto the first rung of the career ladder. According to the Bridgespan Group in their research “Billion Dollar Bets” to Create Economic Opportunity for Every American :
“Today’s US labor market is failing low-income and minority job seekers. Low-income and minority candidates often face significant barriers to securing family sustaining wages and benefits. From failing public school systems, to misalignment of workforce development programs and the needs of employers, to cultural and racial biases in the workplace, these impediments produce poor outcomes for both communities and employers who are unable to fill critical roles.”
Career Pathways programs offer integrated education, experiential instruction and industry-aligned training that is organized as a series of steps leading to successively higher credentials and employment opportunities in growing sectors. These types of programs have demonstrated success in multiple industries and communities across the country.

We recommend that the federal government create a High-demand Career Pathways Innovation Fund as a competitive grant to cities, counties, and regions to support (1) piloting new programs or (2) scaling successful models. These grants would go to a community-based workforce development provider working in partnership with employers and a local higher education institution.

The goal of newly created programs will be to place participants in career-oriented jobs and education programs in a growing industry that yields portable credentials and leads to long-term self-sufficiency. Programs that have already produced positive results for three years can apply to expand their geographic area through new partnerships and sites, with the same sectoral focus. The target population should include young adults not in the labor force, ages 16-26.

Eligible programs must include:
  • Workplace skills training that covers communication, collaboration, and critical thinking,
  • A career pathway introductory curriculum developed in collaboration with employer partners,
  • Wraparound support and case management to connect students with needed services that promote stability (like child care or transportation) and assist with personalized career planning,
  • Experiential learning through site-based classes, career forums with professionals, internships, externships, and apprenticeships,
  • Employer partners with sufficient annual job openings to hire at least 30% of the program’s graduating cohorts (actual hiring will depend on the graduates’ preparedness for existing jobs), and
  • Post-completion follow-up for at least one year.
For example , Career Network: Healthcare is a career development program in the South Bronx that helps young adults secure healthcare-related employment and/or education credentials. Phipps Neighborhoods has partnered with Montefiore Health System and Hostos Community College to provide career exploration and experiential instruction focused on the participants’ interests. The goal of the Career Network: Healthcare program is to successfully place participants in career-oriented jobs and education programs that yield portable credentials and that lead to long-term self-sufficiency. Such jobs might include: nursing (home health aides, certified nursing assistants, licensed practical nurse, patient care technician), allied health (restorative aide, physical therapy aide, surgical technician, clinical lab technician), and other healthcare related roles (sterile process, patient transport, environment and dietary support services, medical secretary).

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