In a recent blog, I described the conception of the New Skills for Youth Initiative, a partnership between The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Advance CTE, and JP Morgan Chase & Co. This partnership was formed with the goal of assisting schools in aligning their curricula with the high-skill, high demand needs of businesses and thereby increasing readiness among students for both careers and postsecondary education. This week, these three organizations announced $20 million in grants to 10 states (Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Wisconsin) that have developed plans to work with government and leaders from the business and education communities to strengthen career education and create pathways to economic success. Each state will receive $2 million over three years.
The New Skills for Youth initiative builds on CCSSO's Career Readiness Initiative which was developed during my tenure as chair of the CCSSO board, and which in turn was guided by the recommendations made in Opportunities and Options, a report by CCSSO's Career Readiness Task Force. The report, like both initiatives, is concerned with methods of ensuring that all students graduate from high school prepared both for careers in high-skill, high-demand fields and for postsecondary education. The 10 states awarded grants will focus on three specific objectives from the original report.
- States must make their high school programs more responsive to the labor market by enlisting the employer community as a lead partner.
- States must significantly raise the threshold for quality career pathways in secondary schools.
- States must make career preparation matter to schools and students through inclusion of career readiness measures in state accountability models.
Too many students leave high school without being prepared for college or a career. Nationwide, the unemployment rate for young people ages 16-24 is 9.3 percent, with many more working only part-time or in low-wage jobs with little opportunity to advance. At the same time, the U.S. economy is projected to produce millions of well-paying jobs over the next decade, about two-thirds of which will require some post-secondary education but not necessarily a four-year college degree.
For all states, this is an opportunity to work across sectors and pull together stakeholders in business, industry, higher education and within communities to research what has worked and what career pathways are most needed for kids in their state. In future blogs I will highlight the strategies that the 10 states awarded grants are implementing to ensure more students are prepared for the future.