By: Amy Loyd, Senior Advisor
This is our moment to truly reimagine education. This is our moment to lift our students, our education system, and our country to a level never before seen. As the great Congressman Lewis said, “If not us, who? If not now, when?”
-Secretary Cardona’s Vision for Education in America (2022)
Imagine a high school in which every single student is energized, excited, and engaged in powerful learning that connects them to their communities, nurtures their career aspirations, and provides them with a head start on college. These students are thriving in rigorous academics, earning several college credits before graduating from high school—including their first college math and English classes, and two classes connected to their possible future careers. These students, along with their families, receive personalized and ongoing career and college advising and navigation supports so that they make informed decisions about the classes they take, the pathways they pursue, and the goals they set for their lives.
These students also earn industry credentials that today’s employers seek and need, so that they can successfully launch careers with valuable skills and confidence. They apply their knowledge and skills in real-world settings, extending their learning beyond the classroom and into the workplace and community. They explore the world of work through paid internships and apprenticeships with leading professionals who mentor them; provide them with ongoing feedback and support to help them grow; connect them to networks of other professionals; and honor their knowledge, skills, and experiences by engaging them in meaningful work that shapes their futures. Then, after high school, they all go on to earn postsecondary credentials that open the doors to future education and rewarding career possibilities. These career and college pathways are option multipliers for students, and through them, students become young professionals who transform our workplaces, our economies, and our communities for the better.
We believe that this is our moment, and our responsibility to reimagine and redesign our education system so that it better prepares every young person for a successful and joyful future. There are already exemplary policies and practices across the country that align with and advance this bold vision. Our goal is to move from a nation of great pathways programs in some places to a nation with transformative systems of multiple pathways to success for every young person.
The pandemic has laid bare longstanding inequities in education and exacerbated them further. Far too few students—especially students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, students from rural communities, students with disabilities, and students who are first-generation college-goers—have had the opportunity to get a leg up on college and career pathways while they are still in high school. We want all students, not just those fortunate to be in high-quality Career Technical Education (CTE) programs or strong dual enrollment and early college programs, to be on pathways through higher education that lead to rewarding careers.
Postsecondary credential attainment rates remain unacceptably low and inequitable, with slow growth despite concerted efforts and investments over many years. Further, the decline in enrollment in higher education—especially in our community colleges—throughout the pandemic is only widening the equity gaps in outcomes. These trends are troubling because postsecondary credentials are essential for our students, our workforce, and our economy: 70% of today’s jobs require a postsecondary credential, as do the majority of new jobs created in the post-recession economy.
The pandemic has also reshaped labor markets and the world of work, yet our education and training systems have not kept up with the dynamism of the economy. We are leaving good-paying jobs unfilled and too many hard-working Americans continue to struggle. Given this reality—and particularly as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law creates good-paying jobs in in-demand fields—this fundamental reimagination of education is more important than ever to students and the future of our nation.
To that end, we ask you to join us June 1 at 1:30 p.m. ET for a call to action virtual event focused on growing pathways to success. This event will feature remarks from Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, and Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, as well as students, parents, educators, and employers. They will all share their perspectives on the value and need for career and college pathways. Additionally, leaders from the Department of Education will provide an overview of the core strategies of this initiative and ask you to consider what commitments you can make to it.
Over the coming months, we’ll be working to galvanize a coalition of educators, employers, and community leaders committed to transforming how students transition from high school through postsecondary education and into careers. We need your leadership, partnership, and commitment to advance this critical work.
This effort builds on the proposed investment in career-connected high schools in President Biden’s FY 2023 Budget. The proposed $200 million investment in Career-Connected High Schools would support competitive grants to grow and build models of this bold vision. Funding would support partnerships between local educational agencies, institutions of higher education—including community colleges—and employers, to support early enrollment in postsecondary and career-connected coursework; work-based learning opportunities; and academic and career counseling across the last two years of high school and the first two years of postsecondary education.
The Department of Education looks forward to supporting states and communities stepping up to embrace this vision and working in partnership to build an education system through which our students fulfill their endless potential. This includes:
- Working closely with the Department of Labor, the Department of Commerce, and other agency partners;
- Convening students, educators, employers, and other stakeholders to learn about practices that have led to success and challenges that must be addressed;
- Providing resources and tools to support strong pathways approaches.
The success of these pathways relies on the interdependence of diverse stakeholders: students and families, PK-12 education, higher education, business and industry, workforce and economic development, community-based and faith-based organizations, government, and other community leaders.
Whatever your relationship in this ecosystem may be, we want to hear about your work in career and college pathways. Please reach out to our team at [email protected] We welcome the opportunity to connect with you more about this. Additionally, you can get news about the Department’s work to strengthen career and college pathways through the OCTAE Connections newsletter. Sign up here to subscribe.
We have before us a powerful opportunity for transformation. If ever there was a moment for us to hit a reset button in education and transform how education bridges young people to their futures, and to “lift our country to a level never before seen,” it’s now. And if not us, who? If not now, when? We look forward to partnering with you in bringing this bold vision to life.