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Career education with the future employer in mind

Improvements in education

A corporate-led movement is afoot in the U.S. to remake old-school vocational education into new-school “career education” that includes earning valuable college credits while still in high school. 

To understand why, look not further than Gumesh Balkisson. 

The 17-year old senior at William Penn High School in New Castle, Del., is preparing for a career in construction management and electrical engineering. In his junior year at William Penn, Balkissoon applied for a highly competitive two-year program at Delaware Technical Community College to get hands-on experience and earn college credit.

 “Only a certain amount of people make the cut,” Balkissoon said.

Last summer, he landed a job at Agilent Technologies building gas chromatography ovens that can detect trace elements in blood samples and other substances. It was his first job ever.  

“I didn’t even know how to start a resume,” he recalled. “Del Tech started off by teaching me how to build a resume. They prepared me a lot. Without them I don’t think a big company like {Agilent] would take on someone like me.”

Taking aim at youth unemployment

Balkissoon got his opportunity through an innovative state education program called Pathways to Prosperity. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell started the initiative in 2014 as part of a plan to increase the number of employable young people in the state with post-secondary education credentials. 

“In a world where it is all about talent, the opportunity to help young people is extraordinary,” Markell said. “It’s great to see this expansion [of the Pathways program].”

Delaware is one of 10 states sharing nearly $20 million in grants from JPMorgan Chase through a program with the Council of Chief State School Officers. The grants, announced on Wednesday, also went to other path-breaking career education initiatives in Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Wisconsin. 

Each state’s two-year program gives high-schoolers practical experience, on-hands training and college credit so they become more employable. The programs take extra care to align their education efforts to meet the needs of employers. 

One of those employers could well be JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, whose bank funds a $75 million global initiative to help students prepare for their careers. In December, Dimon was named the head of the Business Roundtable, an advocacy group of nearly 200 chief executives of large companies in the U.S. This week, he told CBS News he intends to push for public policies that can help more young Americans enter the workforce. 

“There is an economic and moral imperative in this country that we get jobs for kids,” Dimon said. “America needs to compete around the world and if we don’t have trained employees, we’re not going to compete as well.  And we have too many kids, particularly in inner city schools, who don’t graduate -- or if they do graduate, they’re not qualified for a job.”

Dimon said forward-thinking career education programs like Pathways to Prosperty offer “the things needed -- from social skills to specific skills -- to get kids jobs. Radiology, aviation, coding: There’s going to be 16 million jobs available in the next seven or eight years, or something like that, and these kids want jobs. These are middle class jobs. These jobs pay $40,000 to $60,000 a year. And it has to be done with companies and government. It cannot be done by one or the other.”

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