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workforce development continued

While college preparation has always been an integral and key
component of K-12 education, career awareness and planning is a
more recent focus. Pennsylvania has adopted Career Education and
Work Standards requiring all districts to develop a K-12 Guidance
Plan (Chapter 339) and has expanded career and technical education
programs of study that align with in-demand careers. At the federal
level, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has replaced the No
Child Left Behind legislation. In September 2017, the Pennsylvania
Department of Education (PDE) submitted its required ESSA plan,
which includes K-12 career readiness accountability measures and a
proposed report card, Future Ready PA Index.

Career and Technical Education: a new vision
Berks County is fortunate to have two outstanding career
and technical centers-Berks Career and Technology Center
(BCTC) and Reading Muhlenberg Career and Technology Center
(RMCTC)-offering STEM-related career pathways for in-demand,
high-wage careers.
Pennsylvania's career and technical education (CTE) has come
a long way since its "vo-tech" days. State-approved technical
programs combine college preparation with real-world career skill
development, giving students a jumpstart on both post-secondary
education and careers. For those who choose to go directly into the
workplace, CTE graduates are far better prepared to enter a skilled
career rather than a low-skilled, minimum wage job with little
room for advancement. CTE graduates have relevant and highly
marketable employability skills and earn at least one industryrecognized credential, giving them a competitive edge in entering
high-skill, high-wage careers.
Learning academic and technical skills is one thing. Applying
those skills in real-world work experiences is where students make
the connection between today's learning and their future. Workbased learning experiences may last from a few hours to a few weeks
and include job shadows; internships; and student competitions
that involve business mentoring, speakers' series, career fairs, and
other opportunities. One of the priority objectives of the Alliance
20 COMMERCE QUARTERLY

WINTER 2018

is to provide internship experiences for students attending all Berks
County high schools. Presently, 13 of the 18 Berks County public
high schools offer the internship component, up from just three high
schools three years ago. This school year, in the present first semester,
228 students from across the 13 schools are engaged, learning firsthand about a business or other profession. In addition to workbased learning experiences, students engage in experiences provided
by post-secondary institutions such as seminars on campus, visiting
professors, mentorships, student competitions, and the opportunity
to earn college credit through dual or concurrent enrollment options.
The Berks County Career Pathways Alliance values work-based
learning and college exploration opportunities and is diligently
working to ensure that all students have access to these experiences.
We are fortunate in Berks County to have many forward-looking
business leaders and school officials embracing the ever-changing
workforce demands and needs. Widespread conversations have
begun regarding the importance of being strategically focused on
advising and offering opportunities for our youth to ensure a wellprepared future workforce in Berks County. As we navigate ahead,
we must harness the idea that collaboration and coordination
between schools and businesses is a priority.
Additional details about Career Pathways can be found at: http://
bit.ly/berkscountycareerpathways.


http://http:// http://www.bit.ly/berkscountycareerpathways

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