Some high schools connect students with internships where teenagers can jump-start their ambitions of becoming engineers. Other schools have auto shop classes without computers, where students prepare for jobs that existed 50 years ago. Former secretary of education and now CEO of The Education Trust John King said he has seen both examples throughout his career.

“We give the kids who need the most, so often in our society, the least,” King said during the keynote address Thursday morning at a panel hosted by the Urban Alliance and Results for America. Education leaders on the panel stressed the “urgent” need to rethink the high school experience to better prepare students for college and careers.

The Urban Alliance — a nonprofit that connects high schoolers with internships — released a paper Thursday highlighting how schools are failing to prepare students — particularly low-income and minority students — for college and careers. For example, 12 percent of young people ages 16 to 24 are not enrolled in school and don’t have a job, according to a 2017 report from the Social Science Research Council. This disconnect costs the economy $1 trillion, another report found, due to lost earnings and more government spending.

“We can’t afford as a country to throw those kids away; that is our future”

To address the challenge of putting students on a path to a brighter future, panelists suggested high school internships, dual-credit enrollment, and seeking the help of advisers and mentors throughout high school and college.

Read more about the goals of Urban Alliance by Kate Stringer at The 74