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What Does 'Career-Ready' Mean, Anyway?

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For those of you who've been asking yourselves what this push for "college and career readiness" will actually mean, the Education and Labor Departments are trying to flesh things out a bit.

Both the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' occupational classification system and the Education Department's academic program classifications have been revised this year, so the two agencies are taking the opportunity to realign the two. They are producing a "crosswalk" tool to analyze the relationships between the academic courses available and the needs of local labor markets. At the same time, the bureau is also developing a new National Employment Matrix to describe requirements for 750 different jobs, from teaching to chemical engineering.

The matrix will lay out the typical education degrees, work experience, state licensing or certification and on-the-job training needed to be considered competent (and thus employable) in different jobs, according to Dixie Sommers, the Labor Department's assistant commissioner for occupational statistics and employment projections.

Both labor and education officials hope to use the new crosswalk tool and employment matrix to explore, "What is the intersection between education and employment? What happens to people come out of postsecondary degree programs; do they get a job [in field]?" Ms. Sommers said.

The education criteria can guide local officials on what businesses to solicit to bring in jobs for their community's education level. Yet for schools, the numbers also could prove helpful to keep students on track academically. For example, a guidance counselor working with a student interested in medicine can help him compare jobs available with a diploma, such as a physical therapist aide, all the way up to a neurosurgeon, which would require advanced doctoral work and fellowships, and other jobs in between.

Keep an eye out for an initial listing of 100 jobs described using the new criteria, which will be put out for public comment in the next few months.

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