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Preparing our Workforce for the Future Through Linked Learning

September 24, 2020

The Center for American Progress (CAP) released “Preparing American Students for the Workforce of the Future,” providing a framework for a K-12 research agenda designed to surface policy solutions to best prepare students for college, career, and civic life.

The brief identifies challenges, or “gaps,” that exist across three areas:

  • Early exposure to career options, particularly in grades K-8
  • Holistic preparation for college and careers in the future workforce and civic life across academic and socioemotional factors
  • Orientation of school accountability systems around the outcomes of college and career readiness as well as the attainment of good jobs

Gaps across these areas have a profound impact on students, particularly on Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) students. In fact, CAP points out that “inequitable educational, economic, and civic opportunities are disproportionately borne by Black, Latinx, and Indigenous students and workers.”

The Linked Learning Alliance (Alliance) advocates for educational, economic, and social policies that prioritize high-quality college and career preparation to benefit all youth and communities. We spotlight opportunities for students to engage in civic experiences during their K-12 years to position them to thrive in civic life as adults. We believe in an equity imperative that we as a society have a responsibility to meet the needs of all students, with particular attention to those with the greatest needs. The Alliance appreciates CAP’s efforts to advance a policy agenda intent on improving the outcomes of our country’s diverse student population while they are in the education system and the workforce.

CAP specifically raises the issue of inequitable access to employer relationships in schools in economically challenged areas. The brief identifies the need for local employers in these settings to “…engage with schools to create a variety of high-quality education and career preparation opportunities beginning in early grades.”

One of the most important themes that has emerged from over a decade of Linked Learning, is that the most impactful, systemic partnerships between education and industry happen at the local level. In Linked Learning districts, local employer advisory councils partner with educators in the delivery of rigorous and relevant pathways. In some districts they work collectively and in others specifically around a single industry, such as health or engineering. The councils work with districts, pathways and schools to ensure that they inform the curriculum, tie work-based learning opportunities to the skill sets and competencies required for the industry today, and play an active role in shaping the integrated program of study within a pathway. This includes everything from integrating work-based learning opportunities and internships with classroom learning across subject areas, to assessing students through multiple measures, including projects, capstones and presentations that provide students with the opportunity, to not only demonstrate what they know, but also what they can do.

To collect more data about the needs that exist and begin exploring possible solutions, CAP will launch a series of “community conversations” in areas with a high representation of Black, Latinx, and Indigenous populations.

We look forward to learning more from the insights that emerge from these conversations, and to continuing to serve as champions for policies that will ensure student success in college, career, and civic life.