Education’s number one goal is preparing students for the future. That doesn’t have to mean preparing them for college.

In its executive summary on job growth and education requirements through 2020, Georgetown University states:

  • 36% of jobs in 2020 didn’t require a college degree
  • 18% only required some college
  • 10% of jobs in 2020 required post-secondary vocational certificates
  • 12% simply required an associate degree

In another survey published by The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, 81% of students felt that high school prepares them “very” or “somewhat” ready for college, while only 52% felt it prepared them for the workforce.

So, what other post high school pathways are open to students, and can those pathways start before high school graduation?

Engaged students stay in school

No matter what pathway a student takes in and after high school, it’s critical to get them engaged in their educations.

In 2020, the high school dropout rate was 5.1%, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. That’s two million students who dropped out. A big contributor to that its students not understanding why they’re learning what they’re learning or seeing value in it.

In fact, 66% of high school students say they’re “not engaged” or are “actively disengaged” in their education. Engagement is critical in students staying in school.

So how do educators and parents engage students in their educations?

One of the best ways to get students on the right path is to connect them with their natural talents. YouScience Discovery is one way to do that. It shows students their aptitudes along with careers based on performance measures of aptitude. Students see careers they may have never thought of the educational pathways to get there — whether college or not, and employers who want and need their natural talents.

Pathway one: Career and technical education

While a four-year degree is important for many students — especially if their ideal job is among the 64% that do require a college degree—college may not be the best pathway or even a needed pathway for others.

Career and technical education (CTE) programs are one non-college pathway to prepare students for the workforce. These programs also engage students in what they’re learning. CTE programs in high school:

  • Show students tangible proof of their skills and what they’re learning and why
  • Give students access to entry- and mid-level certifications that let them enter the workforce right after high school or use to skip college courses.
  • Are more likely to graduate high school.

According to A Guide to Understanding Career and Technical Education by the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), “The average high school graduation rate for students concentrating in CTE programs is substantially higher than the average national freshman graduation rate.”

The US Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical and Adult Education also found that graduation rates go up when students are in CTE programs.

For students aligned with careers that don’t require higher education, CTE courses are critical. In its article, Graduating High School with CTE Certifications, the Edmonton Blog sheds light on how certifications in high school help students  in the workforce, “According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Handbook, many of the fastest-growing jobs through 2024 will be in CTE fields. In fact, many high-demand careers require certifications instead.

“This is great news for high school students who want options other than going straight into post-secondary education. In a high school CTE program, students can work toward a certification in many fields, such as certified nursing assistant or welder, while they are earning their high school diploma. This gives those students the opportunity to embark on a career right after high school. In many cases, these certifications can give students an advantage over other applicants in the job market.”

CTE isn’t limited to work-related certificates though. Students can also certify their soft skills (also known as 21st Century skills) too.

Career certifications at work

One business helping hiring students directly from high school is Whitaker Construction in Midvale, Utah. Whitaker fills entry-level positions with high school students that have career skills certificates and an interest in construction.

Whitaker knows the type of employees it needs, those who enjoy working with their hands and being outside. And the company gives preference to applicants who’ve earned certifications in architecture and construction trades.

“We have everything in our careers from entry-level laborers, so a kid walking right out of high school could walk in and get a job, and we’ll provide all the training and build them up. From a laborer, they would go either to a pipe fuser or pipe layer or pipefitter. They would then graduate to a heavy equipment operator, and we would help them along with all of their training,” said Jake Hinckley, director of workforce development and training for Whitaker Construction.

Pathway two: Post-secondary schooling

For students meant for careers that do require a college degree, post-secondary schooling is the right pathway. Still:

For students who drop out or change majors, the added costs of post-secondary education add up.

And even for students bound for college, preparing for the workforce isn’t a clear-cut path. They too need to understand their destination, so they have confidence going into college — or in high school — in the path they’re on.

Connecting industry to students matters too

While education is key to preparing students for work. Industry needs to play a role as well.

Connecting industry leaders to high school students who’ve uncovered their natural talents and potentially earned certifications in specific Career Clusters is critical. It’s not enough for industry to sit and wait for skilled candidates to come to them.

A staggering 60% of employers say the limited supply of talent is their top business challenge.

Industry leaders can influence their future talent pipelines by helping guide students to the right skills and getting in front of students at an early age.

Industry knows the talents needed in future jobs. They can help guide a skilled workforce by helping create the standards used for certifications exams in CTE programs, such as those used by Precision Exams by YouScience.

Employers can also connect with students while they’re still in school. Employers can get in front of their future talent pipelines on social media and with tools such as Employer Connections in the YouScience Platform. Employer Connections shows students employers based on the aptitudes uncovered in YouScience Discovery as well as by certifications they’ve earned.

Business can take advantage of career fairs at high schools and other programs, such as pre-apprenticeships, internships, and on-the-job training (OJT) opportunities as well.

Preparing students for the workforce takes both education and industry

Preparing students for the workforce may mean college or it may not. Regardless of the pathway students follow, ensuring they’re engaged and see value in what they’re learning is critical. So is ensuring they know all their options and are exposed to roles they’re naturally wired to do well, not just roles they see on TV or in movies.

Preparing students takes a community — one that includes educators and industry. Encouraging industry to connect with education by offering visibility, internships and training to students bridges the skills gap and creates a pool of qualified talent.

It gives students a chance who otherwise may feel there isn’t one. And that can change the world.

To find out whether your aptitude for spatial visualization makes you the next Tony Stark, or another job that will make you just as successful, try YouScience Aptitude & Career Discovery for yourself.

Talk to us how YouScience Brightpath is revolutionizing how individuals, education, and industries connect and succeed.