If you are over the age of 25, ask yourself for a moment: how did your school experience prepare you for a career? If your answer was “very poorly,” or “not at all,” you are not alone! We are products of a long-standing educational model. Rate your experience compared to mine below for a moment.

As a sophomore in college, I was chatting with an advisor at my college as to a change of major. My career interests were in either education or chemical engineering. I had loved my math and science courses, choosing to major in biology as I entered college, but realized after a year that the jobs in the field of biology were not what I was after. When I told the advisor of my two possible aspirations, he asked if I liked money. I replied “Of course!” Right there, a chemical engineering major was born! One challenge that arose was that I specifically chose chemical engineering because I was very good at chemistry. What I was not told was that most of my coursework would be in physics, which happened to be my WORST subject in high school! In the end, I became a physics educator four years later, and have had a fulfilling career. However, my story, which is not unique, is not a template that I’d suggest students follow today.

So what has changed? Why not continue to have the two “tracks” that amounted to “college prep” and “vocational education” in high school? The simple answer is: technology. Today’s jobs require a solid educational base and training that exceeds high school, but falls far short of requiring a four year degree. Harvard University’s Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century, reported that the number of jobs requiring only a high school education have decreased from 72 percent in 1973 to just 41 percent in 2007. By 2018, that will continue to shrink to 36 percent according to the report. In fact:

“… the US economy will create some 47 million job openings over the ten-year period ending in 2018. Nearly two-thirds of these jobs, in the Center’s estimation, will require that workers have at least some post-secondary education.”

Consider that by 2018, openings for registered nurses and health technologists—positions that typically require an associate’s degree—are expected to grow by more than one million! Technology has changed not only how we live, but how we work!

As a result, today students have the opportunity to prepare for a well-paying job that requires a certificate, associates degree, or other credential but does not necessitate a four year degree. In fact, according to the Harvard study:

“Twenty seven percent of people with post-secondary licenses or certificates—credentials short of an associate’s degree—earn more than the average bachelor’s degree recipient.”

Think about it—these jobs are waiting, and workers in these fields do not have to spend tens of thousands of dollars for four years of college!

Because of this, education in the US is becoming more focused on career readiness. Many high schools, though not a majority, are providing career-related courses that help students explore possible career choices and learn skills and knowledge that they need to be job-ready, and some even provide opportunities for students to earn certificates while still in high school. Sometimes this is done through college courses at a local school, or online. We are proud, at K12, to be part of this wave of transformation by developing more courses, pathways, programs, and certification opportunities. In the future,we will write about some of the exciting opportunities that exist in fields like manufacturing, healthcare, business, and web design that K12 is making available to students. Why? So they have a better understanding of possible careers than we did! And so they will know how to prepare for the jobs they want, as many do not require a four-year degree but do require additional training.

For more on how today’s job market is changing and what students need to do to prepare for their careers, see Learning Liftoff’s Career Readiness Infographic.

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