Skills for the New Economy: Preparing Students for College and Careers
RETHINKING HIGH SCHOOL
On April 7, during his visit to Bladensburg High School in Prince George’s County, Maryland, President Obama announced 24 Youth CareerConnect grants, providing $107 million to local partnerships of school districts, institutions of higher education, workforce investment boards, and employers as they redesign the teaching and learning experience for youth to more fully prepare them with the knowledge, skills, and industry-relevant education needed to get on the pathway to a successful career, including postsecondary education or registered apprenticeship. “We challenged America’s high schools to…say what they can do to make sure their students learn the skills that businesses are looking for in high-demand fields,” the President said. “And we asked high schools to develop partnerships with colleges and employers and create classes that focus on real life applications for the fields of the future — fields like science and technology and engineering and math…. The winners across the board are doing the kinds of things that will allow other schools to start duplicating what they’re doing…. And that’s what we want for all the young people here. We want an education that engages you…that equips you with the rigorous and relevant skills for college and for a career” (blog post, with remarks and video).
The Youth CareerConnect program was established this year by the Labor Department, in collaboration with the Education Department, using one-time revenues from the H-1B visa program. Grants range from $2.2 million to $7 million. The program wholly complements additional proposals in the President’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget to ensure high school students graduate ready for college and career success and to help the U.S., once again, lead the world in college attainment.
Bladensburg High School was part of a three-school team from the county that won a $7 million grant. It offers several career academies with high school curricula aligned with college-level entrance requirements for Maryland’s state university system. Through a collaborative effort with local partners, it will expand the capacity of its Health and Biosciences Academy to better prepare more students for one of the region’s highest growth industries. Students who concentrate in health professions will be able to earn industry-recognized certifications in the fields of nursing and pharmacy. Biomedical students will be able to earn college credit from the University of Maryland at Baltimore County and the Rochester Institute of Technology. All students will have access to individualized college and career counseling designed to improve preparation for college-level coursework and the attainment of industry-recognized credentials. Students will also have the ability to receive postsecondary credit while still in high school and have access to paid work experiences with employer partners such as Lockheed Martin. Overall, the grant will help prepare 2,500 graduates at Bladensburg and other schools across the county to succeed academically and graduate career-ready in the high-demand fields of health care and information technology.
On the same day, the Departments of Education and Labor launched the Registered Apprenticeship-College Consortium, a new effort that will allow graduates of registered apprenticeship programs to turn their years of rigorous on-the-job and classroom training into college credits toward an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Registered apprenticeship programs are sponsored by joint employer and labor groups, individual employers, or employer associations. Currently, the registered apprenticeship system includes a network of more than 19,000 programs nationwide — offering nearly 1,000 different career opportunities. Participating sponsors will have their programs evaluated by a third-party organization (for example, the American Council on Education or the National College Credit Recommendation Service) to determine the college credit value of the apprenticeship completion certificate. Graduates will be able to earn up to 60 credits based on their apprenticeship experience.