The Importance of Career Readiness in Our Classrooms

Two-thirds of all students graduating high school in 2012 were planning to enroll in college the following fall, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The NCES projects that 3.3 million students are expected to graduate high school in the United States at the end of the 2014-2015 school year.

If projected college enrollment numbers remain the same over the next several years, over 1 million students will graduate from high school each year without a desire or a plan to enroll in college. As educators, what steps are we taking to prepare these students for a stable career?

Why is career readiness important?

College and career readiness is quickly becoming one of the hottest topics in public education. Basic curriculum knowledge is no longer enough to prepare our future leaders for the global market that exists. There must be a stronger emphasis on the part of schools, districts and states to align curriculum with career-readiness standards. While many educators are feeling curriculum overload, the reality is that integrating career-readiness standards into our school can happen because others are in the process of laying the foundation.

What does it mean to be career ready?

The Career Readiness Partnership Council is one such group dedicated to building a comprehensive system that supports career readiness. The council defines a career-ready individual as someone who has academic and technical knowledge as well as employability knowledge and skills and disposition.

More specifically, the University of Kent identified some of the most sought-after employability skills by corporations. These included written/verbal communication, teamwork, initiative, and analysis/investigating skills.

What is the teacher’s role?

The skills that employers value are presented in the classroom each day, but more can be done to promote career readiness within a learning environment. Classroom teachers and counselors should strive to work together to emphasize and highlight career-readiness skills.

The Career Readiness Partnership Council recommends educators connecting with business leaders to better understand the transition from the school environment to the work environment. Counselors should communicate the positive attributes of career readiness to parents so they can discuss long-term goals with students who aren’t interested in a collegiate path. This may include sharing information about local vocational education programs or researching businesses that offer placement with benefits directly after graduation.

Common Core connection

Common Core State Standards are anchored in college- and career-readiness objectives. While this can be a benefit to educators in areas where Common Core implementation and curriculum alignment is taking place, there is still a need to highlight specific career-readiness skills throughout lesson planning. Recognize the readiness attributes — written/verbal communication, teamwork, initiative, and analysis/investigating skills — and make a conscientious effort to highlight at least one on a weekly basis.

A call to action before high school

As we continue to explore the topic of college and career readiness, it will become apparent that this is not simply a high school issue. Emphasizing college and career readiness must begin at an early age. Not only must teachers help prepare students for the future, but administrators, including principals, superintendents and school boards, also must be supportive through policy implementation and community partnerships.

Parents need to be involved through school collaboration and by expanding their knowledge base.  Preparing students for the future is no longer simply the responsibility of the parents. As educators, we have a responsibility to promote strong leadership and citizenship in our students as they move to prominent roles within our communities.

Dr. Jason Perez is the head principal at Heritage Trails Elementary in Moore, Oklahoma, as well as a faculty member at Concordia University – Portland, where he teaches Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction courses, and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Central Oklahoma, where he teacher Master of Education Administration courses.

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