Even before the pandemic shunted them into online learning, many high school students failed to see a connection between their work in the classroom and their real-world futures. The rare exceptions? Young people whose education included a work-based learning experience — and with it a sampling of career opportunities they might never have imagined.

The yawning gap between what high schoolers learn in the classroom and their future employment has serious consequences. Too often the disconnect leads to poor academic performance or, worse yet, disengagement and dropping out.

The result is that we are losing the energy, intelligence and creativity young people could and should bring to New York’s economic recovery.

As one young woman put it in a recent New York Times article, “If it wasn’t for these youth work-force programs, I don’t think I would have realized I wanted to be a mechanical engineer.”

Fortunately, we can take steps to bridge the gap between school and work. And we can do so in ways that recognize that all young people can benefit from work experience, whether they plan to go to college, pursue a credential or career, go to work or some combination.

At a minimum, every high school student should have a work-based learning experience. Better yet would be a proposed three-tiered initiative that would lead to a meaningful — and paid — internship before graduation.

Under such an initiative, high school students would begin the sequence with a course that would expose them to an array of career and workforce opportunities.

In the second phase, students would participate in a skill-building service- or business-learning project.

The projects might include anything from creating a social media presence for a restaurant to analyzing calls to 311. But each project would be designed to instill important workplace skills, such as how to work in teams and how to follow instructions.

Read the full article about workplace by Lucy N. Friedman at The Hechinger Report.