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Outlook: The state of Path to Workforce

5 min read

Career-Technical Education

Content series: SmartBrief Education brings you coverage of Path to Workforce. Find out what workforce, K-12 and higher-education leaders say about collaboration between education institutions and industry. Also learn about experts’ Path to Workforce predictions for 2015.

Collaboration between education institutions and industry is an important component of workforce development, according to a recent survey in ACTE STEM SmartBrief and SmartBrief for the Higher Ed Leader.

A majority of STEM educators — 45.45% — who responded said K-12 should connect with industry and community to design stronger pathways to workforce. About 23% of higher education respondents echoed this call.

So how can stakeholders strengthen such partnerships? We posed that question to our SmartBrief on Workforce readers.

Developing internship programs is the most effective way for employers to collaborate with education institutions, according to 58.26% of respondents.

Partnerships with vocational schools and community colleges came in second, with 28.7% of the vote. Curriculum development and campus-based recruiting rounded out the suggestions, with 10.43% and 2.61%, respectively.

Partnerships are only part of the equation for creating a strong path to workforce pipeline. So we asked experts from K-12, higher education and beyond for their insights on the state of Path to Workforce and predictions for the year ahead.


LeAnn Wilson, executive director, Association for Career and Technical Education

2015 brings with it a new Congress with new priorities for CTE as well. We expect activity around several major pieces of education legislation, possibly including the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act, with topics like career readiness, pathways, credentials and the skills gap all at the forefront of federal discussions.

Despite growing interest and attention on CTE however, federal funding will remain a challenge due to the political and practical realities of the federal budget picture. While ACTE remains pleased with the increasing spotlight on and awareness of CTE, we recognize there remains much work to do. The efforts of our organization to elevate the value of CTE and the service we provide to CTE professionals across the country remain consistent priorities.

Higher education

Paige Francis, CIO of Fairfield University

College students today face a variety of issues on their path to workforce.

With headlines blasting high tuition costs, students often find themselves shopping around in lieu of pursuing their college of first choice, yet still graduating with more debt than anticipated. The always-present impending financial cliff makes the transition from college student to working adult a scary one.

In addition, and particularly in the STEM fields, new graduates are finding themselves needing a task-intensive fifth year, focusing on hands-on skill-building to smoothly transition into their chosen career path. The cost of developing these fifth-year skills often falls to the employer and these days in our competitive job market this might sway an employer away from hiring a new grad.

I am hopeful that 2015 teaches, encourages and empowers.

We need to help students focus on how to get the education they need without compromising the academia they want. Realistically the average student debt for a graduating senior is 29k, or roughly the cost of a new Toyota Camry. Discussing with students the value and ROI of higher education while concurrently teaching options like work-study, campus part-time employment and the intricacies of student loans should help alleviate — and possibly eliminate altogether —  any financial cliff from graduation through early employment. A college student can look at average student loan debt as their very first investment and plan to budget post-graduation accordingly.

I also envision significant bridge programs becoming part of common curriculum in higher education to eliminate any gap between school and employment. From interdisciplinary opportunities through immersive internships, skills required for that first job should be taught prior to graduation, not after. From specialized software through common office technologies, students today need to be comfortable in any application and responsive to rapidly changing environments. They also need to be managing credible projects from beginning to end so they can tick that ‘experience’ box on the employment application as well.”

And beyond

Jeff Lansdell, president, CEV Pathways for Career Success

As an education technology publisher for career and technical education, we are thrilled about the attention currently being cast on CTE program areas. This is long overdue, and we hope this is not just another CTE bubble like we have seen in the past. As I travel and talk with folks in the industry, they are constantly asking me, “How do I connect with students earlier in the educational process?” They mention plenty of exposure is given within post-secondary education programs, but they rarely have the chance to connect with secondary students who may never enter a post-secondary program.

We believe creating industry-backed certifications that are incorporated into classroom curriculum is a way industry professionals can connect with secondary students. These industry collaborations play an important role in schools’ CTE programs and offer hands-on training as students complete their high school education. For example, we recently partnered with Southwest Airlines on a Professional Communications certification. As part of the curriculum, students learn the concepts of communicating effectively in the workplace. Southwest Airlines, being a leader in customer service, believes this will allow students the opportunity to develop the professional communication skills they need to succeed in an ever-changing workforce. As the need for CTE continues to rise, we’re actively pursuing new industry certifications that directly benefit students’ employability.

Katharine Haber and Sam Taute contributed to this report. Meet the Path to Workforce content team.

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