Last week President Obama announced the winners of $107 million in federal grants that reward and encourage school districts that integrate real-world learning experiences and work opportunities into their curriculum. Twenty-four schools in California, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, New York, and South Carolina received a grant as part of the Youth Career Connect program, which strives to equip students with the skills they need for both college and the jobs of the future.
The grants are intended to fund partnerships between local education agencies and employers that will provide students with increased opportunities for mentoring and job shadowing, as well as increased exposure to high-demand fields such as health care and information technology.
Schools participating in the Youth Career Connect program are also expected to incorporate more on-the-job skills training into their traditional classroom environment. The program ultimately hopes to integrate post-secondary education and training into high school in a substantial way, such that graduates leave with credit toward a post-secondary degree and/or a certificate or credential to put them on a path to a successful career. Although we won’t know much until this program has been fully implemented in these districts, it’s refreshing to see a program that is encouraging students to develop a skill set for both college and career simultaneously.
At a time when young people (including many who have a college degree) are still struggling to find employment in the aftermath of the recession, there’s no harm in encouraging high school students to develop career skills at a young age even if they do plan to attend college before entering the workforce. Furthermore, for the large numbers of students who start college but never complete a degree, perhaps a program like this will help them to see the value in other career paths and will give them a head start in receiving a certificate or professional credential.
The Youth Career Connect program is on the right track by encouraging schools to develop programs that put students on the path toward college and career readiness, not just one or the other.