April 12, 2022

Career Education: Disrupting the K-16 Model for Equitable Access to Future Jobs

2022 Career Education and Jobs of the Future panel on workforce development

It has been decades since the K-12 and postsecondary systems were established and became the structural systems that still exist today. These systems were created, in part, with the aim of providing students the education they would need to achieve career success and equal access to future jobs. However, times have changed and yet we have not substantially rethought how the structure of our education should work to best serve students and long-term career goals. Over the last few years, innovation has begun to create programs that merge the secondary and postsecondary systems to create education and career pathways that are more appropriate for today’s learners. But is it enough? This panel will discuss the progress of this early work and why further investment is necessary in this area.

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This panel took place at the annual 2022 Arizona State University (ASU) + Global Silicon Valley (GSV) Summit.

Highlights from workforce development and career education panelists

The moderator asks a great question and gave several options for panelists to select, and to explain their answer.

If you're trying to build something new, where would you start? Employers, Finance, Accountability, Governance, Credentialing Systems, Federal Policies, Changing Narratives, or something else?

  • Credentialing systems: Lydia Logan explained she selected this topic because everyone needs these credentialing systems to be accessible, recognizable, interoperable, portable, and verifiable. We don't have these yet--since some people are going to get credentials and employers or colleges are not quite recognizing them...she goes on to promote learning and earning programs, and is against a "this or that" frame of mind.
  • Changing narratives: Marty Lange goes on to explain how his team polled high school students about the barriers to post-secondary education. Students were asked: 'have you ever thought about what the alternative to a two- or four-year degree...and do you have awareness of what that is and how to engage in that?' Survey results shared detailed how the majority (~60%) of his high school students were not aware of the alternative career and vocational education programs. There's a huge narrative to be had out there in the labor market and we need to be amplifying this. He goes on to also mention Public Policy and dual enrollment which promotes real growth and leverages what employers need in the labor market with an existing system and supply of seats on the career and technical education side, but there is a low-level of participation in high schools (2 million students are in these dual enrollment programs, with a small 5% annual growth rate).
  • Finance: As we try to flip around systems which are so siloed (across both education and workforce development systems) and are not focused on students, lives, and real impact, making money issues the biggest one to Chris Gabrieli. If we wanr to have a system that reaches the students who have been least well traditionall served, who have the fewest resources in their corner--we can't toss them out into that non-universally funded world and say 'good luck, sort through that...if you fill out enough versions of FAFSA and many other programs and if you're eligible for programs and grants, etc...' And he goes on to discuss his excitement about Bridge Programs that extend obligations to State government and institutions.

Then, the moderator asks a madlibs question was also asked: If my solution were to have any chance of replicating or being adopted at scale, it would require___to___because____or else, ____.

  • The work of intermediaries and the system actors that conenct the dots between K-12, post-secondary, and the labor market. We need to support, build the capacity of those regional organizations to create more coherence in regional ecosystems, because if note we're going to continue to perpetuate these siloed solutions very disconnected which means we're not bringing about change. We need good modeling, is basically what Isa Ellis posits. She goes on to necessitate that we need connected, coordinated, and coherent intermediaries.
  • Credentialing reqiring the business community to accept and recognize other credentials universally, otherwise it won't work. On designing new career certification programs, Lydia also goes on to mention that we need to be vigilant about what we're doing, what we're designing, who's at the table when we're designing it, that we are not kicking the limitations down the road. Everyone at an employer organization needs to be mindful of how it's designed, along with the social support groups for students and young people, as well as business resource groups for employers as a whole. Lydia goes on to mention that Employers need to eliminate degree requirements for jobs that don't really need them as a call to action.
  • Dual enrollment programs have the beginnings of scaling but it requires additional awareness but requires policy change and state and local levels to be successful, otherwise it would be reserved for the top 25%. Marty goes on to describe that it would not be truly an open gateway to career education, skills, and ultimately jobs, without the policy changes and greater awareness.
  • Jobs-first higher education at scale would require greater awareness and valorizing post-secondary pathways for young people so that there's greater supply to align to the demand in the labor market. Paymon Rouhanifard goes on to mention the need to change hearts and minds, and to make sure that students don't not this false choice to acquire massive student loan debt with minimal career readiness, forestalling upwards social mobility. He goes on to mention a call to action requiring jobs-first jobs education for all who choose it.
  • Bridge year program (AKA the 13th year) where students can go farther towards college and career success. It would require a shift in governenance at the local and state level, because so long as government is aligned to institutions that like to be self-referential and self-focused, the institutional priorities will come ahead of the students' priorities. Chris goes on to mention that we need to make the goal to be college and career success, not merely career readiness. As well as the culturual shift we need towards coaching and guidance to better support students.

About the speakers

Joel Vargas (JFF), Paymon Rouhanifard (PROPEL AMERICA), Isa Ellis (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Chris Gabrieli (Empower Schools), Lydia Logan (IBM), and Marty Lange (National Geographic Learning - Cengage) on Career Education: Disrupting the K-16 Model for Equitable Access to Future Jobs at the 2022 ASU+GSV Summit.

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