Our View: Time to help students be best prepared for careers

According to data released by Interim Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis during the state of education address last week, only about 30 percent of those who graduated in 2010 have achieved some sort of post-secondary education to prepare them for their career.

“There were more than 37,000 students who graduated in the Class of 2010,” Lewis siad. “Eight years later, just under 10,000 have achieved an industry certificate, associate degree, bachelor’s degree or higher. That is simply unacceptable.

“There will be more than 400,000 job openings in Kentucky over the next five years, and more than 36 percent of those jobs require some training beyond high school.”

You can read more about Lewis’ address on page A6. In the address, Lewis encouraged Kentuckians to think more about career-preparedness. We also think that approach is key to our future.

For many years, the focus for high school graduates was to attend a four-year college to earn a degree. Education was all about college readiness.

Lately, though, there has been a shift toward career-readiness.

The truth is many high-paying jobs do not require a college degree. Instead, they require some sort of technical education. Often, that education can be started in high school, making it easier for students to graduate into high-paying jobs.

While not every student is cut out for college or desires a college degree, the goal should always be to prepare students for careers. As Lewis pointed out, a large percentage of well-paying jobs require some sort of training beyond high school.

Some of those careers are among the highest demand in our state.

It should be the focus of our schools, career counselors and parents/guardians to help students understand how to have a successful life after high school.

Lewis announced in July the What Will You Be, Kentucky? initiative aimed at promoting career and technical education. This initiative works alongside several others announced in recent years to promote technical education, apprenticeships, career-readiness and the like.

The initiative spotlights careers  in Kentucky’s five high-demand workforce sectors — advanced manufacturing, business/IT, construction trades, healthcare and transportation/logistics — through sharing the education, career training and job experiences of Kentuckians.

The best way to ensure a skilled and successful workforce for future generations is to prepare students for the various options available to them. We must help them understand earlier on what their strengths and weaknesses are and how they can apply those strengths to a career. What are their interests and how can those passions be applied to a job?

More importantly, what can they do now to prepare them for a successful future?

Initiatives like What Will You Be, Kentucky? can help students understand better where they see themselves in the future by learning from those who have already been there.