Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century

The Congressional Career and Technical Education Caucus convened a panel Tuesday, July 24th to discuss the implications of a recent Harvard Graduate School of Education report, “Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century.” Bill Symonds, lead author of the report, argued that four-year college as a path to preparing students for the workforce had been overemphasized at the expense of other avenues. His report identifies three ways to improve postsecondary outcomes. The first is to expand school reform to incorporate multiple pathways to prepare students for adulthood, such as two-year or technical college. The second is to improve CTE education and career counseling by involving employers directly. Finally, the report advocated for a “New Social Contract” between government, employers and educators to improve student outcomes.

Jeff Mays of the Illinois Business Roundtable and Jason Tyszko of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity discussed the steps Illinois has taken to reform CTE through the Illinois Pathways Initiative. Illinois brought together six government agencies to create nine talent pipelines to improve CTE instruction. The initiative also created statewide public/private learning exchanges jointly funded by state Race to the Top grants and business.

Eric Regelin and Tim Johnson of the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCEER) discussed the impact of the current education environment on the construction industry and how it could be improved by reforming education to be more inclusive of multiple pathways. While calculated unemployment in the construction industry is between 14 and 20%, a skill gap persists. The industry is unable to find skilled workers or in some cases even skilled instructors to train workers.

Finally, Kim Green of the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium, and Jan Bray of the Association for Career and Technical Education, discussed the role of federal policy in CTE reform. Green noted that a new focus on CTE would not undo existing investments but better align them with multiple pathways. Bray emphasized the importance of federal policy that enabled instead of stifling local and state change and that also allowed industry to be actively involved.

Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.

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