New Collar Jobs

The modernized Perkins Act (finally) passed. Here’s what it means for American students.

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Across the country families are completing their annual back-to-school rituals. Binders and backpacks are flying off the shelves and students are returning to the familiar flow of the classroom. But this year something big has changed, something that will have an immediate and positive impact on American education.

This week the modernized Carl D. Perkins Act became law. You may have heard of Perkins before—it’s the law that funds career and technical education in the US. But for nearly a decade Perkins-funded programs have failed to keep pace with the 21st century skills students need to enter the workforce. The skills gap has continued to widen and fewer job-seekers have the skills to fill jobs in today’s fastest-growing fields.

As technology continues to shape opportunities in the workplace, we must ensure that students are adequately prepared for new collar jobs that require skills their predecessors never had to learn. Many of these skills require education and training that are lacking in our current education system. In a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, 65% of Americans feel that students aren’t being prepared to succeed in the workplace. And they’re right.

Thankfully, the modernized Perkins Act will create alignment between the classes students are taking in high school and college with the skills employers like IBM so desperately need. It creates better partnerships between business and education to make sure our students are learning relevant, valuable 21st century skills, and uplifts new models of learning – models like P-TECH.

In 2011, IBM anticipated the skills gap in our workforce and launched P-TECH, a Grades 9-14 school model that reimagines education by allowing students to earn both their high school diploma and an Associate’s Degree in a STEM field of their choosing in six years or less. Students who attend a P-TECH school also gain relevant skills and work experience through mentorships and hands-on learning, helping them leap over that skills gap and go straight into full-time jobs at companies like IBM or on to pursue higher education (or, in many cases, both).

Today, there are 90 P-TECH schools open across the U.S. and other countries, with 30 more scheduled to open their doors this fall in places like Baton Rouge and Dallas. But we need more schools to bridge the skills gap, and the new Perkins Act will provide resources for more high schools and community colleges to offer similar programs and provide industry-recognized certifications to give the students the skills they need to make a successful transition from school to college and career.

The modernized Perkins Act will keep our country ahead of the curve and prepare the next generation of workers to take on the jobs of today and those of the future. It helps give American students the education they deserve.

-Jennifer Ryan Crozier
President, IBM Foundation and Vice President, IBM Corporate Citizenship

Learn more about Perkins here.

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