In California -- indeed throughout the nation -- high schools are failing our youth. The most recent data of graduation rates provided by the California Department of Education (CDE) illustrate a still worrying trend: Nearly 20 percent of all high school students fail to achieve a high school diploma. And the total numbers are staggering. Nearly 60,000 kids each year are abandoned by The Golden State’s public school system. Yet, while there are significant numbers who do find avenues to programs to eventually earn that diploma, the added numbers of yo
ung adults who are left without a viable future in the workforce is deplorable.
There are many reasons for this sustaining trend, and not all of them are without factors related to communities and families/socioeconomic and cultural focus, but in the main the public school insistence on placing all students on a path to a four-year college is a real barrier to achievement.
Not All High School Students Should Go To College
We are telling a lie to our high school youth in this country. You have no viable opportunity to a bright future if you don’t go to college and obtain at least a four year degree. In fact, our high school graduation standards are fully based on requirements for a college track. And while no one denies that not all students are made for a college degree, there is no effort in our public school system to provide even a modicum of discussion, no matter even direction or training for anything other than a four year degree future.
Yet, that’s not always been so.
High School CTE Program Cuts
In California in recent years, the last vestiges of the Career Technical Programs (CTE) in high schools (ROP, related workforce development training programs) were devastated by budget decisions which demonstrated fully the bias that what we call the Educational Industrial Complex exacts on the future of our youth programs.
The simple fact is, there are more than 6 million work ready employment opportunities that go unfilled in our country this year, and according to the Department of Labor, as many as 10 million new opportunities in the next four years. These aren’t minimum wage summer employment jobs; these are high skilled, non-four year degree careers that are ready and waiting.
Investing in America’s Workforce
The National Skills Coalition, for instance, convenes the Campaign to Invest in America’s Workforce, a diverse coalition of 40 national organizations formed in response to the ongoing threat to funding for workforce training and education programs that are critical to filling the skills gap and getting America’s workers back to work. CIAW calls on a to commit to investing, more broadly and more effectively, in the skills of America’s workforce—through our nation’s workforce development, youth, adult education, career and technical education, and industry-targeted higher education programs—so that more people can develop market-ready skills to meet the needs of U.S. industries and the larger U.S. economy.
And while these programs are vital and necessary, we need to go further. We need to commit these programs to our high school and after school program curriculum and re-make high school graduation to permit these workforce development programs to achieve a path for student who otherwise are lost in our traditional one-size-fits-all four year college track.
And never more critical are these proposals in the need to address critical needs in our communities to address high school to work programs for underserved at-risk youths in Sacramento and secure a bright future for Sacramento high school aged youth.
The sad and stunning fact is; the jobs exist. We only lack the political/societal will to train our youth to achieve and succeed in them.
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