WIOA Provides Opportunity for Partnership to Serve Out of School Youth

This blog is cross-posted from the WorkforceGPS site, see https://youth.workforcegps.org/blog/general/2017/01/18/15/08/EdLaborPartnership.  

WIOA places heightened emphasis on the alignment of programs that serve out-of-school youth in order to ensure they obtain the skills necessary to prepare for successful workforce participation and continued educational achievement.

The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), signed into law on July 22, 2014, presents a unique opportunity for collaboration among the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the U.S. Department of Education (ED), States, local workforce development areas, other workforce and education partners, as well as social service providers, in order to improve the lives of our nation’s out-of-school youth (OSY).  WIOA places heightened emphasis on the alignment of programs that serve out-of-school youth in order to ensure they obtain the skills necessary to prepare for successful workforce participation and continued educational achievement.

For many years, the adult education program, administered by ED and authorized under title II of WIOA, has reconnected older OSY with the educational system and equipped them with the foundational skills to pursue postsecondary education, training, and meaningful work.  The formula youth program, administered by DOL and authorized under title I of WIOA, requires that 75 percent of funds be used on services for OSY, which will assist young adults in obtaining the necessary skills, including high school diplomas, to prepare for and complete postsecondary education and training and achieve high levels of career readiness.  More than 5.5 million youth between the ages of 16 and 24 without a high school diploma or an equivalent are neither in school nor employed.  By working together, State and local workforce and education partners can maximize the potential of these young adults through implementing evidence-based practices to support the successful achievement of their educational and career goals.

To facilitate these efforts, the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education (Departments) are releasing a technical assistance document that:

  • provide strategies and examples of State and local partnerships that facilitate the reengagement of OSY;
  • support communities working with in-school youth in accordance with WIOA; and
  • address strategies for serving out-of-school English learners, current and former foster youth, and justice-involved youth.

Along with the technical assistance on OSY, additional documents may be distributed among all potential partners that serve youth and young adults.  The technical assistance documents are available:

The technical assistance provided in these documents offers a number of examples of ways in which different partners can work together to build career pathways that are a combination of rigorous and high-quality education, training, and support services that align with local skill needs and prepare youth and young adults to be successful in secondary or postsecondary education programs and the labor market.

Ultimately, long-term success for OSY will require engagement beyond the scope of workforce and education agencies.  It takes the engagement of entire communities to catalyze change and create multiple pathways to facilitate education, career, and lifelong success.  These discussions, therefore, must include businesses, colleges and universities, State and district superintendents, teachers and other youth service providers, community-based organizations, local social service agencies, and families and youth themselves.

We hope this technical assistance series will support creative and impactful youth-focused strategies and be a resource in engaging these diverse partners in this important work.  Together we will strengthen our nation’s workforce by supporting the nation’s youth in graduating from secondary and postsecondary education programs, participating successfully in career pathways, and achieving their career goals.

Collaborating to Close Gender Gap

This past summer the White House hosted the first-ever United State of Women Summit announcing efforts taken under the Obama administration to ensure that all women and girls have equal rights, treatment, and protections. The goal of the summit was to build a roadmap for future policymakers, stakeholders and advocates to continue to increase opportunities for women and girls.

Left to right: Daniel Parino, Jyoti Jasrasaria, Heather Kulp, Johan Uvin and Carol Aguirre

Left to right: Harvard Students Daniel Parino, Jyoti Jasrasaria, with HNMCP Clinical Instructor, Heather Kulp, Johan Uvin, and Carol Aguirre

One of the many initiatives announced at the summit was the collaboration between the U.S. the Department of Education’s (ED), Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), the U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau, and the Harvard Negotiation & Mediation Clinical Program (HNMCP) to develop a salary negotiation toolkit for community college students as part of the Administration’s efforts to advance equal pay policies. This toolkit provides community college students, including young women, with the knowledge and tools that can help them better prepare to negotiate their first salary. As we know, negotiating your salary early in your career can boost your lifetime earnings.

Today, the typical woman who works full-time earns 79 cents for every dollar a man makes and the gap is even wider for women of color. In 2014, the Shriver Report released A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink, where they report that black women make only 60 cents, while Latinas make 55 cents, for every dollar that a white man earns.

Three possible explanations for a difference in pay between women and men are unintentional gender-based discrimination, a difference in the way women and men approach salary negotiations, and overt sexism. While many individuals experience difficulties negotiating job terms or an increase in pay, women experience additional challenges when negotiating pay and other job benefits.

Over the last eight years new efforts and initiatives were set in place to better address the gender gap pay, encouraging men and women to demand equality and fairness in the workplace. However, very few salary negotiation resources, if any, exist specifically for community colleges students. This is why OCTAE partnered with HNMCP to create the Salary Negotiation Toolkit. The toolkit was created by Jyoti Jasrasaria and Daniel Parino under consultation with OCTAE and the Women’s Bureau, as part of their second year law program at Harvard Law School. The Toolkit is now available for free on HNMCP’s website.

While much has changed, there remains much to be done. Help bridge the gender gap by practicing and implementing negotiating skills, sharing resources, like the Toolkit, and most importantly, know your worth in the workplace.

Posted by
Management and Program Analyst, Direct Loans Division, Federal Student Aid on detail with OCTAE as a Community Colleges Specialist.

Why Are We Not Giving Women a Second Chance?

Are women in the United States more dangerous and prone to criminal activity than those in other countries?  Looking solely at criminal justice statistics, one may tend to believe this idea.  While incarceration rates for women have reached historic highs, women in this country are no more likely to be a threat to our society as they would be in any other country.  Why, then, has the U.S. disproportionately put women behind bars?

Decades of questionable criminal justice policies in our country have created a culture of over incarceration that is unmatched by any other nation.  We need to pay more attention to the plight of incarcerated women in order to ensure they are offered the same educational and workforce opportunities as men. The Department of Education’s National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) recently conducted a survey of the competency levels of incarcerated adults. Amongst the data, they found that 85 percent of incarcerated women did not complete any form of education beyond a high school diploma or GED while incarcerated.[1]  Today’s economy is increasingly demanding and it is important that everyone is prepared to compete in it.  It is estimated that as early as 2018, nearly two-thirds of all job announcement will require applicants to have achieved some level of postsecondary education. [2]  We as a society cannot afford to continue to incarcerate our mothers, sisters, and daughters without giving them the proper resources for a second chance.

While only 5 percent of the world’s population of women live in the U.S., our country is home to almost 30 percent of the world’s incarcerated women (twice the percentage as China and four times as much as Russia).[3]  In fact, the top 44 jurisdictions of incarcerated women in the world are composed of individual U.S. states (with the exception of the U.S. as a whole and Thailand).[4]  Women represent the fastest growing segment of the incarcerated population with an incarceration rate that is double that of men in the past 30 years.[5]  From 1980 to 2014, the number of incarcerated women increased by more than 700 percent, from 26,378 in 1980 to 215,332 in 2014.[6]

This skyrocketing number of incarcerated women is clearly a problem. So how did we get here? While there is no single reason for this spike, however, the war on drugs is one possible explanation for the increase.  A zero tolerance anti-drug campaign combined with the adoption of mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines for drug offenses played a role in contributing to increased incarceration rates.  Women today are twice as likely to be incarcerated for drug offenses as they were in 1986 and almost twice as likely to be incarcerated for drug offenses as men.[7]

Increased contact with the justice system is not just a problem for adult women. The largest percentage of incarcerated girls are incarcerated due to status offenses (crimes that would not otherwise be classified as a crime for adults such as skipping school and running away) and technical violations.[8]  Entering the justice system at this young age may create a dangerous cycle of incarceration that is difficult to escape. This cycle can be exacerbated if proper intervention and support is not provided.

While this over-incarceration presents a serious problem for our country, a tremendous opportunity is also ahead of us.  Criminal justice reform is a topic that has sparked a bipartisan interest.   In 2014 and 2015 alone, 46 states enacted 201 bills, executive orders, and ballot propositions to reform some aspect of their criminal justice system.[9] While this is encouraging, it is important to point out that while the rates and population of incarcerated women have significantly increased, women represent only 7 percent of the U.S. incarcerated population today.[10]  It may be easy for a jurisdiction to overlook the alarming trends of incarcerated women if they look at their population in the aggregate.  As criminal justice reform continues, it is important that we take into account the unique challenges facing women when we design policies and interventions to enact these reforms.

Daniel Gaytan

Guest Blogger: Daniel Gaytan
Policy Analyst
U.S. Department of Education
Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education

Providing incarcerated women with the same educational and workforce resources that are currently available to men is an important and easy first step to reduce their chances of recidivating.  It is up to each of us in our communities, counties, and states to ensure that we are providing men and women the opportunity for successful reentry.  We know that incarcerated individuals who participate in correctional education are 43 percent less likely to recidivate and 58 percent more likely to find post-release employment than individuals who do not participate.[11]  It is time women are given equal access to these programs. 

[1] Rampey, B.D., Keiper, S., Mohadjer, L., Krenzke, T., Li, J., Thornton, N., and Hogan, J. (2016). Highlights from the U.S. PIAAC Survey of Incarcerated Adults: Their Skills, Work Experience, Education, and Training: Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies: 2014 (NCES 2016-040). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.  https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2016040.

[2] Anthony P. Carnevale, Nicole Smith, and Jeff Strohl, Help Wanted: Projections of Jobs and Education Requirements through 2018 (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 2010).

[3] Aleks Kajstura and Russ Immarigeon. Women and Girls in the Criminal Justice System: Policy Strategies and Program Options (Civic Research Institute, 2006, 2011). https://www.prisonpolicy.org/global/women/.

[4] Aleks Kajstura and Russ Immarigeon.

[5] American Civil Liberties Union.  Facts about the Over-Incarceration of Women in the United States.   https://www.aclu.org/other/facts-about-over-incarceration-women-united-states 

[6] Carson, E.A. (2015). Prisoners in 2014. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

[7] Carson, E.A.

[8] Sickmund, M., Sladky, M., Kang, T.J., and Puzzanchera, C. (2015). Easy Access to the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement. Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

[9] Rebecca Silber, Ram Subramanian, and Maia Spotts. Justice in Review: New Trends in State Sentencing and Corrections 2014-2015. New York: Vera Institute of Justice, 2016.

[10] Rampey, B.D., Keiper, S., Mohadjer, L., Krenzke, T., Li, J., Thornton, N., and Hogan, J.

[11] Davis, Lois M., Jennifer L. Steele, Robert Bozick, Malcolm Williams, Susan Turner, Jeremy N. V. Miles, Jessica Saunders and Paul S. Steinberg. How Effective Is Correctional Education, and Where Do We Go from Here? The Results of a Comprehensive Evaluation. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2014. http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR564.html, 15.

Enter the $680K EdSim Challenge by January 17

Graphic with text that reads: EdSim Challenge, Calling for next generation education simulations. $680,000 in cash awards plus additional sponsor prizes. Learn more at edsimchallenge.,comThe EdSim Challenge submission deadline is quickly approaching with less than a month left! All simulation concepts must be submitted by 4:59:59 PM EST on Tuesday, January 17, 2017, on the Luminary Lightbox platform.

The Challenge calls upon the virtual reality, video game developer, and educational technology communities to submit concepts for immersive simulations that will prepare students for the globally competitive workforce of the 21st century. Successful simulations will pair the engagement of commercial games with rigorous educational content that strengthens academic, technical, and employability skills.

Following close of submissions, the judging panel will select up to five finalists to receive $50,000 each and advance to the Virtual Accelerator. During the Virtual Accelerator, each team will work with expert mentors as they refine their concept and build a simulation prototype.

We look forward to your ideas for expanding virtual and augmented reality in education!

Be sure to watch the EdSim Informational Webinar:

and the launch message:

If you have questions about your EdSim Challenge submission, please visit the EdSim Challenge website or email us at hello@edsimchallenge.com.

A First Job Can Change a Life

Photo of Secretary King seated to the right of panelists at the #FirstJob Compact summit

Secretary King moderates a panel at the #FirstJob Compact summit

“During my time with young people… I was able to teach them skills and, hopefully, show them that their contributions – their skills, their experiences, their imaginations – are valuable. A sense of possibility can make all the difference for an individual and for a community,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Secretary John King at the First Job Compact Implementation Convening.

Yesterday, Secretary King provided opening remarks and facilitated a panel with youth and employers at the First Job Compact Implementation Convening. This is the second convening of its kind that seeks to establish best practices and strategies for enabling Opportunity Youth— youth ages 16-24 who are out-of-work and out-of-school—to obtain their first job. Over 100 human resources and talent leaders, as well as non-profits and agency colleagues, gathered to discuss these strategies and how to make them part of their company’s business plan.

Secretary King also announced that the U.S. Department of Education(ED), in consultation with the U.S. Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Housing and Urban Development, intends to provide technical assistance funding to help public housing authorities connect youth who have aged out of the foster care system with high quality career and technical education programs. Through this investment, ED hopes to assist career and technical education programs to better meet the needs of current and former foster youth. The project also seeks to improve coordination among the child welfare system and other federal programs.

About one in seven young people between the ages of 16-24 are either not in school or not working. These individuals are known as Opportunity Youth. The unemployment rate for individuals 16-24 sits at 11 percent and is even higher among African-American and Latino youth (22 percent and 12 percent respectively). Early in the Obama Administration, the White House convened corporations to encourage companies to create pathways for Opportunity Youth to gain their first job. Additionally, in President Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Address, he announced the importance of creating an economy that works better for everybody, including a plan for Opportunity Youth to gain the work experience, skills, and networks that come from having a job. This effort will not only change the lives of youth and communities across the country, but it will also create and build a sustainable and resilient workforce.

Yesterday’s convening included companies such as Gap and Chipotle, who signed on to the First Job Compact. Through a series of engaging panels, corporations share best practices needed to move this work forward. These companies understand that the Compact’s objectives are mutually beneficial to their companies and the youth it serves. Companies often report that young people struggle to find jobs because they lack basic workplace skills and behaviors. By committing to a set of best practices to hire and support these youth, companies will be able to identify and leverage the vital skills and backgrounds these youth bring to the job and in turn increase their interview to hire ratio, retention rate, speed to promotion, and engagement scores to meet company goals. For almost a decade, Gap has engaged in This Way Ahead, which is a paid life skills and internship program that helps low-income youth land a first job at our Old Navy, Gap, and Banana Republic stores.

Through strong collaboration, industry and government will remain committed to reconnecting Opportunity Youth to education and workforce opportunities. Recently, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a report “Work-based Learning for Youth at Risk: Getting Employers on Board” which aims to tackle the common challenge to growing youth job training by establishing the idea that employers first need to see work-based learning as a way to help their business. Read more about this report and further analysis in this blog by New America.

It is clear this this issue has already stirred national interest. President Obama recently released a fact sheet on innovative ways to fund the First Job initiative. In conjunction with ED’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), the Administration has engaged in a #FirstJob Skills Campaign which seeks to leverage social media and celebrities to connect youth to educational resources to help improve their employability skills. As a part of these efforts, OCTAE released a fact sheet entitled Employability Skills: Supporting Opportunity Youth to Be Successful in Their First Job. This administration firmly believes that these efforts will strengthen our workforce, grow our economy, and change lives.

Work-Based Learning: A Promising Strategy for Re-engaging Opportunity Youth

For nearly a decade, the U. S. has partnered with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to conduct reviews of various issues pertaining to career and technical education (CTE). Our efforts with OECD have enabled us to benchmark ourselves against other countries, as well as learn about international policies and practices that we might consider to improve the educational and employment outcomes for our nation’s youth and adults.

Building on our prior work, in July 2015, we again partnered with OECD—this time, on the topic of work-based learning. We were interested in this topic because we acknowledge the importance and promise of work-based learning as a way to re-engage youth, equip them with the skills that are in demand in the labor market, and connect them to potential employers.

The benefits of work-based learning are particularly important for at-risk youth as these individuals are most likely to face difficulties in connecting to the labor market and accessing good learning opportunities. At-risk youth are defined as young people who are not—or are at risk of not—working or being in school. In the U. S., there are roughly 5.5 million teenagers and young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who are neither working nor in school. This translates to one in seven teens and young adults. In OECD countries, there are around 40 million at risk youth. These numbers, while incredibly discouraging, present a tremendous opportunity for retooling our nation’s CTE programs and scaling up promising practices such as work-based learning to address the needs of our nation’s most vulnerable students.

OECD’s work-based learning project was designed for three purposes:

  1. Synthesize the evidence on how the benefits of work-based learning might be more fully exploited to achieve better economic and social outcomes;
  2. Document global experience of developments and innovations in policy and practice; and
  3. Deliver key policy messages on those foundations.

Eight other countries participated in the study—Australia, Canada, the European Commission, Germany, Norway, Scotland, Switzerland, the United Kingdom.

On December 7, 2016, the OECD reported the results of their U. S. review, as documented in Work-Based Learning for Youth at Risk: Getting Employers on Board. The report identifies a number of policy recommendations including encouraging and offering financial resources for pre-apprenticeships; providing remediation, mentoring, and coaching to support apprentices complete their training; and offering targeted training for apprenticeship supervisors to help them succeed. The full report can be found in the OECD iLibrary.

To further help employers work with youth, the Department released Employability Skills Fact Sheet and Resources: Supporting Opportunity Youth to Be Successful in Their First Job. This fact sheet outlines five easy steps that employers can take to help youth gain employability skills that employers are looking for and that are necessary for youth to be successful in the labor market at all levels and in all sectors. The Fact Sheet is available on the Perkins Collaborative Resource Network.

Posted by
Director, Division of Academic and Technical Education

Expanding Computer Science Education with Career and Technical Education

csedweek_forwebGiven the tremendous career opportunities that a foundation in computer science can provide, it makes sense that we do what we can to improve access to high-quality computer science learning experiences for all students. Computer science (CS) is not about understanding how to use a word processor or create a spreadsheet. CS is about gaining computational thinking skills and is a critical skill set that all students should have in the 21st century workforce—and states, districts, schools, educators, and their partners are doing their part to expand opportunities to computer science for all.

Career and Technical Education (CTE), funded by the Carl D. Perkins CTE Improvement Act of 2006 (Perkins), is an effective approach for increasing access to rigorous computer science coursework as well as for integrating computer science into existing programs of study. Many states are working creatively and innovatively to utilize CTE pathways and Perkins funds to increase access to and completion of computer science courses. From using funds to increase interest in middle school and supporting educator preparation, to dual-coding of courses and increasing access to equipment, states are working hard to maximize the use of Perkins funds to help prepare more students in their states for career opportunities.

Here are some considerations to keep in mind to help increase access to high-quality CS for All.

  • Dual-coding of Courses – Computer science courses are being offered in both CTE and non-CTE academic programs with course codes that inhibit courses from being used in multiple programs. Some states have found it helpful to dual-code these courses to strengthen their offerings, eliminate duplication of efforts and reduce the funds needed to implement computer science programs in a high school. For example, in Florida , computer science standards were jointly written to make sure that the standards met both academic and CTE expectations.
  • Dual-certification of Teachers – Having a well-prepared, well-supported educator workforce is critical to expanding access to computer science courses. Again, to prevent duplication of effort, states have found it helpful to ensure that computer science educators in high schools are able to teach computer science as part of either a CTE or academic program. These options increase the number of educators available to teach computer science while providing flexibility for how computer science is taught in both CTE and academic pathways.
  • Professional Development for Teachers – Perkins funds can be used to provide professional development for CTE educators to ensure they have the tools and resources they need to teach computer science. Because computer science educator preparation requires high-quality, intensive professional development for existing educators, states are also thinking creatively about how to use Perkins in conjunction with Title II funds to increase the number of educators who are able to teach computer science in both CTE and academic pathways.
  • End-of-Pathway Assessments – States are thinking creatively about end-of-pathway assessments for CTE students and how to ensure the demonstration of technical proficiency. States like Maryland and Idaho are utilizing satisfactory scores on the AP computer science exams as a demonstration of technical proficiency.

Perkins funding can be used to complement and strengthen computer science education in a variety of creative ways, such as collaborating with middle schools to increase CS career exploration courses in 7th and 8th grade, and making CTE CS courses students available to students who are not in a CTE program of study.

OCTAE and the U.S. Department of Education joined several federal agencies in celebrating CS Education Week, December 5-11, 2016, during which a Year of Action was announced. It continues the momentum of CSforAll following its launch in January 2016 that brought together federal, state, and local efforts to increase access to CS education. That same day in January, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, Megan Smith, provided more insight into the importance of providing CS for All in her blog.

OSTP Senior Policy Advisor for Tech Inclusion, Ruthe Farmer, also provided a year-in-review recapping 2016 CS education milestones.

Follow #CSforAll on your favorite social media for ongoing activities.

EdSim Challenge Judges Announced

Graphic with text that reads: EdSim Challenge, Calling for next generation education simulations. $680,000 in cash awards plus additional sponsor prizes. Learn more at edsimchallenge.,comOCTAE is pleased to introduce the expert panel of judges for the EdSim Challenge! They bring a wealth of expertise in education, simulations, industry training, emerging technology, and venture capital to the Challenge, and share a passion for transforming teaching and learning experiences through virtual and augmented reality.

Join us in acknowledging the time, effort, and incredible array of talents the judges are contributing to the energy of the EdSim Challenge.

    Meet the EdSim Challenge judges:

  • Elizabeth Baron, Virtual Reality & Advanced Visualization Technical Specialist, Ford Motor Company
  • Nonny de la Peña, CEO and Founder, Emblematic Group
  • Marlon Evans, CEO, GSVlabs
  • Steve Isaacs, Video Game Design and Development Teacher, William Annin Middle School
  • Reshma Saujani, Founder and CEO, Girls Who Code
  • Kurt Squire, Co-Director, Games+Learning+Society Center, Wisconsin Institute for Discovery
  • Kiki Wolfkill, Halo Transmedia & Entertainment Studio Head, Microsoft’s 343 Industries

You can read about the judges and find more information about the Challenge at EdSimChallenge.com.

As a reminder, the EdSim Challenge is accepting submissions for simulation concepts through January 17, 2017 at 4:59:59 PM EST.

You can also sign up to receive Challenge updates here and see quick overview in the video below.

Transitioning English Learners to Postsecondary Education

In 2000, Christine Vega Villarreal a high school senior in San Fernando, California, was still unsure of what she would do after high school. As a first generation student who grew up with immigrant parents from Mexico, she did not have the necessary tools and resources to support her as she considered her options. Likewise, her high school trajectory, due to “tracking,” did not provide Christine the support she needed while in high school. She faced marginalization due to her English Learner (EL) status and was placed in remedial courses. Christine struggled with meeting expectations regarding academic rigor, and found herself increasingly disengaged in class. She began to skip school. It was through the encouragement of her art teacher and classmates, and after many visits to the counselor’s office, that she was able to be placed in Advanced Placement (AP) courses. She struggled at first but eventually these AP courses made her re-engage fully.

Christine, Alfredo, and son, Janitzio

Christine Vega Villarreal with her partner Alfredo Huante, a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Southern California, and their son, Janitzio Huante-Vega.

Christine is a first-generation U.S. citizen. Much like many EL students who are U.S. citizens, immigrants and refugees, Christine faced linguistic and resource barriers that limited opportunities. EL students, in fact, tend to face opportunity and achievement gaps and experience lower college going rates. By the time EL students reach 12th grade most have the necessary English skills for daily life but many lack the language proficiency needed to succeed in college. This expected language proficiency deals with mastery of academic vocabulary, discourse style, formality, and complexity of syntax. To successfully transition EL students like Christine to postsecondary education and training, both secondary and postsecondary institutions must understand the unique challenges EL students face and increase their support mechanisms for EL students. Without this understanding and support, entry into postsecondary education might not result in successful completion.

You may wonder whether Christine’s experience is unique. Data tell us it is not.

Read More

Embedding a Continuum of Work-Based Learning Opportunities in Our High Schools

photo of Johan Uvin

Posted by
Johan E. Uvin, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to join the Second Annual White House Summit on Next Generation High Schools. Leading practitioners and researchers came together to discuss how to rethink the high school experience. The event built on the progress made at last year’s summit, which generated $375 million in private and public sector commitments. After researchers shared their findings on what works, and district leaders and students talked about their Next Gen High Schools, participants engaged in action planning sessions focused on key strategies and elements of these innovative schools. I participated in a team that focused on personalized, project-based and maker learning. We talked about internships as an essential element of any future high school experience we envision for our youth and came up with specific actions we agreed to take to make more internships available to our high school students. At the end of our session, we were asked to make a commitment. I pledged to conduct research on promising practices and identify a few examples of internship programs that illustrate clearly what we want. Our team completed its initial research. I am happy to share two great examples with you through this blog.

One great example of a Next Generation High School that makes internships a focal point of the student experience is the Academy of Information Technology (AOIT) at Apex High School in Wake County, North Carolina, a small school-within-a-school program that attracts students who have an interest in information technology. AOIT is organized around two pathways: programming and web development. Not all students who opt to enroll in AOIT are interested in future careers in computer programming or technology. One student who attended in the past year is interested in being an elementary school teacher and has been learning how to develop “apps” that could be used in the classroom. Another student intends to work in human services, such as at a domestic violence program, and has completed an internship in a medical facility learning how to create digital patient records.

All AOIT students are required to complete a paid 135-hour internship prior to their senior year. Most complete their internships in the summer between the junior and senior year of school at a variety of businesses in the Research Triangle such as SAS Institute, Verizon, EMC Corporation, and the Town of Cary, NC Information Technology Department. At least half of the hands-on experience must be technology-based. AOIT internships are different from a typical summer job because students are required to participate in variety of activities that help link what they learned in the classroom to what they experience at the work site. To help connect their internship to their academic learning, student interns are asked to create a Linked-in presence and contribute to an AOIT blog in which they share information about their internship experiences. A supervisor at the job site does an evaluation of the student. AOIT staff visit the workplace to review and discuss learning objectives with the student and the supervisor. When the students have completed their internships, they also are required to do a presentation about their internship experience at a special evening event.

Most AOIT students go on to postsecondary education. Many students credit their internship experiences with helping them understand critical elements of what they want to do in the future. On one hand, they might learn more about the possible requirements and challenges of their chosen field; on the other hand, they might discover that there is not a good match between what is required on the job and how they envision their future workselves – a potential computer programmer might learn that they would rather be part of a team rather than working alone on a problem. Their internship experiences help them to learn what they like, as well as what they do not like. Knowing this can help them make better postsecondary decisions.

Hartford Public Schools in Hartford, Connecticut is implementing internships at scale—paid internships are being implemented district-wide. Students who want a more focused education, different from a traditional comprehensive high school experience, can choose from among five career academies: the Journalism and Media Academy; Hartford High, Inc.; Pathways Academy of Technology; the Academy of Engineering and Green Technology at Hartford Public High School; and the Nursing Academy at Hartford Public High School. In coordination with the Capitol Workforce Partners, the local workforce development board, Hartford Public Schools places academy students in paid internships that are aligned with their academy theme. Some of these internships begin in the summer between their junior and senior year. Most of the internships continue in their senior year. Interns are placed in a variety of local businesses, community organizations, and non-profit organizations. For example, some Journalism and Media Academy students complete internships at the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network, while students in the Engineering and Green Technology Academy have opportunities to work at Northeastern Utilities.

These internship models show how we can meaningfully connect academic learning with the workplace. But, internships are not the only work-based learning opportunities we can consider. There are many work-based learning activities along the continuum of career awareness and exploration, career preparation, and career training and application that we can consider leading up to paid internships including: guest speakers, tours of workplaces, job and career fairs, shadowing/observation and mock interview opportunities, project-based learning based on real workplace problems, community service learning, mentoring programs, just to name a few. Trailblazing Next Gen High School leaders put these activities in a sequence of opportunities that allow students to deepen their understanding of the world of work over time. When students have the opportunity to combine these practical work-related experiences with classroom instruction, they are better able to see the relevance of their education. Our goal should be to make these opportunities available to every student, preferably as part of a well-coordinated, increasingly hands-on sequence of learning experiences.