Learning to work: New program bridges the divide between K-12 and careers

"Raise the Bar: Unlocking Career Success Initiative" was launched Monday by the U.S. Depts. of Education, Commerce and Labor.

K-12 leaders and their teams are about to get a big boost in their efforts to create new career pathways and expand their students’ access to high-quality training programs.

A program designed to give students more work-based learning experiences was launched Monday by the U.S. Departments of Education, Commerce and Labor. “Raise the Bar: Unlocking Career Success Initiative,” supported by an initial $5.6 million in funding, will also offer administrators updated guidance on using federal funds to develop and expand registered apprenticeships and other career pathways connected to in-demand industries such as advanced manufacturing and cybersecurity.

The Department of Education is also planning a series of regional CTE-focused summits for students, educators, employers, and other stakeholders. “It’s time we bridge the divide between our K-12 systems and our college, career, and industry preparation programs, which leave too many students behind and perpetuate inequities in our most diverse, underserved, and rural communities,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

“An education system reimagined for the 21st century engages youth of all ages in the power of career-connected learning and provides every student with the opportunity to gain real-life work experience, earn college credits, and make progress towards an industry credential before they graduate high school,” Cardona added.

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A highlight of the initiative is the “Career Z Challenge: Expanding Work-Based Learning Opportunities,” a competition that will culminate in spring 2023. The challenge will bring together employers from multiple sectors to collaborate around providing more comprehensive work-based learning opportunities for students. The leading projects will receive targeted technical assistance including professional development support, webinars and training, the Department of Education says.

The Biden-Harris Administration’s FY 2023 Budget proposal would invest $200 million in “career-connected” high schools and grants to innovative districts. The funding would also support partnerships between districts, higher ed institutions and employers to enhance dual enrollment and career counseling programs. The administration’s budget proposal includes an overall $1.4 billion for CTE  programs.

“America is home to some of the world’s brightest and most ambitious students and we owe it to them to set them up for success,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “Career-connected education programs are essential to the success of the American economy and will spur a new generation of researchers, engineers and manufacturers in critical industries.”

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Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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