By Portia Wu, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training
(Photo: Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez visits the Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy in Chicago, a school that aims to prepare students for college and the world of work).
Making sure our high school students are college and career-ready is a major focus of President Obama’s jobs-driven training agenda, and is also central to his goal for the United States to lead the world in college completion by 2020.
That’s why, as we prepare for the upcoming school year, the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor are working together to help local school systems around the country make use of federal resources to help ensure our young people are the best-prepared workers in the world.
School counselors are on the front lines of preparing our students for college and careers. However, the number of counselors in schools today is not keeping up with the growing student population, which may mean not every student receives the attention they need to get started on the right career path.
This is where federal job training services can help. By leveraging the resources available from the nearly 2,500 American Job Centers around the country, schools can ensure their students are getting the most up-to-date information about the job market and what education and training is necessary to land their dream job.
American Job Centers can supplement the great work of school counselors by providing career development services and local labor market information; offering career counseling, resume and interview help; sharing information about Registered Apprenticeships and high school alternative programs like Job Corps and YouthBuild; and helping connect students to summer and year-around employment opportunities.
Some states have already begun to integrate these services: for example, in Nebraska, state education and labor officials helped establish the Nebraska Career Education program, which provides career exploration resources for educators, students, job seekers and employers.
Or take Minneapolis Promise, a local initiative that uses private funding to locate College and Career Centers inside all seven Minneapolis public high schools and eight specialty high schools. The centers offer students with career and college planning resources, trained career counselors to guide students and an online career planning tool to help each ninth-grader develop a personalized “My Life Plan.”
Connecting workforce services to education makes common sense. These connections – which already help job seekers and employers to connect with one another – will help students better understand the skills they need to succeed in today’s job market, while they are in a position to make those decisions at an earlier age.
My federal colleagues and I have sent a jointly signed letter to education, workforce development, social services and private-sector leaders around the country asking them to join us in our commitment to help high schools take advantage of the resources available through their local American Job Centers.
Working together at the federal, state and local level, we can prepare our students for future jobs and secure the United States’ place in the global economy for decades to come.
Portia Wu is the assistant secretary of labor for employment and training. Explore job training and career resources at www.dol.gov/FindYourPath, and join the conversation on Twitter using #FindYourPath.
This blog originally appeared in Work in Progress, the official blog of the U.S. Department of Labor.