Filling the Skills Gap for Today’s Economy

It is no secret that California is facing a skills gap. By 2025, economists predict that over two million jobs in California will go unfilled because they will require a level of education and skills that workers do not have.

The problems facing the workforce stem, in large part, from the fact that our education system is not aligned with the competencies that today’s jobs require. Moreover, skills that education experts call “deeper learning” competencies, such as communication, collaboration and critical thinking skills, are lacking among young applicants. One survey found that business leaders rated these competencies as some of the most important to support business expansion, yet less than half said their employees performed above average in these areas.

Too many high school students today are disconnected and unsuccessful in schools that lack relevance. A large proportion of students who drop out of high school say that they found school boring and their classes uninteresting. The national high school drop-out rate of 30 percent—and reaching levels of more than 50 percent among minority populations—testifies to the urgent need to engage our country's youth in learning that addresses their interests and develops their talents. Even of those who do graduate from high school, a surprisingly high percentage are required to take remedial academic courses in their first year of college, convincing many young people that college is not for them.

One of the best – and proven – ways to impact the skills gap is to equip high school students for success in postsecondary training and/or education and their future careers.  Students need to understand how education is relevant to a career, know their options and what is expected in the workplace and have access to multiple pathways to graduation.  Innovative models and approaches, such as the proven Career Academies model, are being implemented across California and include rigorous academics, career relevant instruction, support services and work-based learning experiences.

Studies show these programs help students develop communication, collaboration and critical-thinking capabilities – critical skills required by businesses throughout California.

Increasing hands-on, project-based learning in high school with “deeper learning” Linked Learning career pathways will prepare students for college and career opportunities will help make California’s economy more competitive.