From the production era to the technological era, attitudes about workforce readiness inevitably shift over time. In the short-term, however, preparing the next generation to meet future needs is a real challenge. Career and technical education (CTE) is uniquely positioned to identify the current workforce landscape and deliver the right skills, knowledge, and behaviors. And Academic and Career Planning (ACP) programs can tee up CTE by helping students explore who they are and what types of careers they might like.
The Future Workplace Landscape
In a recent Career Readiness 2025 session, the Department of Public Instruction’s CTE Team looked at the impact of COVID-19 on the future of work. Using regional and state labor market information, Susan Koehn, Vice President of Talent & Partnerships for the Milwaukee 7 (M7) Regional Economic Partnership, shared key trends:
- Employment without borders: The pandemic has shown that many jobs can be performed remotely with improved productivity and job satisfaction.
- The “Great Sansdemic” (sans=without; dem=people): The United States, like most countries across the globe, is entering into a demographic drought in which the labor participation rate is quickly declining.
- Accelerated digital transformation: Fortunately, some jobs can be replaced by technology. In fact, the recent pandemic has accelerated the pace of this transformation.
- Long-term shifts in skills demand: Manual labor jobs requiring basic cognitive skills are rapidly being replaced by jobs that require more sophisticated technical skills. In addition, jobs that cannot be replaced by technology will drive a higher need for workers who possess strong social-emotional competencies.
Flexing to Meet the New Reality
In answer to the shifting needs, Wisconsin has been building a career readiness ecosystem. The 2017-18 implementation of academic and career planning (Wis. Admin. Code sec. PI 26) was intended to help students start earlier to learn about themselves and explore careers that match their interests, skills, and aspirations. Now, several years into ACP, more students are arriving at high school with a better understanding of their career direction, ready for their next step.
In Wisconsin’s career readiness ecosystem, that next step is a meaningful career pathway, a staple of high quality CTE rooted in equity for all students. Pathways consist of coherent instruction through a sequence of courses, a leg up on college plans through dual enrollment, hands-on experience through work-based learning, certifications valued by employers through industry-recognized credentials, and professional and leadership skills in career and technical student organizations.
Fueling Wisconsin’s Economic Growth
The career readiness ecosystem is supported at the highest levels. Dedicated to improving Wisconsin’s economy, the Governor’s Council on Workforce Investment (CWI) views a strong talent pool as critical to its growth. As the council prepares its 2022-26 strategic plan, it is aware of how educators, employers, and workforce development have come together to support career pathways. In helping all students achieve their full potential, the CWI’s goals parallel Wisconsin CTE’s vision: Expanding career pathways with a focus on equity so that every student has access to CTE programs while increasing the number of students of color and other special populations who are participating and concentrating in CTE.
As our approach to career readiness expands throughout the state, we will see a growing talent pool for business and industry, and more students employed in fulfilling, family-sustaining careers.
—Submitted by Sharon Wendt, Director, and Sara Baird, Assistant Director, Career and Technical Education Team, Department of Public Instruction