Since the late 1980s, most national business organizations have endorsed the need for a better transition from school to work in the United States. A high-quality school – to – work system would provide students with access to a full range of postsecondary options at two-year and four-year institutions.
And it would smooth the transition between the various sectors. Some of the strongest and best-known work -based learning programs already exist in four-year colleges and professional schools. The case studies of these programs across the United States have been critical components of the study. This analysis has identified key elements that are critical to the success of a school-to-work transition system. All of the elements listed in the work illustrate the full range of possible features that successful programs have employed. I will be examining what can be done to connect learning on the job with the learning that occurs in school.
Current and historical legislation related to school to work transition will be described.By the late 1980s, a strong need in new approaches to the transition from school to careers emerged. A handful of states and communities began to experiment with creating a uniquely American school – to – work system. Industries with critical labor shortages launched youth apprenticeships as a way to recruit skilled employees. These early efforts drew support from across the political spectrum. Programs of secondary and post-secondary education have increasingly come to mark themselves as vocational or academic (Brown, Halpern, Hasazi & Wehman 546).The rationale is to tailor the education of students to the needs and opportunities of the labor market.
In particular, vocational offerings of substance – business and commercial high- school programs for women and some trade and technical programs for men – have brought about a clear and consistent pattern of positive outcomes. Graduates of these programs had higher initial wages than their counterparts in both the general and academic curricula. Today, however, with few exceptions, the United States lacks this kind of institutionalized cooperation between schools and employers. In the absence of these stable institutional linkages, students take courses that lack real-world content, train on outmoded equipment, and graduate with little knowledge of their prospective employers’ needs.
That makes the initial labor-market experiences of young adults unstable – marked by high rates of job turnover in non-unionized employment situations. In the work I will describe current and historical legislation related to school to work transition. I will also study the nature and impact of programs designed to help students make the way between school and work in order to examine useful models and practices.Just a decade ago, no one had ever heard of school – to – work or school – to -career.
Today it is a growing and evolving endeavor that has captured the attention of government officials, businesspeople, schools, and parents. In 1990, Jobs for the Future, a nonprofit organization based in Boston, embarked on the National Youth Apprenticeship Initiative (McNair ; Rusch 100). With the support of such national foundations as the Pew Charitable Trusts, the DeWitt Wallace – Reader’s Digest Fund, and the Ford, Lilly, and Charles Stewart Mott foundations, it hoped to demonstrate a high-end model for school – to – work in the United States. The U.S. Department of Labor also provided demonstration grants for a handful of school – to – work programs. In 1992 the administration extended the program and focused it more specifically on youth apprenticeships.That same year the Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents state superintendents of education, provided support to five states to develop school – to – work initiatives.
In the 1992 presidential campaign, Republican candidate George Bush and Democratic candidate Bill Clinton both outlined initiatives to strengthen the school – to – work transition. The former Republican governor John R. McKernan, Jr., of Maine has been an outspoken advocate of school – to – work, as has Republican Governor Tommy G. Thompson of Wisconsin.
In 1994, Congress passed the School – to – Work Opportunities Act with overwhelming bipartisan support and the strong endorsement of national business and education groups. The National Association of Manufacturers, the National Alliance of Business, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Committee for Economic Development, the National Coalition for Advanced Manufacturing, and the National Employer Leadership Council all threw their weight behind the law.
By the fall of 1999, 37 states and about 100 communities had received implementation grants from the federal government. Federal funding through fiscal 1994 totaled $695 million. For every $2 in federal investment, another $1 in public and private monies was spent. That same year, the first 11 states to compile data reported 210 school – to – work partnerships, encompassing about 1,800 schools and 135,000 businesses. These employers provided more than 39,000 work -based learning sites and nearly 53,000 slots for students (School to Work Opportunities Act of 1994).For building an effective system states and districts design and implement new school-to-work transition systems. In East San Gabriel, California, as a first step in revitalizing its school-to-work transition system, the Regional Occupational Program (ROP) created a collaborative environment and an atmosphere that encouraged flexibility, trust, and acceptance of change and risk.
These attitudes were cultivated at all levels, and the resultant supportive atmosphere encompassed all program members and partners, including secondary and postsecondary schools, the school board, instructors, business partners, and students.The leadership that teachers and staff members bring to the Performance-Based Diploma Program (PBDP) in Fort Pierce, Florida, is essential to the success of the transition system. The PBDP is a self-paced mastery learning program designed as a school-within-a-school.
Academics are mastered through computer-assisted instruction. While the computer provides the lessons and the tests that each student must pass, the teachers manage a classroom with 30 students working on 30 different lessons at varying levels.The Comprehensive Employment Work and Transition (CEWAT) Program in Charlottesville, Virginia, strives to harness as many community resources as possible and to meld an array of transition services and activities in order to deliver opportunities to students with disabilities and to at-risk students who would otherwise drop out or leave school with few marketable skills. CEWAT’s team model includes multiple government agencies, community-based organizations, employers, employment service providers, counselors, instructors, and school administrators.Oregon’s Youth Transition Program (YTP) has demonstrated its effectiveness with a diverse range of students who have learning and behavioral disabilities, and elements of the program have been expanded and adapted to students in the general population.
One of the key elements of the YTP is an effort to foster self-determination in students. Students learn to assume increasing levels of responsibility for their lives in school, in the workplace, and at home.From its inception, the Graphics Arts Academy in Pasadena, California, had a vision of integrating academic and vocational study, specifically by combining the study of English, science, and mathematics with the study of printing. Both class projects and individual projects are designed to achieve such hands-on integration. For example, one class made books, combining the techniques of bookmaking with the study of writing.The Education for Employment (EFE) system in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, offers a variety of ways in which students can participate in work-based learning (DeStefano 169). For example, three of EFE’s programs operate entirely off site, in collaboration with business partners who provide the facilities in which all class meetings are held: the Health Occupations Program is housed in Bronson Hospital, the Hospitality Program is housed in the Radisson Hotel, and the Law Enforcement Program is housed in a juvenile detention facility. The programs have instructor/coordinators with extensive experience in their industries.
All three offer academic study, professional skills, and work experience. Another program, Theater Tech, offers apprenticeships to students who want to have a career in theater production and management.The core of the restructuring process in Roy (Utah) High School has been the comprehensive career guidance and counseling process. Each student has a student education and occupational plan that maps out areas of career interest and classes that will help the student find a job in that field.In Louisville, Kentucky, Shawnee High School’s Aviation Magnet has made it a priority to reach out to middle and elementary schools (Everson 68). One staff member has developed a curriculum for the middle school that offers students opportunities to learn about the field of aviation through a multi-disciplinary approach. Students learn about the science of flight, the importance of math and geography, and the history of flight. They visit the airport, tour aviation-related businesses, and receive instruction in a full-motion simulator at Shawnee High School.
The program culminates with each student taking an actual flight in a training aircraft.I identified the program elements and services that represent the necessary and sufficient conditions for a successful and effective school-to-work transition system that provides opportunities for young people to develop knowledge, skills, and credentials that will enable them to move successfully between the worlds of education and work. The programs represent a variety of goals and strategies, strong connections with business, and evidence of success in terms of student outcomes. These programs illustrate the variety of school-to-work reform initiatives, district- or communitywide efforts, and countywide and state-level strategies. The studies have shown that no single path is right for all students. The true test of a school-to-work transition system is whether or not it provides the context, information, and resources students need to make choices and whether it supports them as they move toward their goals.