By: Leilani Brown, Senior Vice President Strategic Partnerships & External Engagement, K12 Inc.
For a very long time, the goal has been to get more kids into four-year colleges. Many perceived this as the formula for success. But technology has forced us to rethink this traditional model. And it has compelled us to reckon with the difference between more education and the right education. The emerging gig economy, developing industries, the workplace, and the workforce present very different career paths and options than what we knew about decades ago. Because of this, some students are opting to work and pursue a degree simultaneously while others are heading to the workforce right after high school. Many of our high school graduates and young adults often struggle to navigate the complexities of it all. But there is good news—career readiness training and online education are tools we can use to address these challenges.
According to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, there will be an estimated 55 million job openings created by 2020. More than 30 percent of these will be new collar jobs or jobs that require education and training beyond high school but less than a bachelor's degree. These are the jobs that a growing number of top employers—from Google and Apple to IBM and Ernst and Young—are trying desperately to fill. Jobs like software engineers, security analysts, computer support specialists, and web developers. The caveat is that we don't have enough skilled workers to fill these openings. So one thing is certainly clear—there's a disconnect between what schools are offering and the paths students are encouraged to pursue.
At K12, one of the ways we envision bridging this gap is by building a national infrastructure for career readiness programs. Part of our work on this front is the expansion of our 13 Destinations Career Academies and Programs. Combined, these schools currently offer more than 180 career-oriented courses and served more than 7,000 students in September 2018. They also offer complete career pathways designed to prepare students for certification exams such as the National Occupational Competency Testing Institute Business Information Processing exam, the Microsoft® Office Specialist Certification exam, the ServSafe Food Handler Certification exam, and the Certified Nursing Assistant Certification exam. To build on these offerings and others, we plan to triple our Destinations programs over the coming years.
Another exciting part of growing our national infrastructure is collaboration and partnership. It is unfortunate how little interaction there is between most schools and the workplace. At K12, we want to change that. By 2020, it's expected that 65 percent of all U.S. jobs will need postsecondary education and training of some kind. We want K12-powered students to be prepared for that reality. To do this, we are aligning with higher education institutions, school districts, and industry partners to offer career training. We are working to pair this training with summer jobs, externships, paid internships, drop-in training, and part-time and full-time employment opportunities. It's important to help our students learn how to build relationships with employers and use their professional skills to thrive in the workplace. It's also critical that we connect our students to career opportunities after graduation and beyond. Building a national infrastructure with strong partnerships will help ensure we get this right.
Even though K12 is rooted in an online learning environment, we are also rapidly expanding a blended learning option for our career readiness pathways to provide students with hands-on experience in everything from learning how to operate a CAD machine to learning the ins-and-outs of an electric circuit. We partner with unions and companies that offer the in-person training students need for these courses.
In the months and years ahead, we'll continue to empower a broader range of students and student abilities as we mold a larger population of workforce-ready graduates. We know that education is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Every young person in our country deserves the chance to succeed—and we know that there are incredible opportunities waiting for each and every one of them. We want to send K12-powered students into the world with a running start. The best way to do this is to give them the power to choose the post-graduation path that works best for them.