Increasing Access to Postsecondary and Workforce Opportunities
Earning skills and credentials beyond a high school diploma has been increasingly important to future success in the workforce. However, too many students do not have access to programs that would help to smooth the transition between secondary and postsecondary education and careers. In Prepared for the Future, the Institute of Politics Workforce Development Policy Committee examines three programs — dual enrollment, early college high school, and pre-apprenticeships — that are proven to improve equity in and access to postsecondary education and training opportunities.
Southwestern Pennsylvania is fortunate to be home to a diverse array of K-12 schools, postsecondary institutions, and employers, who, in collaboration with the area’s rich landscape of nonprofits and foundations, have developed or are in the process of developing programs designed to help students bridge the gap between secondary and postsecondary education and careers. These efforts are taking place in the midst of a major shift in the nature and future of work in Pennsylvania and beyond that necessitates preparing today’s graduates for a lifetime of learning. Employers have jobs that they need to fill, but those seeking employment do not have the skills that employers are looking for. Simultaneously, jobs that have existed for many years that require performance based on a static skill set are disappearing quickly and may not exist in the future. In August 2018, the Institute of Politics Workforce Development Committee sought to address these problems by taking a closer look at three types of programs that serve as connections between secondary and post-secondary education and employers: dual enrollment, early college high school, and pre-apprenticeships. Over the course of the next 18 months, the committee met four times to discuss recommendations for enhancing existing programs, creating new programs, and expanding access to programs, especially for those students who are underrepresented in both postsecondary education settings and registered apprenticeships. Through those meetings, through extensive research, and through the contributions of many organizations in the community, a report entitled “Prepared for the Future” was developed. “Preparing for the Future” examines the current status of dual enrollment, early college high school, and pre-apprenticeships in Pennsylvania, offers best practices from other states, and suggests four recommendations for moving the commonwealth forward.
Next steps for the committee include determining how to support and advance these programs as secondary and postsecondary institutions navigate the challenges posed by the response to COVID-19.