Why Districts Should Innovate to Support Career Readiness – Part 3

This three-part series illuminates why and how superintendents across the country are creating greater workforce development, career readiness, and real-world work experience for students. Download the full white paper Developing New and Innovative Approaches to Support Career Readiness, here.

If students are to be career-ready, they need to be exposed to career exploration and career learning opportunities as early as middle school. And if students are to reach their best-fit careers, they must follow their own unique paths after high school. The path could include enrolling in a trade school, community college or four-year institution, entering the workforce, enlisting in the military, or a combination of these.

With an increased emphasis on the importance of aligning all types of pathways to drive career outcomes for students, schools and districts are required to expose students to a broader range of post-high school opportunities besides college. We have reported that 66% of our Naviance students say they are on a path leading from high school to a four-year college to a career. But this is far from the only path worth considering. So, schools and districts now must ensure that students have the chance to explore all of their options. 

To illuminate the value of innovation when it comes to career readiness, Hobsons and District Administration have put out a new white paper, Developing New and Innovative Approaches to Support Career Readiness. We asked leading superintendents across the country about how their districts are including workforce development and real-world work experience in their career readiness programs. The following questions and answers — edited for length and clarity — are the third and final set in a series we are sharing from the discussion. 

At Chesterfield County Public Schools in Chesterfield, Virginia, most funding comes from local government, says Superintendent Merv Daugherty. “It is so important that local and state governments understand the importance of adequate funding for these programs. We aren’t even able to meet the workforce demands of our region, because there are so many job openings.” 

Many school districts, including Duval County Public Schools Jacksonville, Florida, rely on The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act for support. “We rely on Perkins Act dollars, as well as state and local funding and our chamber of commerce for financial support,” said Superintendent Diana L. Greene. The city of Jacksonville also pays the salary of students who participate in its CTE summer work apprenticeship, which is run by Mayor Lenny Curry.

“It’s so important to have local funding for these initiatives,” said Ian Saltzman, Superintendent of Everett Public Schools in Everett, Washington. Saltzman’s district receives support from the Perkins Act as well as funding from the nearby Boeing Company.

We at Hobsons believe that collaboration across families, staff, and administrators creates a culture that empowers students to stay engaged in their college and career planning and accomplishing their future goals.

This resonates with Joris M. Ray, Superintendent of Shelby County Schools in Memphis, Tennessee. Ray’s district prioritizes transparency and communication with its families. At each of its 165 schools, a Parent Ambassador is appointed to help parents understand and buy into the school’s career readiness initiatives. “We’re always striving to increase meaningful family engagement and participation,” he said.

For Superintendent Daugherty,whose district includes many students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, helping parents understand the importance of careers can be challenging, but is paramount. “We’re trying to help them to realize they could get the best of both worlds by getting college credit while in a CTE program; their child can prepare for college and a career at the same time, and it doesn’t cost them a dime.”

Chad E. Gestson,Superintendent of Phoenix Union High School District Phoenix, Arizona, is most proud of his district’s Metro Tech High School. “It’s a career readiness high school, but it has our highest graduation rate, highest college attendance rate and lowest dropout rate.”

Superintendent Greene in Jacksonville highlights the connections her district has made with local corporations and government.“We just passed a $2 billion referendum for the first time ever, and I’m convinced we were able to get support for that because these partnerships helped to spread the word about the great work we’re doing in our schools.” 

For Superintendent Ray, investing in career readiness, including partnering with Naviance, has been gratifying.“The $8 million investment we made in career readiness programs is paying off with close to 3,000 industry certifications earned by our students,” he said. “Implementing Naviance was part of that investment.” 

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Topics college readiness K 12

College & Career Readiness

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