For the second school year, I’m the liaison on the School Board’s Career and Technical Education Advisory Committee (CTEAC). I love this!
From where I sit, the conversation about workforce development centers on these ideas:
- Prepare all students for their own pathway for success after high school. Graduates have lots of options, but only if they depart high school with 1) skills of a desirable worker (reliable, responsible, self-motivated, and communicative), 2) general or specific ideas of what further knowledge they need (i.e., content area or specific profession – which points them toward needed post-secondary education) to launch onto an initial career path, and 3) knowledge to navigate adulthood (financial literacy, civics and law, culture, self-care, social norms).
- Workforce preparation begins before high school. Get students engaged in middle school and even the primary grades! Presenting students with examples of professions, jobs, and pathways early in age-appropriate ways will peak students’ curiosity, interest, and imagining.
- Streamline connections between employers and K-12 schools. School divisions should consider what it takes for employers’ to partner with them. Ask, “What’s the experience like for an employer trying to partner with us?” Further: Is it clear to employers who they should initiate conversation with, and what the school division needs? What are the options for whole school-division partnership and for school-level partnership? Ultimately, what’s the story that a school division is telling to potential employer-partners about how to work collaboratively to prepare desirable workers?
- Create solutions with limited staffing. The national teacher shortage in America extends to career and technical educators. Creative solutions: scheduling “professors of the practice” – i.e. current professionals in a field – to teach a semester-long course in specialty areas. How about fast tracking credentialing and hiring of non-working spouses who may be “stationed” in the community for their partner’s job? This can include US residents or those from abroad – bring added benefits of diversity and world language skills.