Gift your students the gift of career readiness

Isabella Hollingsworth-Sons

Digital Marketing Coordinator • National Geographic Learning | Cengage

Nearly three years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, K12 educators and students alike are still adjusting to the new normal. While school districts pivoted quickly to online and remote learning options in March of 2020, the effects of the disruption are still being seen in students’ preparedness as they move on to college and careers. And that’s something the new normal was never meant to represent, unprepared students. In order to help students get back on track, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) continues to offer Elementary and Secondary School Emergency relief (ESSER) funds. A recently released letter outlines how to use the stimulus funds to expand on college and career readiness strategies.

With an emphasis on rebuilding and recovering a strong education pathway beyond high school graduation, policymakers and educators are laying down a new foundation for college and career readiness. With this goal in mind, dual enrollment becomes not only an important aspect of learning, but it reveals itself to be the roadmap to success. Dual Enrollment, which can also be known as dual credit, is a program, that enables high school students to take college-level courses for credit, giving students the opportunity to early exposure to college studies and receive college credit. It’s a united goal that every high school graduate has sufficient dual enrollment to prepare themselves for a postsecondary degree or certificate, work-based learning experience, industry-sought credential, or career plan for the future. The recent letter to educators from the DOE states, “In order to successfully recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we need to rethink the paths that young people walk throughout and beyond our education system.”

But how do we get there? The DOE recommends these key points to schools as a guideline for student success.

  • Expand access to dual enrollment opportunities so that every young person can earn college credit in high school and get a head start in earning a postsecondary credential. 
  • Provide strong career and college advisement and navigation supports so that every young person can graduate high school with actionable postsecondary and career plans and the skills and resources needed to pursue them. 
  • Expand opportunities for high-quality work-based learning so that every young person can apply classroom learning in real-world settings, develop employability skills, gain valuable work experience, and build a professional network. 
  • Give all students the option to earn industry-sought credentials so that every young person can earn higher wages after high school and have the capacity to pursue further education and independent living.” 

    These points are built to be actionable right away. With ESSER and GEER funds available now, your school district is positioned to make this advancement now. These funds are designed to help schools like yours expand on college and career readiness strategies, increase opportunities for work-based learning, and more. Schools across the country have taken advantage of these readily available funds already. 

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is using ESSER funds to launch a statewide initiative to ensure high school students, particularly those in rural communities, have an advisor exclusively focused on helping them achieve success following graduation. The program, called the Missouri Postsecondary Advising Initiative, will place trained advisors into rural high schools, alongside school counselors, to provide students with individualized college and career support.”

Houston (Texas) Independent School District is using $53.2 million of ESSER funds to provide additional support services to help its students navigate the postsecondary education admissions process. The LEA’s plans include increasing the number of college and career readiness advisors available to work with students; expanding partnerships with organizations that help students plan for and apply to college and prepare for careers; developing community-based centers to support families with college and career readiness.” 

During summer 2021, approximately 2,300 youth participated in New Mexico’s Summer Enrichment Internship Program. Youth worked 20 hours per week for 6 weeks in dozens of paid career opportunities. The New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) used $9.89 million of its ARP ESSER allocation to support the initiative. In its approved ARP ESSER state plan, NMPED also indicates that it will award funds to community-based organizations to implement evidence-based afterschool programs for students, some of which will include paid internships for high school students.”

Denver (Colorado) Public Schools is using a portion of its ARP ESSER funds to support summer work-based learning opportunities that give high school students who aspire to be teachers, classroom experience under the supervision of master teachers. After completing training, students work alongside master teachers to provide instruction to middle school students in both academic and enrichment courses, debriefing after every classroom session with the supervising teachers to receive feedback. For their participation, students receive a cash stipend and an AmeriCorps educational award that can be used to pay for postsecondary educational expenses when they complete high school.”

These opportunities are fruitful and impactful and something educators and school districts can take advantage of now. And here at National Geographic Learning, a part of the Cengage Group, it’s something that we’re committed to helping each step of the way. We offer hundreds of accessible and customizable learning solutions that help enrich the relationship between educators and students while preparing students for their next step. With an extensive catalog of programs designed specifically for career and technical education, we remain dedicated to producing an environment of engagement, empowerment, and discovery in K-12 education.

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