Does the typical high school education adequately prepare students for career success? While some students will graduate from high-school and go on to post-secondary education, others will go straight from high school into the world of work. It is critical that the high school experience helps prepare youth for both further education and careers. One strategy that is becoming more common in high schools is the Career Academy approach. Career Academies typically include three key features: (1) they are organized as small learning communities to create a more supportive, personalized learning environment; (2) they combine academic and career and technical curricula around a career theme to enrich teaching and learning; and (3) they establish partnerships with local employers to provide career awareness and work-based learning opportunities for students. Career Academies are one of the few youth education and training programs that have been rigorously evaluated. Based on MDRC studies (http://www.mdrc.org/project/career-academies-exploring-college-and-career-options-ecco#featured_content) they have a positive impact.
Building in part from this evidence base, the Department of Labor recently announced an exciting grant opportunity called Youth Career Connect that will award up to $100 million in grant funds to 25 to 40 grantees using funding from H-1B fees. In response to industry skill shortages in high-growth industries and occupations, Congress established the H-1B visa category for non-immigrants seeking work in high-skill or specialty occupations (in industries such as engineering, information technology, and health care), and imposed a user fee on employers for H-1B visa applications. The Youth Career Connect grant funding will provide high school students with education and training that combines rigorous academic and technical curricula focused on specific high-growth industries and occupations for which employers are using H-1B visas to hire foreign workers. The grants will also provide the related activities necessary to support such training in order to increase participants’ employability in H-1B in-demand industries and occupations. For more information about this grant opportunity, go to http://www.doleta.gov/grants/find_grants.cfm and www.doleta.gov/ycc.
Do any schools in your area have Career Academies or similar program models? Has your local workforce program had any role in helping high schools implement a Career Academy or similar program model?