Nearly two-thirds of employers believe that our public schools are not adequately preparing recent high school graduates for the workforce, according to a new survey from our friends over at Achieve. However, this percentage would likely drop significantly if recent high school graduates were properly prepared in high school, according to CPE’s most recent report The Path Least Taken: Preparing non-college goers for success.
While much of the rhetoric surrounding education reform has centered on the phrase ‘college and career ready,’ much of the discussion and policies have focused on the former rather than the latter. So CPE decided to take a closer look at what high schools could do to prepare their graduates who don’t go onto college for success after high school. Not surprisingly we found that on-average high school graduates who go onto college are more likely to see success in terms of getting a good job than their fellow graduates who never attended college. Yet, when we took a closer look at the preparation non-college goers received in high school and beyond, a much different picture emerged. A picture that showed non-college goers were more likely to find career success if they were properly prepared in high school.
But what does a proper high school preparation look like? And how does it impact the chances for success of non-college goers? Those are the questions we focused on answering in our latest report. And what we found was that the preparation non-college goers needed to be ‘career ready’ didn’t differ much from what research has typically found for graduates to be ‘college ready’.
Both college and non-college goers need to complete a rigorous high school curriculum that includes high level math and science courses and earn a Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least a C-plus. But non-college goers are even more successful at getting a good job if they had also completed at least three vocational courses in a specific labor market area—called an occupational concentration.
If non-college goers also went on to earn a professional certification or license their chances of getting a good job by age 26 equaled or surpassed that of the typical college goer on most indicators of career success examined in this report.
For example, a well-prepared college goer who completed Algebra 2, Advanced Biology, earned a 2.5 GPA, completed an occupational concentration and obtained a professional certification or license, they earned $19.71 per hour by age 26, as opposed to the $16.71 per hour that the average college goer earned at the same age. This equates to a more than $6000 per year difference for a full-time job, which is nothing to scoff at.
What this report shows is that, yes, on-average going to college provides the greatest chance for success for most high school graduates. Yet, it also shows that a high school graduate doesn’t need to go to college to obtain success in the labor market. But for non-college goers to have the same chances of success as their college going classmates it is imperative they receive the proper preparation in high school.
Unfortunately, as was found in Part I of our Path Least Taken reports only a small proportion of non-college goers receive such a preparation. So if more non-college goers received such a preparation we’d certainly see more employers say our public schools are adequately preparing graduates for the workforce. It won’t happen overnight but preparing more of our non-college goers for success after high school can be done now that we have a better idea how. –Jim Hull