Terry Holliday

Terry Holliday

More than ever before, preparing students to become college- and career-ready (CCR) involves a close partnership among K-12 schools, higher education and the business world. Two events from December illustrate that point.

The first involved the “career” aspect. The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) released a report urging that states take several steps to make career readiness a more important goal.  I chaired the task force, made up of education leaders from around the nation, that produced the report.

A survey taken in June 2013 found that 54 percent of American companies reported they were unable to find enough qualified workers to fill vacancies. By 2020, a Georgetown University study found, nearly two-thirds of all jobs will require postsecondary education or training beyond high school.

To address this, the report recommends making employers full partners in student development, helping to design programs to help future workers acquire the skills they need for the career pathways most in demand. It says schools should strengthen and expand career guidance services. And while Kentucky includes both college-readiness and career-readiness indicators in its accountability system, the report says, many states undervalue the career component.

Some other states have already begun forging closer ties. North Carolina requires school districts, employers and workforce development bodies to assess industry needs and identify the certifications to meet those needs. Its Department of Commerce is required to update the state board of education each year on the high-need, high-skill occupations in the state. In California, an initiative called Linked Learning links rigorous academics, strong technical instruction and work-based learning to 15 major industry sectors. So far, student attendance is up, participants are more likely to obtain postsecondary educations, and those who complete the career pathways make more money in the eight years after high school than those who don’t.

Forty-two states, including Kentucky, and the District of Columbia have already signed on to implement the CCSSO report’s recommendations.

Another way to prepare students for meaningful career options is through dual credit. A work group made up of representatives from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) and the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority (KHEAA) recently gave the Interim Joint Committee on Education a proposal for a new dual credit policy. It is aimed at improving access to dual credit, improving the quality of programs and ensuring transfer of credits at affordable cost to students. To take effect, the proposal must receive CPE approval and be allocated funding.

Not so long ago, a good liberal arts education was usually enough to ensure a reasonably comfortable future. But the world has changed. If we are to ensure prosperity for the generations to come, K-12 schools, higher education and employers cannot keep going down the same old separate paths.