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Delaware wins grant to develop plan to improve career preparation systems

The Delaware Department of Education has secured a $100,000 grant to develop a detailed career readiness action plan, which is an essential step to expanding economic opportunity for young people across the First State.

 

“Delaware has made tremendous progress in aligning our education and workforce development systems through Governor Jack Markell’s Delaware Pathways initiative,” Secretary of Education Steven Godowsky said. “We are thrilled that these funds will further create opportunities for students to earn industry-recognized credentials and early college credits to accelerate their career goals.”

 

Delaware is among 24 states and the District of Columbia that secured grants for this work through phase one of New Skills for Youth grant opportunity. The grants are one piece of a $75 million, five-year initiative developed by JPMorgan Chase, in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and Advance CTE, aimed at increasing economic opportunity for young people by strengthening career-focused education, starting in high school and ending with postsecondary degrees or credentials aligned with business needs.

 

Today, too few young people are receiving the education or training in high school and beyond that would put them on a track to qualify for these careers. By the age of 25, only about half of young Americans have a meaningful postsecondary credential that enables them to compete for good jobs, and the U.S. youth unemployment rate is more than double the national rate.

 

In Delaware, the 2014 youth (age 20-24) unemployment rate for men was 15.8 percent. For women, it was 8.8 percent. This is compared to 5.8 percent for all other age demographics. For men and women of color, the youth unemployment rate was even higher at 18 percent for African American and 11.1 percent for Hispanic youth.

 

Through phase one of New Skills for Youth, Delaware and other selected states will each receive a $100,000 six-month grant, in addition to expert technical assistance and peer support from other grantees, to perform a diagnostic assessment of their career preparation system and prepare for implementation of a new action plan.

 

Through Governor Markell’s Delaware Pathways initiative, Delaware has revamped career and technical education (CTE) to ensure youth have the opportunity to earn industry-recognized credentials and early college credit to accelerate their career goals. And, these opportunities are expanding quickly. By the 2016-17 school year, more than 5,000 students in 29 of 44 public high schools will be enrolled in state-model pathway programs aligned to areas of high demand in Delaware’s economy. These programs include: finance, allied health, culinary and hospitality management, CISCO networking, computer science, manufacturing logistics and production, manufacturing/engineering technology, biomedical science, and engineering.

 

This work is further accelerated through the Delaware Pathways Strategic Plan, which was unveiled in February 2016 to more than 300 educators and employers.

 

“This grant is a testament to Delaware’s focus on preparing our students to leave high school college and career ready and well positioned to compete for the in-demand jobs driven by today’s global economy,” Governor Markell said.  “We’ll put it to good use to help ensure that we meet our commitment to the Delaware Promise that we announced last year, that by 2025, the percentage of Delawareans with a college degree or professional certificate will match the percentage of our jobs that will require one – 65 percent.”

 

States across the country are adjusting their career readiness programs to ensure they adequately prepare students for their next step after graduation, said Chris Minnich, executive director of CCSSO. “States have seized this grant opportunity to pursue bold plans for pathways that will put kids on a course for success after high school and beyond.”

 

Chauncy Lennon, head of Workforce Initiatives, JPMorgan Chase, said, “We must address the youth career crisis, and it starts in our schools. These grants kick start an effort to ensure career and technical education systems are better aligned with the needs of business and leaders throughout states are committed to tackling youth employment.”

 

An independent advisory committee recommended phase one grant recipients after a rigorous review process that considered states’ proposed plans, cross-sector partnerships, and demonstrated commitment and capacity to transform their systems of career preparation according to the grant guidelines.  In the judgment of the advisory committee, the selected states showed promise in their career readiness plans and indicated strongly that this work is a priority for them.

 

Delaware, and the other phase one planning grant states, will be eligible to apply for the phase two grant opportunity, which will require states to demonstrate the commitment and capacity to execute the action plans developed in phase one.

 

This grant opportunity builds on CCSSO's Career Readiness Initiative, launched in 2015 to help close the skills gap in this country. The goal is to ensure that students are not only college-ready, but that all children also graduate from high school prepared for careers.

CCSSO’s work has been guided by the recommendations made in Opportunities and Options, a report of CCSSO’s Career Readiness Task Force.

The report encourages states to make high school programs more responsive to the labor market by enlisting the employer community as a lead partner; significantly raise the threshold for quality career pathways in secondary schools; and make career preparation matter to schools and students, in part by expanding accountability systems to emphasize career readiness.

For more information on the New Skills for Youth grant opportunity or CCSSO’s Career Readiness Initiative, visit http://www.ccsso.org/Resources/Programs/Career_Readiness_Initiative.html

Alison May
alison.may@doe.k12.de.us
(302) 735-4006