The Commonwealth has embarked on a high level, ambitious effort to increase the career readiness of many of its students, both in high school and adult settings. Under the guidance of the Workforce Skills Cabinet, and with the active involvement of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Office for College, Career and Technical Education, the state has launched an initiative to scale up “High Quality College and Career Pathways” (HQCCPs) across the state. Its motives are two-fold: to support better outcomes for our students, and to address the needs of employers and the workforce, especially related to existing “skill gaps” where employers cannot find qualified applicants for current and upcoming openings. Generally, this effort is seen as critical to maintaining the state’s competitive position in the country, and even globally.
A significant driver of the HQCP work is the grant funding the state received from the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) through the “New Skills for Youth” project. Massachusetts is proud to be one of ten states that advanced to the implementation phase of this work in January, having been among 24 states (plus D.C.) that received planning grants in spring 2016. This national project is designed to scale up access to career pathways around the country. In Massachusetts, the NSFY effort is multi-faceted, and has been designed to significantly increase the number of HQCCP(s) that are available to students. One of the core components of this new work is Career Advising, and a strategy to address this is described below.
The NSFY work is underway and will continue through 2019. Current efforts include:
- The development of a set of six minimum characteristics needed for HQCP(s) in our schools: 1) career advising, 2) work-based learning, 3) integration of academic and technical instruction, 4) secondary-postsecondary linkages, 5) credential attainment, and 6) alignment with the labor market.
- The improvement of ESE’s data collection methods so that student participation in these activities can be tracked, analyzed, and increased.
- The creation of a significant new training effort about career advising, to be offered to counselors and other educators that offer career advisement to students, to be integrated into any new career pathways that are being designated as HQCCPs, and more generally to be offered to all students whether in a career pathway or not.
The career advisement training program envisioned by the state’s NSFY initiative will be developed in partnership with Massachussetts School Counselors Association, and with the input of a wide range of experts. New curricula and other materials needed by students for authentic career awareness, exploration and immersion, and for more informed decision-making about college and career choices, will be developed in FY18. The envisioned training program for counselors will be launched late in FY18 or in FY19. Stay tuned from more information about this exciting project.