Not Just a High School Diploma

With changes being brought on by technologies like artificial intelligence, 3D printing and robotics, the emerging economy will need very few workers who have not earned a postsecondary degree, training or a market-driven workforce credential. To meet the emerging needs of the workforce, our education system will need to adapt to prepare students for the future.

The Math Behind the Urgency

  • By 2020, more than 60 percent of all jobs in the United States will require college or postsecondary training, but only 50 percent of those jobs will require a four-year degree, according to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce.
  • Currently, about 36 percent of all jobs in the Kansas City region require postsecondary education, but within 10 years, the percentage is expected to reach 50 percent. Perhaps more compelling, 73 percent of the jobs that pay an above-average wage will require postsecondary education in that same period of time.
  • While policy agendas have been pushing toward postsecondary access and completion, graduation rates from two- and four-year institutions remain moderate to low, especially for low income, first-generation students.
  • In addition, student loan debt, more than $1.4 trillion nationally, continues to place a burden on students just beginning their career.

Not just a High School Diploma

What’s missing in the current educational formula is the need to leave high school with both a diploma and market value assets. What would that look like? High school students would graduate from profession-based learning courses with real-world experience via internships and projects, as well as potentially earning dual college credits, an associate degree and industry-recognized credentials. Students who leave high school with both a diploma and market value assets are more likely to enroll in and finish postsecondary education and training.

Profession-Based Learning is Happening Now

Donna M. Deeds, profession-based learning for high school students

In the Kansas City region, there are bright spots of innovation and opportunity created by business and industry leaders working alongside educators:

  • Independence high school students are required to choose a career pathway that results in an industry-recognized credential and/or dual college credit.
  • 100 percent of Northland CAPS students leave high school with a robust internship experience in high-demand careers.
  • High school students enrolled in 21st Century Academies and 3 percent of Olathe students participate in the Olathe Area Technical Center, leaving high school with dual college credit, endorsements, industry-recognized credentials, robust job shadowing, internships, and real-world projects tied to job expectations.
  • As it transitions to college and career academies, Kansas City Kansas Public Schools has launched a Diploma+ program requiring 2017–2018 freshmen to graduate with a career focus linked to pathways into college, or to completion of industry-recognized credentials and certificates.

We are leaning forward toward the future, learning what it takes to prepare our students for a new world of work. As a community, we are working together to transform our systems for all students, readying our region to be a bright spot in the global economy.

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