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What’s Next for Education: Making students career ready

What's Next school leadership

Dr. Joseph Goins

It’s no secret that America’s economy is undergoing large-scale, rapid change.

Recent political debates are clear evidence of this shifting dynamic.

At the forefront of these shifts: America’s K-12 schools are looking for ways to prepare their students for an increasingly competitive and technical job market. How they can do this effectively is still an open question.

Dr. Joseph Goins is a former educator and ed-tech entrepreneur and researcher who specializes in helping schools prepare students for the working world.

Dr. Goins is CEO of NS4ed, a research firm that helps school districts and state school boards develop policies and partnerships to ensure students graduate career ready.

We recently asked Dr. Goins to comment on the challenges facing school districts when it comes to career readiness.

So, what’s next? Goins offers these three strategies for ensuring students are career ready.

1. Guidance counselors must develop stronger career strategies for students

Recent reports on the skilled-workers’ shortage and the impact it is having on communities, individuals, and the U.S. economy demonstrate the critical need for educators to engage in career conversations with students.

Says Dr. Goins:

“Guidance counselors play a critical role in a student’s career development by introducing them to careers and the world of work; providing learning and experiential opportunities for students to acquire behaviors and skills for career readiness; helping them understand the connection between school and the world of work; working with students to identify their interests, abilities, specific career clusters, and postsecondary plans; and so much more.”

But, Dr. Goins says, student career readiness is still largely ignored in school counselor training and continuing education programs.

The recent Trump administration Executive Order prioritizing workforce development is the latest workforce initiative aimed at shaking up the K-12 education world. While current achievement-based measures of student success, such as letter grades, scores, or skills certificates, are useful, Dr. Goins says education leaders, particularly counselors, also have a responsibility to help prepare students for opportunities beyond the classroom.

Counselors must help students discover and apply to technical and community colleges, career apprenticeships, and dual-degree programs. States such as New Mexico, for example, combine dual-degree attainment on community college campuses with connections to local apprenticeship opportunities and work with NS4ed to establish strategies and implement new education models.

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2. Success will depend on the depth of continued education and industry partnerships

The path to employment success is radically changing.

According to Dr. Goins:

“In the 1970’s only 1 of 3 workers needed some postsecondary education. In the next few years, over half of all jobs will require some degree of postsecondary education. This change is due, in part, to what some have referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution, marked by rapid advances in automation, artificial intelligence, and the fusion of technology with almost every aspect of daily living. This fast-moving revolution is fueling an unprecedented demand for a skilled workforce, especially for individuals with STEM-related skills.”

Educational institutions must evolve to help students identify and meet the demands of the changing economy.

A primary goal of recent policy-making activities has been to improve alignment between education practices and workforce needs. As a result, Dr. Goins says, significant efforts have been made to implement career-ready standards and scale up career pathways that prepare students for high-value jobs. In addition, there has been a considerable rethinking of career and technical education (CTE) programs to ensure these programs are more in tune with the rapidly shifting needs of employers.

3. Higher education, K12, and employers must work together

Another potential roadblock to career readiness is that employers, educators, and students tend to operate in separate spheres, with minimal or no intersection.

According to Dr. Goins:

“Educators struggle to fully understand the needs of employers and vice versa. Caught in the middle are students who lack direction for their educational goals and have limited awareness of available careers options and skills needed to obtain these careers. To foster employment success among students and to meet the needs of communities, as well as the economy, there must be a vital point of intersection between education and industry.”

What do you think about these ideas around career readiness? Do they ring true in your district? What is your school or district doing to ensure students are ready for life after high school? Tell us in the comments. Or, share your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #WhatsNextTrustED.

About the Author

Todd Kominiak
Todd is Managing Editor of TrustED. Email: tkominiak@k12insight.com.

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