Finding Clarity in Career Readiness through Partnerships

Girl in front of a green chalkboard

The phrase college and career readiness is used constantly, along with an assumption that there is a common understanding of what this term means or aspires to achieve for students, employers and our nation. Yet, when you start to unpack the term, what becomes crystal clear is that there is no clarity.  While there is some agreement that college readiness means preparation for credit-bearing, college-level coursework without the need for remediation, such agreement doesn’t exist when defining career readiness. And it all gets even less clear if you ask people to explain college and career readiness as one term, not two.

Having worked as an advocate for Career Technical Education (CTE) for more than 20 years I know that for the CTE community, college and career readiness isn’t a new term or initiative – it’s what CTE is and has been all about. High-quality CTE has always prepared students with the academic, technical and employability skills and knowledge to succeed not only in one’s first job, but for the lifetime of a career.  College isn’t the goal. College of any form – two-year, four-year, apprenticeship, etc. – is a pathway to a career– a career that aligns to an individual’s skills, talents and aspirations; a career that can support one’s family and fuel one’s passion; a career that drives our nation’s economy and ensures our country’s global competitiveness.

To better articulate what the “and career readiness” part of this term means, in 2012 our organization convened the Career Readiness Partnership Council (CRPC), a partnership with 20 diverse organizations, to develop a definition of career readiness with a goal of impacting and engaging the college and career readiness policy movement. Simply put – there was an opening to talk about careers as a laudable goal of education and we took it.

The CRPC met and agreed that career readiness isn’t measured at a single point in time or by a single test but is a commitment to lifelong learning, mastery of academic, technical and workplace knowledge. Career readiness isn’t something you ‘get’ at a certain age or at a certain educational institution. It is a complex term because it reflects the diversity and rapidly changing demands of the workplace. Career readiness isn’t for some students, it is for all students.

Further, being career ready does not come at the expense of lower academic expectations. Being career ready is built upon a strong foundation in academics, often more rigorous than state academic standards demand. It is not acceptable to have a track for “those students” who someone deems not college material. College and career are inextricably bound together in the modern, global economy.

Not convinced? Let’s look at the data:

  • The graduation rate for CTE concentrators is about 90 percent, almost 10 percentage points higher than the national average.
  • Seventy-eight percent of CTE concentrators enroll in postsecondary education.
  • Forty-five percent of students say CTE courses provide them with real-world examples that help them better understand academic classes.

Still not convinced? Let me close by getting out of the policy world and into the real world – New Jersey. The Marine Academy of Science and Technology’s (MAST) Marine Biology and Oceanography program of study prepares students for careers in the marine sciences. This four-year, research-based program focuses on technology and the marine sciences through the utilization of technology labs, the nearby National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Lab, a 65-foot research vessel and a four-year Naval Science program delivered through the New Jersey ROTC. MAST also offers a number of Advanced Placement and college articulated/dual enrollment courses through in-state colleges and universities. The commitment to work-based learning and academic rigor resulted in 100 percent graduation rate and enrollment in postsecondary education in 2014, a model example of high-quality CTE.  This is true college and career readiness.


Kimberly Green is the Executive Director of The National Association of State Director of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc) which represents the state leaders responsible for secondary, postsecondary and adult Career Technical Education (CTE).