Originally published in The Arizona Republic – November 23, 2018
I have the unique opportunity to put students on the path to success. And I don’t take this responsibility for granted.
Whether I’m connecting teachers to the resources they need or reviewing anew curriculum, I think about how my decisions will affect my students — well after their high school graduation.
And as the demand for online schooling continues to grow, I know I can help prepare them for the rapidly changing job market that awaits them. One critical way students across Arizona are getting this kind of preparation is through career readiness programs.
Experts tell us more than 50 million job openings will be created by 2020. Many of these jobs will require a four-year college degree. But a lot of these jobs—30 percent of them actually—won’t require a four-year degree. These jobs are what we now refer to as “new collar.” New collar jobs like web developers, computer specialists, cybersecurity technicians, and field service engineers are currently in high demand. I believe Arizona students who’ve had hands-on experience in these fields and others should be first in line for these opportunities.
Today, through career readiness programs, students are receiving the experience and/or the specialized certifications they need to succeed in the twenty-first century workforce. Students as young as ninth graders are getting the chance to explore different career paths and train for jobs in expanding fields like information technology, health science, business management, manufacturing, agriculture, and more. High school students also receive the extra support they need to help them standout in the workforce. For example, ex-pert teachers—many 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. Students also 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 state, only “44 percent of the state’s workers likely have the appropriate training” for available new collar jobs,according to the National Skills Coalition. Career readiness programs are designed to help bridge this gap. Top employers are desperately seeking workers to fill the new collar jobs of today and to-morrow. Again, thousands of positions in hundreds of fields are vacant because so many of our graduates don’t have the skills they need to fill them. So it’s clear—we must work harder to connect students to career readiness training and programs as early as possible in their academic careers.
I urge parents to seek out the programs in Arizona that address such an important need during such an important time in our country. Not only should we strive to meet industry demands, we also have a responsibility to help students reach their full potential with meaningful, rewarding careers. Personalized education will continue to play an important role in this vital effort. Because each and every student needs a chance to find their way in the world, and they need access to the best tools our state can give them.
Kelly Van Sande is Head of School at Arizona Virtual Academy and Insight Academy of Arizona.