Middle-skill jobs being created each year currently outpaces the number of qualified adults that can fill them, according to the United States Department of Education.
These middle-skill jobs are ones that require more than a high school diploma, but less than a bachelor’s degree. The demand for employees with middle-skills is high and not going away anytime soon.
The National Skills Coalition found that 53% of all jobs in 2015 required middle-skills, but only 43% of the employees in the United States have the credentials to hold these positions.
This study also found that the demand for these skills will continue. Between 2014-2024, 48% of job openings will require middle-skills.
These skills are acquired somewhere between secondary and traditional post-secondary education, so where do students begin to gain the skills necessary to fill this gap? Career and Technical Education (CTE) with the supplemental assistance of work-based learning opportunities
Filling the middle-skills gap with career and technical education
CTE is offered in nearly every high school in the United States, with nearly 75% of these programs offering dual credit.
Certificates like the First Aid and Food Handler certification for students interested in the culinary arts and the NIMS Level II (National Institute for Metalworking Skills) certification for students interested in metalworking can be earned before graduating from high school.
These dual credit programs allow students to get the credentials that they need to become employable and fill the middle-skills gap.
These credentials are given out in several ways. The most common ways to earn credit are on-the-job training, internships, clinical experience, or co-op education and CTE courses that offer secondary and post-secondary credit. Students can also seek mentoring by local employers and enroll in an apprenticeship.
These opportunities also allow students to receive different levels of training while exploring their interests in real-world settings.
Improving career readiness with work-based learning
Students perform better when they understand how what they learn in the classroom relates to the real world. This is where work-based learning comes into play for students enrolled in CTE programs.
Improving this dimension of education is important for both students and local employers.
Engaging students with work-based learning
As we previously mentioned, students perform better and are more engaged in their coursework when they see the connection between their education and the real world. The best way a student can get that connection and learn hands-on skills is through the practice of work-based learning. The presence of work-based learning in CTE curriculum even leads to higher enrollment in CTE.
Work-based learning can be equated to a college student spending a semester abroad being immersed in the language and culture of another country. When a student spends time getting real-world experience within an industry, they will either flourish as a result of the intense engagement or come to realize that they are not a fit. These are both positive results.
To create effective work-based learning experiences and improve CTE curriculum, districts and employers should work together to design these experiences for students.
Working with districts to create curriculum and align competencies seems like a lot of extra work for employers. Is there a benefit to being a part of the process?
Benefits for businesses
The growing skills gap has been a disputed issue for some time. Some say it exists, while others insist it does not. Regardless of whether or not writers and researchers believe that it exists, 73% of business leaders believe that there is a skills gap.
These business leaders see a disconnect between what is being taught in schools and what are minimum requirements for entry-level positions.
Businesses and students equally benefit when they partner with districts on work-based learning placement. For businesses, these benefits include:
- access to a talent pipeline (students get training for specific employers and the way they do things);
- increased name recognition in their communities; and
- the communities in which they are based see long-term economic development.
The benefits of connecting employers and students are there, so how can it be done easily and at scale?
Connecting students to work-based learning opportunities with Awato
Schools need an easy way to connect students with employers. The processes of identifying employers, building relationships, managing paperwork, identifying competencies, and placing students are too time-consuming to do for a large percentage of a school’s population.
Awato can make this entire process simple and easy for students, educators, and employers:
- Employers have the ability to create their own page and list their open positions that are available for students using the Awato platform.
- Students are automatically connected to opportunities that would be the best for them based on their assessment results.
- Educators can easily facilitate all the needed documentation within the platform to seamlessly get students hands-on experience with local employers.