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My Turn: It’s time to rethink the pathway to school and career success

For the Monitor
Published: 9/8/2017 11:00:11 AM

David Brooks’s article about the recently released New Hampshire Employment Security report on “middle education” jobs in New Hampshire (Monitor front page, Sept. 4) highlights a growing concern here in New Hampshire and across the country about the need for a more efficient and effective approach toward preparing high school students for both higher education and the workforce.

With less than a third of the state’s adult workers having a bachelor’s degree or higher, the established college track “road to success” model – roundly embraced by educators and parents – is leaving a lot of kids behind. And it certainly fails to address the needs of many New Hampshire employers, who are looking for workers with technical and employability (a.k.a. soft) skills, and are more than willing to invest in employee education and training.

New Hampshire’s Community College System and the 27 high school Career and Technical Education centers across the state are addressing this need by promoting a “Career Pathways” approach to education that encourages parents and students to rethink the road to success. The Career Pathways model engages all students, as early as middle school, by exposing them to industry professionals, technical skills and applied academics, and by showing them how to incorporate these into a workable, and lifelong, college and career development plan.

Many students, at age 18, have little knowledge of careers unless it was gained incidentally through their parents or other adults in their lives. We owe it to our students to provide them with career-based opportunities and formal learning experiences that will help them to take a more pragmatic, purposeful and cost-effective approach toward career building.

Career advancement, in its new form, looks less like a straight march through expensive layers of education toward employment and more like a dance between education and employment that continually shifts between on-the-job experience, employer-based training and post-secondary schooling. This model ensures a more targeted educational approach, some of which is paid for by the employer.

Rethinking the road to success means taking the time to step back from the traditional college track model long enough to gain some perspective as to whether or not that approach fits the reality of your financial and educational situations, or your student’s level of preparedness.

For some, it’s definitely the right choice for the right reasons. But for many, the right decision will be to take a more layered and economical approach that blends employment, training, stackable credentials and post-secondary education into a steady and more targeted trek toward career development and success.

For both these groups, however, high school CTE programs and the Career Pathway approach are a proven way to jump-start that journey.

(Steve Rothenberg is the director of Concord Regional Technical Center and president of the New Hampshire Career and Technical Education Administrators Association.)

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