An integral part of K-12 education is preparing students to shape their own lives beyond high school, whether they choose college, technical school, or the workforce. And while there is no single recipe for this, there just might be a secret sauce.

The State of College and Career Readiness in K–12: 2022 Report, which surveyed 170 K–12 U.S. educators (including 122 teachers, 27 education leaders and administrators, and seven school counselors), revealed a significant factor, or secret sauce, in successful College and Career Readiness Programs (CCR). Eighty-nine percent of the respondents indicated that community involvement was critical to their CCR program.

Who, specifically, needs to make up this involvement? Families, local employers, and local higher education institutions all need to be invested in helping prepare students for their future – and it is ideal when all parties collaborate together to ensure the next generation’s future success.

It is mutually beneficial when local businesses engage with high school students: businesses can use this relationship as an opportunity to engage and assess potential future employees, and students can use this relationship as an opportunity to gain valuable knowledge of an industry and decide if it is the right fit for them career-wise.

There are many ways companies proactively and creatively work with schools to support students – some businesses coordinate with schools to facilitate industry exposure through summer internship opportunities, and others participate in co-op programs where students work in local businesses for a portion of the school day, to name a few examples. Exposure to these businesses benefits students, whether college-bound, interested in learning a trade or choosing to work immediately after high school. More specifically, many high school students engaged in the Career and Technical Education (CTE) curriculum can see how their experiential learning in the classroom translates to the real world through an internship opportunity or a co-op program. Additionally, college-bound students can envision themselves in the workforce during a summer internship, which may help them solidify their major.

And over the long term, students – through these experiences – also further solidify essential life skills that many schools start teaching as early as middle school, including lessons in:

  • Time management
  • Self-advocacy
  • Workplace skills and attitudes
  • Work values
  • Career-life balance
  • Entrepreneurial skills
  • Defining success
  • Job interviews

Read the full article about college and career readiness programs by Matt McQuillen at Getting Smart.