School-to-work opportunities: Issues in state and local governance
Editor's Note: The following synopsis is based on materials extracted directly from the document. The proposed School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1993 provides a national framework for the use of federal funds as seed money for states and local communities to develop comprehensive, state-wide school-to-work systems. These systems will help U.S. youth acquire the knowledge, skills, and labor market information they need to make a smooth and effective transition from high school to career- oriented employment or to further education as well as to respond to changes in local labor markets and economies. Specifically, the proposed legislation calls for programs that combine school-based and work-based learning, with employers participating as full partners. In developing their plans, states are encouraged to build on promising existing programs such as tech-prep education, career academies, school-to-apprenticeship programs, cooperative education, youth apprenticeship, and business-education compacts. Developing school-to-work programs will not be easy. The states will have to rely heavily on the existing state and local education infrastructure to deliver the school-based component, and it is not clear this infrastructure is adequate for these new programs. In addition, the states will have to find ways to incorporate the participation of business representatives into that infrastructure to provide the work-based component, and this may be difficult. This report therefore investigates the need for a more effective school-to-work transition and highlights the key elements effective transition programs. It then briefly describes current programs that link school and work including Cooperative Education, Tech Prep, Career Academies, Youth Apprenticeship, and School-Based Enterprise. The author also describes the various federal, state, and local initiatives in the arena of school-to-work. The final argument involves the challenge of bringing employers into the education system as full partners responsible for the design, delivery, monitoring, and regulation of the workplace learning component. As the study points out, there is currently no mechanism in place to force employers to participate, and there are no real financial incentives to induce them to do so. Many employers have demonstrated their interest in helping to train youths, but the amount of time and resources needed to participate to the extent envisioned by the School-to-Work Opportunities Act suggest it is unrealistic to expect employers to hire students and provide meaningful workplace instruction on a large scale. More modest goals for employer participation in terms of the types of participation and the numbers of students who can participate in workplace learning may be a more realistic expectation.