A new initiative by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction seeks to improve the job prospects of high school students unable to attend a four-year institution.
The department has launched a pilot program — Pathways to Prosperity — in certain parts of the state that explores the hiring needs of businesses.
Joanne Honeycutt, director of career and technical education for the Department of Public Instruction, said this program will eventually be used to connect students with their desired careers by providing counseling and further academic and technical training.
“It’s a different way of thinking,” she said.
The Department of Public Instruction will be working closely with the N.C. Community College System to increase awareness about vocational training programs.
The program was inspired by a report issued by the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The report criticizes the country’s public school systems for pressuring students to enroll in four-year institutions.
“The American system for preparing young people to lead productive and prosperous lives as adults is clearly badly broken,” the report said.
“Our current system places far too much emphasis on a single pathway to success: attending and graduating from a four-year college after completing an academic program of study in high school.”
Van Wilson, associate vice president of student learning and success at the N.C. Community College System, said he was enthusiastic that the new program will better incorporate employers and businesses in the education of students.
June Atkinson, N.C. superintendent of public schools, said the program aims to help students find a career path by connecting them with employers and educators.
She said the program will give greater value to career and technical educations, and connect students to the increasing numbers of middle skill jobs in the health, science, engineering and manufacturing industries.
North Carolina is one of six states to launch such a program.
Honeycutt said the state is working with the Harvard Graduate School of Education to explore the labor needs of industries in the northeastern and southwestern portions of the state — areas that were identified as facing unique economic hardship.
She said the new initiative will supplement, but not replace, local job-placement and training initiatives that exist at the county level.
Wilson said an inaugural meeting will be held in the fall to determine how community colleges can help the program proceed.
Nancy Hoffman, vice president and senior advisor of Jobs for the Future, said she believes the program will provide good jobs and educational opportunities for low-income young adults.
She said her group hopes to help the state in establishing the program.
“We look forward to working with North Carolina and like the many things North Carolina brings to this agenda,” Hoffman said.
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