More on how career-connected education expands opportunities for students, increases postsecondary credential attainment

A good op-ed in the Spokesman-Review by Scott Morris, chairman and CEO of Avista Corp. and Mike Brown, Assistant Business Manager, IBEW Local 77, describes how career-connected education works for students and business.

We’ve spent time getting to know the young people in our community, while they spent time getting to know Avista and what it takes to keep the lights on. For a full month over the summer, 17 high school juniors and seniors came to Avista to explore careers in energy. We call it Energy Pathways, and together with of IBEW Local Union 77 and others, we were able to give these students hands-on experience about the range of jobs at a utility.

The program opened up a whole new set of possibilities in the minds of these students, and made it clear to us how hungry young people are for practical career experiences that will inform their next choices.

Morris and Brown cite the great opportunities generated by our state’s growing economy and the demand for skilled employees. And they promote participation in Career Connect Washington.

We expect 740,000 jobs to open in Washington in the next five years. The challenge is that 70 percent of them will require some kind of advanced credential—high school is not enough preparation for most current jobs, much less the jobs of tomorrow.

It is not enough to do this alone, one employer and one small group of students at a time. Career Connect Washington is a coalition of employers, unions, educators, state agencies and others who are trying to ensure that all students in the state have the chance to do career-connected learning.

We recommend the op-ed. The Morris and Brown commentary nicely complements a Seattle Times story reporting on community colleges honoring students whose lives have been transformed by education. The stories they tell are inspiring and worth your time. A fragment:

[The students] were addicted to drugs or alcohol, grew up in dysfunctional families, survived traumas like shootings or abusive relationships. Some were military veterans suffering from PTSD, and others were high-school dropouts. A few were abruptly laid off jobs they’d held for years. Many ended up homeless, living on the streets or in their cars.

They all used a two-year college as a springboard to a better life. Each college nominates an exceptional student whose life has been transformed by higher education, and in January, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges celebrated all 34 as part of its “Transforming Lives” award. Five standout students received $500 scholarships.

We’ll close by again pointing to the Guided Pathways program we wrote about last December.

We’ve written before of the Washington Roundtable’s research demonstrating the importance of a postsecondary credential in today’s economy. The Partnership for Learning commentary describes how Guided Pathways boosts credential attainment.

The approach, used in Washington’s community and technical colleges, is a step-by-step road map through a two-year degree. It simplifies choices, grouping courses together to form clear paths through college and into careers, whether students start those careers right after their college graduation or transfer to a university for continued study.

Advisers help students choose a path, stay on the path and get a degree or certificate.

There are good things happening. It’s good to be reminded.