After high school graduation, preparing for career success in a dynamic economy

We’ve written about Washington’s disappointing high school graduation rates. And we’ve discussed the tremendous job opportunities opening up in the next five years. While high school graduation is necessary, it’s no longer sufficient for preparing students for most career opportunities in our state. Increasingly, post-secondary credentials or some college will be the tickets to rewarding employment.

Ready Washington reports on a program in Wenatchee designed to prepare students for the postsecondary training and education they’ll need. It begins with mental preparation, with understanding what’s available and what it takes to achieve it.

In the Wenatchee Valley, students get the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes with local businesses to “test drive” career paths, thanks to partnerships between the Wenatchee School District, the Wenatchee Valley Chamber of Commerce and other community organizations through Wenatchee Learns Connect.

…Careers After School is one of several programs that Wenatchee Learns puts together each year to help students explore possible paths they can choose after high school. The partnerships that Wenatchee Learns builds between schools and the community helps students understand careers that are available to them and the education they need to pursue to get ready for those careers.

Across the country, states are experimenting with new pathways to the necessary training. Stateline reports

States are stepping in to cut the cost of job training as employers complain that they can’t find the workers they need. Reducing the cost of certificates helps students, but also helps employers save money on tuition assistance for their workers.

“Kentucky and Indiana have created scholarships that would make some certificates tuition-free,” the article states. Critics of the proposals point out that there are already plenty of state and federal programs offering tuition assistance and question whether the desired increases in earning power will materialize. Still, the focus on postsecondary training is clearly the way of the future. 

A Pew Research Center report explores the changing job market, with particular emphasis on the disruptive effects of technology. We encourage you to read the whole thing. Here’s the lede:

Machines are eating humans’ jobs talents. And it’s not just about jobs that are repetitive and low-skill. Automation, robotics, algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) in recent times have shown they can do equal or sometimes even better work than humans who are dermatologists, insurance claims adjusters, lawyers, seismic testers in oil fields, sports journalists and financial reporters, crew members on guided-missile destroyers, hiring managers, psychological testers, retail salespeople, and border patrol agents. Moreover, there is growing anxiety that technology developments on the near horizon will crush the jobs of the millions who drive cars and trucks, analyze medical tests and data, perform middle management chores, dispense medicine, trade stocks and evaluate markets, fight on battlefields, perform government functions, and even replace those who program software – that is, the creators of algorithms.

 Career success in the future will require education and training … and the ability to adapt.

Several policy and market-based solutions have been promoted to address the loss of employment and wages forecast by technologists and economists. A key idea emerging from many conversations, including one of the lynchpin discussions at the World Economic Forum in 2016, is that changes in educational and learning environments are necessary to help people stay employable in the labor force of the future. Among the six overall findings in a new 184-page report from the National Academies of Sciences, the experts recommended: “The education system will need to adapt to prepare individuals for the changing labor market. At the same time, recent IT advances offer new and potentially more widely accessible ways to access education.”

Jobholders themselves have internalized this insight: A 2016 Pew Research Center survey, “The State of American Jobs,” found that 87% of workers believe it will be essential for them to get training and develop new job skills throughout their work life in order to keep up with changes in the workplace. This survey noted that employment is much higher among jobs that require an average or above-average level of preparation (including education, experience and job training); average or above-average interpersonal, management and communication skills; and higher levels of analytical skills, such as critical thinking and computer skills.

Washington, a state that’s a leader in technology and innovation, is positioned well for providing our young people the skills they need for the exciting opportunities opening up in the coming years. But, as our earlier post indicated, so far, too few of our students are clearing the first hurdle, graduating from high school.