Recent initiatives designed to prepare students for college and careers pave the way for college readiness with academic rigor requisite for postsecondary education. But, it appears to be assumed that a four-year degree comes before a career and as parents, counselors and educators we tend to direct our students toward four-year college degrees regardless of the occupational employment requirements.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics about 69 percent of students will attend some college after graduation. Unfortunately, 31% of students that begin the ninth grade will not receive a high school diploma. Consequently, nearly 1/3 of our secondary students will not be prepared for college or career.
Only 35 percent of students starting a four-year degree program will graduate within four years, and less than 60 percent will graduate within six years. The U.S. college dropout rate is about 40 percent, the highest college dropout rate in the industrialized world.
The sad fact is our employers say that high school graduates are not prepared to go directly into the workforce either. The Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families, the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and the Society for Human Resource Management conducted an in-depth study of the corporate perspective on the readiness of new entrants into the U.S. workforce. Their study revealed that 42.4 percent of employer respondents rate new entrants with a high school diploma as “deficient” in their Overall Preparation for the entry-level jobs they typically fill.
As a nation we really need to address the dire need to help dropouts to become more employable whether they drop out of high school or college.
In today’s workforce, the majority of jobs (69 percent) will require skilled and technical training above high school, but not necessarily a four-year degree. College and career readiness should mean that students are ready for some type of employment upon high school graduation or they have met the requirements for entry into a postsecondary institution.
Are high school dropouts or diploma earners without postsecondary education ready for employment? Career skill and technical training should be a primary concern for students that are not bound for college and for those who are less likely to complete a postsecondary degree. Middle-skill jobs, which require more than high-school, but less than a four-year degree, make up the largest part of the American labor market.
A college and career readiness program should align curricula to meet employer needs as well as meeting college readiness demands. College entrance assessments are designed to measure potential success at the collegiate level. So, is it possible to determine readiness for employment?
Nearly 2,000 U.S. employers use the Career Readiness Certificate (CRC) in their hiring process. The CRC is a credential that confirms to employers that an individual possesses foundational workplace skills in reading for information, applied math, and locating information. It is recognized as an effective strategy for predicting workplace success: Nearly 1.5 million certificates have been issued in over 40 states to help bring employers and applicants together on common ground.
High school students understand that they must take an admission assessment as a requirement to apply for college. Subsequently, colleges and universities rely on the assessment results to measure potential success and placement. Employers can use CRC in like manner.
To earn a CRC a high school student or job seeker completes the WorkKeys® assessments which measure “real world” skills that employers believe are critical to job success. Qualifying for the credential enables recipients to search for employment based upon their qualifications by comparing assessment scores to occupational profiles that link skills to actual job tasks. Employers can use this same information to attract job candidates by describing qualifications in terms of the skills their jobs require.
Jobs are evaluated by occupational profilers who identify the skill levels required for an single job and work setting. Occupational profiles are distilled from the results of multiple job profiles performed in a variety of industries and environments. The results of an occupational profile are expressed in terms of WorkKeys® skill scales published by ACT, Inc., an assessment company that sponsors this research.
An occupational profile consolidates information reported by job profiles conducted for groups of jobs that share identification numbers in the O*NET job classification system. For example, O*Net identifies Industrial Production Managers with the code 11-3051.00; the occupational profile for this code is a composite of 45 profiles conducted for Industrial Production Managers employed various companies.
We should expect employers to require career readiness documentation in the hiring process for employment and placement just like we do for colleges. And, we should expect high school students to be “career ready” when they graduate from high school with the CRC as documentation for employment.
A college and career ready student can be defined as such when they pass the college entrance assessment and earn the Career Readiness Certificate for the level of employment which they are seeking. To a certain degree we can predict college and career readiness for high school students. With the high school and college dropout rates such as they are we can certainly help our students with the credentials that will help them with their future success.
500 ACT Drive, P.O. Box 168, Iowa City, Iowa 52243-168
Mr. Ray Henson, MSED, GCDFI, is a former career guidance teacher. He is currently a Program Coordinator at the Arkansas Department of Career Education and president of the Arkansas Career Development Association. He can be reached through e-mail at email@example.com.