New Partnership Highlights Importance of College and Career Readiness

05/15/2015 10:29 am ET | Updated May 15, 2016
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What does it mean to be college and career ready?

It is often cited as the desired outcome for K-12 education, although too few students leave high school fully prepared for college or the workforce. And college and career pathways largely remain a bifurcated system in the United States to sort or track students into very different experiences. All students need to be college and career ready. This is why I am excited about the recently announced partnership between the organization I lead -- Project Lead The Way (PLTW), and the College Board.

The partnership increases access to more opportunities for all students to be college and career ready. It combines the strengths of two leading organizations -- widely accepted college credit opportunities through the Advance Placement® (AP) Program and PLTW's multidisciplinary, applied learning programs in biomedical science, computer science and engineering. Both organizations are known to improve student outcomes and help ensure successful transitions to college and career. The partnership creates pathways through a combination of PLTW courses and AP courses -- PLTW courses that introduce all students to the field, AP courses that provide an opportunity for college credit, and PLTW specialization courses that focus on knowledge and skills needed for rewarding careers. Students may also earn credentials signaling their readiness for college and careers, as well as opportunities such as internships and scholarships.

This work could not be more critical. Today, U.S. employers have more than 4 million unfilled jobs, yet there are over 8 million people who are unemployed and millions more under-employed because they lack appropriate skills. By the year 2020, almost two-thirds of jobs, and nearly all high-paying jobs, will require post-secondary education or training. And, by 2018, 92 percent of traditional science, technology, engineering and math jobs will be for those with at least some post-secondary education and training. Increasingly, career readiness is dependent on college success.

While this is a tremendously exciting partnership for both organizations and the entire nation, students are the real winners. This partnership aims to break down silos and barriers in schools. It provides students and schools the opportunity to redefine college and career ready in a meaningful way, combining rigorous coursework and applied learning across subjects. It also gives students a more in-depth look at the many career opportunities available so that they can make informed decisions about investing in post-secondary programs. A number of schools across the U.S. are already deploying this innovative model -- Brooklyn Tech in New York, Timber Creek High School in Florida -- by bringing these courses together for their students.

To ensure all students are ready to compete in the global market place, we need to expand access to challenging course work, introduce students to in-demand and high-paying career opportunities, and provide mentoring, internships and other real-world experiences. The partnership between PLTW and the College Board will create significant value for students, education institutions, communities and the broader U.S. workforce.

Vince Bertram is the president and CEO of Project Lead The Way, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to STEM curriculum and teacher training. He is the New York Times bestselling author of "One Nation Under-Taught: Solving America's Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Crisis." Connect with him on Twitter @vincebertram.