How Career-Focused Education Benefits Students and Businesses Alike

Today’s education institutions are partnering with local businesses and industry sectors in increasingly innovative ways to ensure graduates enter the workforce with a set of practical skills and a clear pathway to their future careers. While these partnerships provide students with confidence and drive, they also provide growing industries with qualified job candidates that possess the specialized talent needed to sustain forward momentum. Career-focused education can take many forms and encompass a wide variety of professions and subject areas. Here are a few examples:

  1. Career technical education (CTE) is a model that has been used to teach students both technical skills and academics for more than 100 years. In a CTE model, students as young as middle school through post-secondary programs have the option to take courses that provide hands-on experience learning skills that fall within several specified industry tracks. Those tracks can include things such as agriculture, health science, construction, and hospitality. It is not uncommon in this model for a student to split his or her time between traditional academic classes (sometimes taken at the student’s local school) and skill-based classes (sometimes taken at a career-technical education center).

    • For students — Since CTE can span many industry sectors and career paths, it provides students early opportunities for career exploration while also equipping them with real-world skills necessary for in-demand jobs. Additionally, in certain instances, students can earn college credit for completing career-technical education courses that ultimately give them a head start on post-secondary educational goals.

    • For employers — In most cases, CTE programs work closely with local businesses to identify in-demand jobs and skills that inform the classes and skills that are offered through the CTE program. This is an important way to ensure a talent pool of skilled candidates from which a business can hire in the future.

  2. Work-based learning is a model in which schools and employers partner to provide students with opportunities to learn a skill or trade while simultaneously gaining real-life work experience. Typically, a work-based learning program will couple the student’s real-life work experience with classroom learning. These programs ensure students continue to receive academic instruction while immersing them in the real-world workplace of a partner employer.

    • For students — Through work-based learning, students are taught not only the technical side of performing a job function, but they also learn life skills to prepare them for the leap from high school to the workplace. These arrangements often lead to full-time employment for students upon program completion.

    • For employers — When employers offer work-based learning opportunities to students, they are able to specifically train to their workplace and skill needs. Often when a work-based learning experience goes well for both the student and the employer, it can mean the employer is able to fill workplace needs with a new, pre-trained employee upon the student’s program completion.

  3. Career academies are an innovative approach to career-focused education whereby employers and post-secondary schools partner with local high schools to sponsor an entire academy. While there are a variety of implementations, a typical academy functions much like a school within a school where students choose a program of study related to a sponsoring industry sector or college major. Students in the same program form a cohort who works with a team of teachers to ensure they receive both academic and technical learning.

    • For students — The academies serve to provide students with career exposure, specified training, and employment pathways. In addition to acquiring in-demand skills and hands-on experience, career academy students also benefit from small student cohorts and designated teaching teams.

    • For employers — Employers who sponsor career academies have the opportunity to engage their future workforce early, bring them along for industry changes and innovations, and shape skill sets that are responsive to evolving needs.

  4. Business advisory councils exist where a business community comes together to serve and inform the local school system. While these partnerships take many different forms, they typically feature an active engagement between employers and students such that students are exposed to in-demand jobs in their area and employers can speak to educators about specific skills and knowledge required to sustain the local workforce. It’s not uncommon for members of a business advisory council to organize internships, apprenticeships, career exploration days, and company tours for students.

    • For students — Much like career academies, when a business advisory council engages with schools, it exposes students to existing, local career options, and specifically, provides them with opportunities to learn about anticipated local workforce needs.

    • For employers — Participating in a local business advisory council offers employers a chance to build relationships with students and educators focused on in-demand skill sets. It can result in stronger community bonds, and ultimately, a local talent pool that possesses skills suited specifically to local industry needs.

In each of these models, employers and educators work together to create opportunities for individual growth as well as industry growth. By opening doors for individual students, career-focused learning also prepares a skilled pool of potential employees for local businesses. Both of these outcomes have the added benefit of supporting the community as a whole.

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Meet the Author

Mandy Minick – Author

Mandy Minick is the Principal and Founder at Minick Public Relations, LLC in Columbus, Ohio. For over 20 years, Mandy has built public relations and communications acumen from nearly every angle—as a reporter, working in state government, representing for-profit businesses, advocating for non-profit organizations, and as press secretary and chief communications officer for the Ohio Department of Education. Here she served under two state superintendents of public instruction as they navigated a statewide school-building closure and helped to guide and support the education system through the challenges and aftermath of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Mandy holds bachelor’s degrees in English/Journalism (B.A.) and Mass Communication/Public Relations (B.S.) from Miami University. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Mount Carmel College of Nursing and was privileged to serve oncology patients at The Ohio State University James Cancer Hospital. She enjoys tackling amateur home improvements, reading biographies, and listening to podcasts.

Emily Fabiano – Co-author

Emily Fabiano is the founder of Workmorphis, a cross-sector workforce consultancy helping organizations build a more resilient workforce to thrive in a changing economy. Fabiano has deep experience in workforce transformation at the government level, working at the cross section of workforce strategy, economic development, and public policy. With a keen understanding of the unique challenges facing today’s and tomorrow’s workforce and the ability to communicate across sectors, Fabiano brings a new level of understanding and collaboration required to connect industry and education and prepare people for jobs.

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