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School Systems Find Ways to Give Students Job Skills to Cope With ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’

Technology is advancing at an exponential speed, sparking what several AASA conference presenters call “the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

“The evidence is clear,” the program moderator for the session, Ann McMullan, told attendees on Friday morning. New technology is disrupting industries and forcing educators to reevaluate ways to prepare students for the changing job market.

Leading the discussion were Tim Broadrick, Matt Miller, Michelle Murphy and David Schuler, all superintendents who claim to have had made progress on the matter.

“Only 60 percent of students we send to college right now get a four-year degree,” said Broadrick, superintendent-director of Shawsheen Valley Technical High School District in Billerica, Mass.. “Of those that finish, 25 percent will never make more money than a high school graduate.”

However, Broadrick said, college is not the only pathway after high school and educators must better inform students of their options.

Miller, superintendent at Lakota Local Schools District in Liberty Township, Ohio, agreed.

Addressing the realities of the new job market, Miller introduced a cybersecurity curriculum for students interested in computer science at his district’s high schools. Students can enroll in the class during sophomore year and work toward certification leading to a job right after high school graduation.

“Cybersecurity businesses are telling us, ‘We don’t want the kids to go to college; they don’t need to. If they go to college, they’re going to spend four or five years learning from a professor who doesn’t know what’s going on, and then we’ll have to unteach them and teach them again. We rather have kids right after high school where they were taught these skills,’” said Miller.

Similarly, David Schuler, superintendent at Township High School District 214 in Arlington Heights, Ill., has made strides in professional career development.

His school district has successfully implemented a program called Career Pathways. The initiative consists of 44 programs for high school students interested in areas like architecture, education, health science, manufacturing and much more. The curriculum is tailored to introduce students to a field of interest and help them grow a skillset that’s transferable to actual jobs.

Through the Career Pathways, Schuler added, the Township High School District aims to place every student in an internship before graduation by using a network of approximately 1,000 business partnerships in the area.

“We’ll give kids experience in the space and let them decide if that’s what they want to do, or more importantly, if that’s what they don’t want to do,” he said. “I would much rather have them find out what they don’t want to do in high school than three to four years into college.”

(Christian Balderas is a senior communication major at UCLA and an intern with AASA’s Conference Daily Online.)

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