Originally published in the Idaho Statesman – November 20, 2018
Every day, I have the chance to make a difference in a student’s life. Whether I’m reviewing a new curriculum or researching a new learning program, I think about how my decisions will affect students — well beyond their high school graduation. And as the demand for online schooling continues to grow, I know I’m in a unique position to help prepare them for the rapidly changing job market that awaits them. One important way students across Idaho are getting this kind of preparation is through career readiness programs.
Experts tell us that more than 50 million job openings will be created by 2020. Many of these jobs will require a four-year college degree. This includes traditional careers like accountants and lawyers, teachers and doctors. But a lot of these jobs — 30 percent of them, to be exact — won’t require a four-year degree. These jobs are what the experts are calling “new collar.” New-collar positions like pharmacy technicians, software engineers, cybersecurity architects and security analysts are already in high demand. I believe that Idaho students who’ve had hands-on experience in these fields of interest and others should be first in line for these kinds of opportunities.
Right now, through career readiness programs and initiatives, students are getting the experience and/or the specialized certifications they need to succeed. Students as young as sixth, seventh and eighth-graders are getting the chance to explore different career paths and train for jobs in growing fields such as information technology, health science, business management, manufacturing, agriculture, and more. Middle school and high school students are also getting the extra support they need to make them stand out in the workforce.
For example, expert teachers — most of whom have experience in the fields they teach — often provide instruction and first-hand experience designed to help students find the path that works best for them. Many students are also required to regularly meet with certified counselors to help them map out their potential college and career goals.
But career readiness programs aren’t just great tools for students — they’re great for employers, too. Across the country, some employers have noted that up to 500 jobs at their company went unfilled over the past year. Career readiness programs are designed to help bridge this gap. Top employers such as Google, Apple and IBM are desperately seeking workers to fill the new-collar jobs of today and tomorrow. That’s why we need to work harder to encourage more students to participate in career readiness training and programs.
I urge parents to seek out the schools in Idaho that are meeting such a critical need at a critical time in our country. Not only should we be focused on filling industry demands, but we must also focus on helping students reach their full potential with meaningful, rewarding careers. Personalized education will continue to play an important role in this vital effort because every student deserves a sense of belonging and purpose. And they need access to the best resources our state can offer them.