GRCA_CommerceQuarterly_Winter2018 - 19

workforce development

Preparing Students
for Both College and Career
Submitted by: Dr. Jill Hackman,
Executive Director, Berks County Intermediate Unit


or generations, public education prepared some students for
college and others for direct entry into the workforce. You
might remember when "college prep" and "vo-tech" were the
two primary high school options. For quite some time, this model
worked well. Those who earned a college degree usually entered
white collar jobs and those who did not were able to secure trade
jobs with decent pay.

But today's workforce no longer supports this model. In general,
good jobs that offer life-sustaining wages with opportunity for
advancement require at least some college and/or training. This is
especially true in Berks County, where the need for a highly skilled
workforce is further amplified by an anticipated increase in retirees
(age 65+) which is projected to grow by 33 percent over the next
seven years. For example, to replace retiring "baby boomers," by
2025 seven thousand new entrants will be needed in the local
manufacturing sector. According to Dan Fogarty, COO of the
Berks County Workforce Development Board, "During this 'silver
tsunami' local employers will need to find over 40,000 replacement
workers to backfill those experienced workers leaving the full-time
Solving this current and future issue takes significant planning.
The Berks County Workforce Development Board identified three
high priority sectors in the region: manufacturing, construction,
and healthcare. Filling in-demand occupations such as health
care practitioners, skilled production workers, and construction
managers is dependent on a regional pipeline of workers who possess
both strong academic and technical skills. These workers are needed
today and will be needed tomorrow. K-12 education prepares our
young people for both college and careers. These powerful facts and
statistics led Berks County Intermediate Unit to convene a group
of school, workforce, and business leaders to plan a call to action
that resulted in the creation of the Berks County Career Pathways

A model of collaboration: Berks County Career
Pathways Alliance
While all Berks County school districts have been working
to support the development of their students' college and career
readiness, educators believed a collaborative approach would
maximize efforts. In winter of 2017, leadership members from
Berks County school districts, the Berks County Workforce
Development Board, Berks Business Education Coalition, the
Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, the Northeast Chamber of
Commerce, Reading Area Community College, and RM Palmer
attended a Leadership Forum led by the Berks County Intermediate
Unit (BCIU) and facilitated by the National Center for College and
Career Transitions (NC3T) with funding from the Pennsylvania
Department of Education. This meeting formalized the Berks
County Career Pathways Alliance.
The purpose of the Alliance is not to dictate a "one-size-fitsall" countywide career pathways model. Rather, it is to offer a
framework of well-researched recommendations and supports to
enhance and expand K-12 career education. Presently, all Berks
County school districts and both career and technical centers
have joined the Alliance along with post-secondary, employer, and
workforce development partners.
The continuum of career education pictured on page 20 offers a
broad view of a K-12 approach to preparing graduates to be college
and career ready. At the high school level, students may enroll in
a career pathway, a sequence of courses centered around a career
cluster. In a career pathways model, students are not asked to choose
a career; rather, they are given opportunities to explore careers. The
Pennsylvania Department of Education has identified five broad
career clusters, and the Alliance recommends that districts organize
their high school pathways around them.
Continued on page 20

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