Career readiness: a key to equal workforce opportunities

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Focusing on career readiness as early as middle school, can revolutionize the education system, giving students establish goals and access to a personalized career and life pathway.

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To make equity in the workforce a reality, education in early as in middle school should focus on career readiness, according to a depth analysis by the Coalition for Career Development (CCD). The study involved around 200 experts in education, business, government, and philanthropy.

The CCD describes career readiness as the process that “helps individuals establish career and life goals and to develop the skills needed to pursue personalized career pathways,” and complains that billions of dollars have been invested in education in the United States, but few is used to provide quality career readiness.

Due to the lack of career exploration and planning, self-exploration activities, and skill development in the education system, many American students have no idea what they will do after high school, which leads to a third of them not going to college. And even when they get a higher education, many of them drop out due to the lack of career planning and direction.

According to the CCD’s report, only 60% of undergraduates finish their college degree within six years, and only 30% graduates under three years, making the United States the country with the highest college dropout rate in the industrialized countries.

The lack of career readiness not only affects education, but it also contributes to the workforce skills gap crisis. The study indicates thta 90% of CEOs are struggling to find adequate, skilled people to fill their job openings.

The solution: a five-step plan

The CCD proposed a five pillar framework to provide high-quality programs for career readiness that should be applied in elementary school, or middle school at its latest. To make it happen, schools, the government, and the industry must work together to ensure an equitable workforce.

  1. Make career planning a priority: schools should require all students to develop and maintain a personal Career and Academic Plan that includes career and life goals, according to CCD. This step must consist of career-readiness activities that promote self-exploration should be applied in middle school or earlier.

  2. Providing Professional Career Advising: the education system must hire trained professionals to oversee the first step. The CCD specifies that the advisers must be experts in career development.

  3. Enforce work-based learning: this educational model should be a pillar in high schools and beyond. To make it happen, educators, government and business must come together and develop different options, like internships.

  4. Providing high-quality career development technology: offering high-quality technology is a vital part of helping students develop their career and life plans.

  5. Ensuring accountability: According to CCD, many US states adopted measures that recognize and makes them accountable for career development programs, but that is not enough. They should also concentrate on the implementation, making sure all students can have access to these programs. At the same time, states should also invest in outcome measures, like job placement rather than just input measures, like enrollment.

According to the CCD, focusing on life and career planning helps "raise the teaching profession, while at the same time there is a huge increase in the effectiveness of schools in preparing students to follow the career path of their choice." In a system with so many dropouts, the skills gap between students and employers, and massive student debts, this new system can become the key to success.