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Career Technical Education Career Readiness Report

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The prolonged economic downturn has pressed many Americans to keep working when once they might have retired. Beyond that, there are the separate pressures to have more American workers stay on the job until age 68 to relieve the strain on the Social Security Trust Fund. The American workforce is already changing under these metamorphic pressures. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that 28 million people in our workforce are now 55 or older. That's 17% of the work force - the most ever. Meanwhile, only 17 million workers are age 24 or younger. That's 12%-- the lowest ever. Consequently, our young people are not just competing with foreign workers for jobs. Regardless, the solution to the problem is the same: high quality education and relevant career training.

With over 553 classes serving more than 30,000 students in 50 career areas, the Riverside County Office of Education (RCOE) brings to this challenge the leaders and educators of our Career Technical Education (CTE) unit. Our programs are highly successful because they dependably deliver not just what students want, but what they need. The courses are constantly evolving to meet the needs of a changing economy, they're widely available across the county, and what's more, they're affordable. They're also fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Our teachers have working experience in the subjects they teach. And the courses are articulated with community colleges to provide clear paths to vocational growth.

CTE and Regional Occupation Program (ROP) classes are a great asset to both college and non-college bound students. Those intending to go directly into postsecondary education out of high school will benefit from having some career-ready training under their belt. We also acknowledge that over 60% of our high school graduates are not currently going to college. We want them to have the best employment opportunities possible so they can become self-reliant, contributing members of society and live good quality lives. Studies show that CTE and ROP classes help students stay engaged in school and graduate on time, and prepare them with the fundamental skills they will need to be successful in the workforce - whether they go to college or not.

Our staff at the Riverside County Office of Education have been working with the county's Workforce Investment Board to develop meaningful workforce preparation criteria in order for students to receive a special level of industry certification - certification that, along with their high school diploma, will give them a hiring advantage over other job applicants who otherwise would be their equals. This new certification of work readiness, through the efforts of the Workforce Investment Board and RCOE, will be issued to students completing the requirements at the end of the current school year.

As County Superintendent, I have been working to forge ties on a broader, regional level, with business organizations. In the desert, we're engaged with the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership. We support the CVEP drive to increase applications for college financial aid among high school seniors in the desert. We are working to have similar efforts going on in the rest of the county. In the western county, we've joined with the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce to support an ambitious role for the chambers' Business Education Partnership.

We're staking out common policy ground and strategic initiatives. With these and related efforts, today's students are being well prepared to successfully take us into the future!

Kenneth M. Young is Riverside County Superintendent of Schools.

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