On April 7, President Obama announced twenty-four winners of $107 million in federal grants that reward school districts for integrating real-life work experience into academic curriculum. The grants, which range from $2.2 million to $7 million, fall under the Obama administration’s Youth CareerConnect program, an investment that the president believes will prepare today’s students for the “in-demand jobs of the future.”
“We challenged America’s high schools … [and asked], ‘What can you do to make sure your students learn the skills that businesses are looking for in high-demand fields?’,” Obama said. “And we asked high schools to develop partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on real-life applications for the fields of the future—fields like science and technology and engineering and math. And part of the reason we have to do this now is because other countries, they’ve got a little bit of a lead on us on some of these areas.”
The White House describes the program as a national competition administered by the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Labor, to “start redesigning America’s high schools for the 21st-century economy.” Schools are encouraged to partner with local businesses, organizations, and education agencies to incorporate on-the-job skills into traditional classroom learning. Upon mastering these skills, students in these programs across the country are able to earn certificates in different professional fields.
Los Angeles United School District (LAUSD) was awarded a $7 million grant—the highest amount available to an individual district—for its innovative Linked Learning educational approach. Linked Learning appeals to students’ interests in various professional fields to better prepare them for both college and a career. Students on a Linked Learning pathway have the opportunity to expand their critical thinking, communication, and collaboration skills, among many others, by applying their classroom knowledge to real-world experiences.
Linked Learning sets students up for success by making it easier to enter high-demand fields like information technology and computer science by integrating crucial skills with academic content mastery. A new evaluation report finds that students in Linked Learning pathways earn more credits in the first two years of high school compared to their peers.
Obama made the announcement at Bladensburg High School in Maryland, one of three high schools that will be served by a $7 million Youth CareerConnect grant to Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation. Overall, the grant is expected to help prepare 2,500 high school graduates for high-demand jobs in information technology and health care.
“Part of our concern has been our high schools, a lot of them were designed with curriculums based on the 1940s and ’50s and ’60s, and haven’t been updated,” Obama said. “So the idea behind this competition is how … we start making high school, in particular, more interesting, more exciting, more relevant to young people.”
More information on the Youth CareerConnect program, including a complete list of grantees, is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/04/07/fact-sheet-youth-careerconnect.