LET'S EMPOWER THE LIVES OF STUDENTS TOGETHER!
Connect Education and the Future of Work
A lack of alignment among K–12, higher education, and the Future of Work threatens to compromise our resilience and success as a country.
The fundamental goals for American public education are to ensure that each student is prepared to be an active participant in a robust democracy and to be successful in the global economy. This requires coordinated efforts among government, philanthropy, the business community, and the education sector. However, as our nation’s economic and labor market opportunities evolve, the lack of alignment among K–12, higher education, and the Future of Work expose and compromise our resilience and success. Our institutions are working to meet the opportunities and demands of the future of work in relative isolation.
Systematic connections across the educational, political, and economic domains holistically prepare students for life, work, and citizenship.
Today’s high school students are arriving at college underprepared: 40% fail to graduate from four-year institutions, and 68% fail to graduate from two-year institutions. Yet the Future of Work will require higher — not lower — college graduation rates.
Already, our economy has 16 million recession-and automation-resistant middle-income jobs that require some postsecondary credentials, as well as 35 million jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Cultivating a Shared Purpose
By engaging in a shared review and understanding of data centered on the needs of all students, these communities of learning play an important role in cultivating a shared sense of purpose across a diversity of organizations and institutions. At the same time, they provide members with professional development, the opportunity to share best practices, and engage in collective problem-solving centered on improving college and career success.
Cocreating Inclusive Environments
This principle, which has its roots in user-centered design, encourages the consideration of various points of view when developing policies, prioritizing input from those who will be directly affected by the outcome. It also urges individuals to assess their own beliefs before creating policies that reverberate through the entire system, and advocates the shifting of power structures so that those most affected have the opportunity to share their perspectives and play a role in the decision-making process. Only by identifying the actors in the system, understanding their perspectives, and using their input can we create inclusive and effective programs.
Building Capacity that is Responsive to Change
In creating an infrastructure and processes that will be effective over the long term, it is crucial to acknowledge and accept the dynamic nature of the education system. This means prioritizing relationships and trust, and viewing a project’s initial implementation as the first of multiple iterations and trials, each of which considers the potential impact on different stakeholders. This is crucial because achieving broader coherence across the education system can seem daunting, so it is more manageable to identify a specific gap or disconnect to address, such as the transition from college to career.
Focusing on particular barriers and trying out solutions before prescribing them at scale acknowledges the dynamism of the sector and the complexities of coherence, while making meaningful progress on issues that matter.
One area of focus for the network has been ensuring student success beyond graduation through redesigning college-to-career supports to ensure better students find gainful employment upon graduation. The project uses design thinking, with its rapid prototyping of ideas and short feedback cycles, in service of reimagining career services to better support low-income students, first-generation students, and students of color.
The process of innovation starts with understanding the perspective of students and the current practices on campuses; providing career services professionals with the capacity, time, and connections they need to generate new campus solutions; and engaging employers and other stakeholders in the redesign.
An Integrative Pathway to the Future
Strides in educational coherence are being made on a regional level,
have adopted holistic cradle-to-career solutions that intentionally plan to mobilize K–12, higher education, community-based organizations, and local industry with the goal of helping 65 percent of local adults earn a postsecondary credential by 2025.
We must take a coherent approach to connecting education and the Future of Work, harnessing integrative design principles to foster progress, flexibility, and inclusivity. To improve today and prepare for the future, we must build on these ideas together. We must embrace a user-centered approach that is designed around our ultimate goal: empowering and equipping our nation’s youth for fulfilling, engaged lives and productive careers, now and for decades to come.