Educating the Workforce of Tomorrow Fall 2017 - Page 9

This approach allows for a variety of pathways for learners with different career interests, and gives parents, community members, and educators a way to measure progress. Although more than 90 percent of high schools offer at least one EPSO, only 41 percent of the 2015 student cohort enrolled. [16] Furthermore, there are wide gaps in EPSO enrollment between low-income students and their higher-income peers that perpetuate long-term economic disparities. In 2017, the Tennessee General Assembly passed and Governor Haslam signed into law a measure that requires every school district to offer at least four EPSOs to students by the 2018-19 school year, in alignm ent with Tennessee’s ESSA plan. Tennessee schools are working to widen available choices in EPSOs to increase student enrollment so students will be afforded flexibility and choice in the EPSO that works best for them. Work-Based Learning – Building A Ready Workforce A study of 300 occupations identified effective communication, collaboration, and problem-solving as necessary employability skills. [17] Work-Based Learning (WBL) is a proactive approach to bridge the gap between high school and high-demand, high-skill careers by helping students build crucial employability skills that are difficult to learn solely through classroom-based instruction. [18] WBL helps students develop a broad understanding of industries and careers in elementary and middle school, and with guidance from educators and counselors, students begin to narrow their career interests and pursue options that interest them. In high school, students have opportunities to engage in direct WBL, involving career exploration, preparation, and training. Employers play a primary role in WBL, offering internships or apprenticeships or partnering with schools to construct project-based learning opportunities. When employers exercise a role in student learning, they become a part of the educational process and build the professional skills they seek in prospective employees. When students engage in projects that matter in their community, they take greater ownership in learning. WBL, particularly apprenticeships, show promise as a means to improve student postsecondary and career readiness and success. Students who participate in high-quality apprenticeship programs make $300,000 more over the course of their lifetimes than their peers who do not participate in such a program. [19] Furthermore, studies have shown that the benefits of apprenticeship programs exceed the costs to employers by $49,000, on average. [20] 8