A comprehensive approach to career readiness

A comprehensive approach to career readiness

(Ga.) As many states grapple with establishing sensible career readiness standards, Georgia has already developed an extensive approach to prepare students for the workforce that begins in first grade and intensifies until high school graduation.

While most states often rely on just a single factor or two to indicate career readiness, Georgia uses in-class lessons, assessments and job training to expose students to a wide array of job fields.

“Through career awareness we help students learn that there is a vast selection of careers that they can get into,” said Barbara Wall, state director of Career, Technical and Agricultural Education for the Georgia Department of Education.

“I feel like the more experiences we can give them - even if it’s just through lessons of awareness or if we can put them in a job shadowing program - the better,” she said.

As states implement the Common Core State Standards and shift to readiness evaluators to express when a student is prepared for either college or the workforce – finding reliable measures for career competency has proved problematic. 

In California, for example, the state board of education and its advisory committees have spent the last few years attempting to identify valid and reliable career readiness standards.

Establishing measures for both college and career readiness is a major objective of the Obama administration.

Georgia’s Career Technical and Agricultural Education program, as part of the state’s own accountability system, is extensive and gives students a multitude of options and support in working toward a career.

The education department offers 96 pathways – including agriculture, STEM, health science, arts and manufacturing – and requires that students pass three or four courses in their chosen program with a “C” grade. The department worked with business and industry partners to assure that students gain academic, technical, problem solving, and job-ready soft skills, as well as real work experience and strong work ethics.

In middle and high school, students are provided college and career advisement, and assistance in choosing the best option for them. Services include counseling and evaluations of academic and career interests in middle school, and career guidance and advisement in high school. In grade six, students explore career options and create a portfolio of their interests, preferred plans after high school and potential colleges.

“Our pathway system helps students take courses that are all related to one another and that are ultimately related to some career,” Wall said. “They aren’t locked into a career pathway, but I think that it gives them more of a focus.”

Students who go on to participate in the state’s Youth Apprenticeship program receive work-based experience that provides 2,000 hours of on-the-job training, workplace mentoring and progressive wages established by their employers.

According to a survey released this week by the California Department of Education, 11 states do not currently have any measure of college and career readiness, five use a single measure, and a number of sates use multiple measures such as industry certificates and different versions of occupational skills assessments.

Of the states with multiple measures highlighted in the survey, career readiness is simple when compared to Georgia’s comprehensive approach.

  • Kentucky students must either earn an Industry Certificate or meet the benchmark in the state’s Occupational Skills Standards Assessment;  
  • Oregon schools consider the percentage of students taking the SAT and the percentage of students who enroll at a community college or four-year university within 16 months of graduation;
  • New Mexico students earn credit for participation and performance in coursework that will lead to a vocational certificate;
  • Florida students can earn an Industry Certificate and, in the process of doing so, take courses that will earn credits toward a postsecondary degree;
  • Indiana determines career readiness via students receiving Industry Certificates or earning three college credits from the approved Career Technical Education (CTE) course list;
  • Oklahoma schools earn bonus points toward their accountability scores if students participate and perform well in CTE courses that could lead to industry certification; and
  • Texas measures preparedness based on the percentage of students who meet proficiency on one or two state academic readiness assessments, graduation rates, the percentage of students who graduated under the Distinguished Achievement or Recommended High School programs, and the percentage of graduates who meet college-ready criteria in English language arts and mathematics on the state exit exam, SAT or ACT.