WASHINGTON, D.C. – Several states are highlighting and expanding career and technical programs for students after years of focusing mostly on college preparedness, and experts say students will need character and citizenship in addition to an industry credential to truly thrive.
“What we’re seeing is that there’s a shift from focusing purely on college readiness to thinking also about career readiness,” Jennifer Thomsen, policy analyst for the Education Commission of the States, told Education Week.
“For the longest time, the ‘career’ part just kind of dropped off. But now, states are really getting back to the idea that college and career readiness really does mean both of those things,” she said.
The news site points to recently approved legislation in states like Arizona, where officials have worked measures of career readiness into the school accountability system, and Kansas, which pays schools for each student who earns an industry-recognized credential or completes 120 hours of work-based learning.
In Colorado, a new law requires schools to discuss certificates, apprenticeships, and military service with students during career counseling, while Oregon approved a law to ensure the state’s labor bureau shares apprenticeship opportunities with schools.
Idaho now requires schools to inform students about dual high schools and college credit opportunities for career-tech courses, while education officials in Texas must work with colleges and workforce departments to post an inventory of certification and credentials available to students for high-skill trade occupations.
Other states, including Illinois and Virginia, are making it easier for schools to recruit career-tech-ed teachers by waiving some licensure requirements. In Indiana, state officials approved legislation to require the state board of education to use workforce data to design new career and technical education pathways and alternative avenues to high school graduation, Education Week reports.
“For too long, we’ve been focused on four-year colleges, and that’s not necessarily the right course for every student,” Indiana state Rep. Robert Behning told Education Week.
Behning said he helped craft the changes to career and technical education in the Hoosier state because he wants schools to “get creative, think out of the box” to help students with career-focused programs.
Other states are including completion of career programs on high school diplomas to help the business sector find students with the right skills for the job.
Meanwhile, others point to important though less obvious skills and virtues students will need to thrive in trade occupations.
“If the theorists of the new world of work are right, then tomorrow’s CTE student will need to be computer savvy, resourceful, and entrepreneurial. But the theorists’ predictions suggest the need for other educational goals as well. Intellectual suppleness will have to be as key an element of future CTE as the content knowledge of a field . . . Students will need to learn the conceptual bases of the tools and techniques and how to reason with them, because future work is predicted to be increasingly fluid and mutable,” Rose wrote.
“These considerations will require a philosophy of education that has at its core a bountiful definition of intelligence and that honors multiple kinds of knowledge and advances the humanistic, aesthetic, and ethical dimensions of an occupation as well as the more traditional academic of study.”
Rose contends schools should “educate young workers so that they have multiple skills and bodies of knowledge to draw on, so that they are able to analyze and act upon opportunities to affect the direction of their employment, and so that they can strive to create meaning in their working lives.”
To that end, states and schools could ensure students are intentionally formed to have good character by thinking through the virtues required by specific professions.
The UK’s Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues provides resources for educators to help students make that connection between their career or technical training and the moral virtues they’ll need on the job.