What skills are necessary for a young person to be considered "career ready?" And are those the same skills necessary to do well in college? That's been one of the most debated questions in education policy in the last few years, and yet the answer still depends on who you're asking.
In the hope of guiding education policy, more than two dozen business and education groups have come together as the Career Readiness Partner Council to try to forge a shared definition of what it means to be ready for good jobs.
The four-page statement attempts to fuse various ways of conceptualizing career readiness, from acquiring skills specific to a given sector or entry-level job to mastering broader workplace skills.
On the academic side, it says that career-ready students need to be proficient in core academic subjects, as well as in technical skills associated with specific career fields or pathways. It outlines a range of overarching skills and dispositions, too, such as strong communications skills, the ability to work in teams and independently, and effective use of technology. And it says that the knowledge, skills, and dispositions "vary from one career to another and change over time" as a person develops.
Prevailing education rhetoric embraces these things in its "college and career readiness" dialogue, the group says, but hasn't emphasized another key element: "engaging workplace experiences" such as internships or service learning that allow students to apply these skills alongside experienced professionals.
The statement suggests that career readiness shouldn't be viewed just as a student descriptor, but as a descriptor of an entire education system. Take a look at this:
Career readiness also requires a comprehensive system of supports that deliver learning when it is needed, where it is needed, how it is needed, and by a cadre of experts that includes teachers and career professionals. It includes both classroom and workplace experiences, high-quality standards and instructional materials to support learning, a portfolio of assessments that gauge progress using multiple measures along a continuum from being not at all career-ready to fully career-ready, and finally, a policy and funding structure that is aligned across K-12, higher education, and business and industry sectors.
It's interesting to note the membership roster of the council. It's led by the National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium, and includes other major career-tech players like the Association for Career and Technical Education. Groups that have focused on college readiness, such as Achieve, are on the list, alongside foundations, higher education organizations, the National Governors Association, and an array of education groups like the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Association of State Boards of Education.
Also listed as a member is the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, one of the two federally funded state consortia that are designing tests for the common standards. As we reported earlier, the group has endorsed the council's career-readiness statement. The other consortium, PARCC, is not a member. A PARCC spokesman said the group had only recently received the statement and would review it.