Career-Education Linkages Part 1

Posted on May 21, 2011
by FeliciaOctocog

I am starting a 3-part blog on linking education with a clear career path. Why?  A large percentage of our students are disengaged from learning.  Nationwide 50% of our kids do not go on to any post-secondary education (38% here in Essex County, MA), there is a growing gender gap showing boys significantly lagging in education, and an alarming percentage of remediation in community colleges and high public college drop out rates.

Teen employment is at its all time low.  While the current recession has definitely taken its toll, the trend has been distressingly down over the last 30 years. Only 28.6% of our 16-19 year olds are employed down from 51.6% just 10 years ago.  And, it is particularly alarming amongst our low-income, minority teens (9.2% and 15% employment for black and Hispanic teens, respectively) who, by the way represent the largest growth sector here on the North Shore.

Why should we care so much about teen employment? Teen employment:

  1. Establishes important adult relationships and mentoring opportunities – social capital
  2. Increases engagement in learning
  3. Reduces the drop out rates
  4. Prepare students for post-secondary and the workplace

Drops outs are more likely to go to prison, have babies out of wedlock, go on welfare and access more social services.  The average dropout contributes about $300,000 less to society than the average high school graduate.

Now I love learning and I know that even the myriad of articles and books that appear far removed from my day to day life,  all learning helps you as a person to better understand and engage in the world around you.  It builds vocabulary, critical thinking skills and takes you outside your comfort zone. And, I suppose, I figured that with my magical powers I could turn every kid into learning machines in the same way I was.  I guess it has been a long path for me to realize that for many, learning can appear to be irrelevant and, yes, boring. In fact, this is the most common reason students cite for dropping out.

These students see no clear connection between their schoolwork and tangible opportunities in the labor market. So this brought me to look more closely at workplace to school linkages.  There is some compelling evidence from programs in other countries and some innovative programs here in the US that shows if you link education with a work/career pathway for the forgotten 50, it not only makes the learning more relevant, it can feed the interest and passion of the student and it can provide important performance skill building (which I will explain in the next blog) as well as academic skill-building.

In a study on vocational education completed last Sept, the authors point out that school learning is abstract, theoretical, and organized by disciplines while work is concrete, specific to the task, organized by projects and problems and are cross-disciplinary.

Work-based learning is a credible, proven alternative education pathway for many youth who are disengaged from learning,  and at risk for dropping out, for our forgotten 50.   In the next blog, we will take a closer look at where the job growth will be coming from and what education is needed for those jobs.  In Blog 3 we will take a look at skills other than academic skills that our youth need to be productive members of our labor force. So Stay Tuned.

References used for these blogs include:

•Pathways to Prosperity, Harvard Graduate School of Education, February, 2011
•Learning For Jobs, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Sept. 2010
•A New Era of Education Reform: Preparing All Students for Success in College, Career and Life, Rennie Center, October, 2010
• North Shore WIB, Labor Market Blueprint, Oct, 2010