Soapbox

Students need workplace training to fill workforce needs

Miami Herald

There was a time when the old school-to-career, linear pipeline made sense and worked.

Students finished school – either with a high school diploma, technical certificate or post-secondary degree – then began working in their chosen field. Young adults could get jobs that led to experience and career growth. It was common for people to spend their entire careers with only a few employers.

The employment landscape is dramatically different today. According to Forrester Research, using Bureau of Labor Statistics facts, the average person graduating today will have 12 to 15 jobs in their lifetime. Today’s average worker has held 10 jobs before they turned 40.

The pace of job creation and contraction is staggering, and we must ensure that all students have every opportunity to enter the world fully prepared to meet its challenges.

For the past three years, Capital Region Academies for the Next Economy, known as CRANE, has been working to connect the employers and entrepreneurs who are creating the jobs of today and tomorrow with students and schools.

A $15 million state grant helped launch career pathway programs in 18 school regional districts. Those pathways include: advanced manufacturing; agriculture, natural resources and food production; construction and clean energy; engineering and engineering services; health services and biological sciences; and information and communication technologies.

The mission has been to provide students with rigorous academic and career pathways that are linked to economic and labor market needs and trends. Our goal has been to help students become the leading entrepreneurial workforce for the next economy. The academies have been enormously successful helping local students identify potential careers and provide them with critical hands-on opportunities and valuable employability skills.

We hope more in government will follow Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s lead and make meaningful work experience for our high school students a top priority. Steinberg’s announcement of funds from the state employment training panel for paid internships for students in the city of Sacramento are exactly the kinds of initiatives we need from the broader government and educational community.

One of the hurdles we often encounter with employers is the lack of funds to give young people vital work experiences. Funding for job training is imperative. What this critical, youth workforce development movement needs most is universal advocacy and the will to provide internships for every high school student in the region.

David W. Gordon is the Sacramento County superintendent of schools. He can be contacted at dgordon@scoe.net.

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