Read about The School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994.
Included: Descriptions of a handful of exemplary school-to-work programs
across the grades!
On May 4, 1994, President Bill Clinton signed the School-to-Work
Opportunities Act of 1994, establishing "a national framework within
which all States can create statewide School-to-Work Opportunities
systems thatoffer opportunities for all students to participate in a
performance-based education and training program." As a result of that
act, schools across the country instituted programs designed to actively
prepare students for the future job market.
Passage of the School-to-Work Opportunities Act was based in part on
Congressional findings that:
- In 1992, approximately 3,400,000 U.S. youths aged 16 through 24 (representing
11 percent of that population) had not completed high school and were
not currently enrolled in school.
- Seventy-five percent of U.S. youths do not graduate from college.
- Heightened international competition and new technologies have lessened
the demand for, and shrunk the earning power of, unskilled laborers.
- Students learn better and retain more when they learn in context rather
than in the abstract.
In addition, national studies reported that:
- More than 50 percent of employers in the United States say they can't
find qualified applicants for entry-level positions.
- U.S. employers say that 20 percent of their workers are not fully
proficient in their jobs.
- U.S. businesses spend nearly $30 billion a year training and retraining
- U.S. employers do not rely on public educational institutions for
training their employees.
In short, students did not see a connection between the classroom and
the workplace, and few schools or businesses were providing that connection.
The School-to-Work Opportunities Act was an attempt to address those issues.
The School-to-Work Opportunities Act of 1994 did not establish a program
for career-based education. Rather it provided the funds that allowed
states to develop their own programs. Consequently, though many programs
shared common elements, each was unique and each was determined by the
needs of its own students. Some school-to-work programs focused on teacher
training, technology education, or the use of technology for distance
learning. Others provided direct student instruction, including specific
career information and the administration of interest and ability inventories.
Many provided those resources as well as work-based activities and employment
The National School-to-Work Learning and Information Center cited some
exemplary school-based and community-based programs that represented the
various types of experiences available to students. They included --
- Oregon's Montrose and Olathe Chambers of Commerce "Adopt-a-classroom"
program linked third- and fourth-grade classes in seven elementary schools
with community employers in a variety of industries to develop awareness
of careers in those industries. For example, a local bank sponsored
a tour of the bank and sent employees -- including tellers, the CEO,
the head of security, loan officers, and maintenance workers -- to the
school to share information about their backgrounds and responsibilities
with students. The Water Users Association invited science students
to see where their water comes from and how irrigation works.
- Winston Churchill High School in Eugene, Oregon, established Lancer
Communications, a technology-based student corporation. Businesses within
the corporation included a Video Production/Duplication Division, which
provided multimedia and production services; a Radio/TV Division, which
broadcast through a local radio station; a Community Service Division,
which maintained the school's computers and provided Web page development
for local non- profit organizations; a Graphic Communications Design
Division, which produced the school newspaper and yearbook and participated
in real client projects; and a Computer Refurbishing Division, which
tested, refurbished, and inventoried computers for the county.
- Shawnee High School's Aviation Magnet in Louisville, Kentucky, provided
students with opportunities to fly planes, arrange travel reservations,
calculate flight patterns and time zones, run a cruise ship, and repair
technical equipment as they learned the concepts and concerns of their
chosen field. Students in the Aviation program participated in flight
training and could earn a Federal Aviation Administration Certified
Pilot's License or Federal Communications Commission License. Students
in Travel & Tourism participated in domestic and international internships
in which they were responsible for all aspects of hotel, travel agency,
and cruise-ship operations.
- The Alamo Navajo Community School in Magdalena, New Mexico, maintained
a school-to-work program encompassing all the grades. Students in grades
K-5 participated in career awareness activities in the classroom, field
trips to local organizations, and an annual career fair. Students in
grades 6-8 completed an interest inventory, developed a plan for career
preparation, and rotated through various areas relating to their career
path. Eighth graders also took a class on career skills. High school
students participated in school-based enterprises, summer youth programs,
and paid after-school service projects. First-semester seniors also
took a mandatory Life Communication class which dealt with job readiness,
placement skills, consumer education, interviewing skills, time management,
and general life skills.
- The Fox Cities Alliance for Education in Appleton, Wisconsin, managed
The Career Connection, a career exploration center, located in a local
shopping mall. The facility provided computer workstations and VCRs,
videos, books, software programs, games, and CD-ROMs. The Center, targeted
at students ages 12 to 21, was open during the school day, two evenings
a week, and Saturdays. The Center also provided an outreach program,
which brought games and learning activities into area classrooms.
- The Back to Industry project in Marion, North Carolina, provided summer
internships for teachers and counselors in McDowell County schools.
The internships allowed teachers and counselors to observe workplace
skills, discover employer expectations, learn about entry-level job
requirements, study team-building strategies, and observe leadership
and communication skills -- and then to develop curriculum to integrate
those requirements into their academic and vocational lessons.
Whatever form they took, all school-to-work programs were directed toward
helping young people see a connection between their performance in school
and the opportunities that available to them after graduation. Not all
components of the programs were greeted with equal enthusiasm, however.
Some parents claimed that, by the use of interest and ability inventories,
school-to-work directed students into careers they did not want or would
not enjoy. Others claimed that the programs encouraged students to make
career decisions too early, thus forcing them into educational paths that
could make later, different decisions difficult. Labor leaders warned
that school-to-work programs focused on the needs of businesses and ignored
the rights of workers. And some educators feared that a curriculum based
too-rigidly on career skills robbed students of knowledge and activities
that foster their growth as individuals and as citizens of a free society.
Despite those objections, the overwhelming majority of Americans who
knew about school-to-work programs appeared to support them. A nationwide
poll conducted by Jobs for the Future, a workforce training research group,
found that three-fourths of those who knew about the school-to-work initiative
were in favor of it. And 96 percent of respondents to a survey on education
and workforce issues believed "a system of education that would provide
a strong academic foundation for every student, hands-on learning experiences,
and a learning opportunity for every student to practice what he/she learns
in a work-based setting to be desirable."
Early reports on the success of several school-to-work programs appeared
to support that viewpoint. A study of high school students in Philadelphia
found that students involved in their school-to-work program achieved
higher GPA standings than students not involved. And Boston students who
participated in that city's program were found to have a higher employment
rate and higher earnings after graduation than students who did not participate.
The students themselves agreed. More than 90 percent of teens who participated
in a Teen Attitudes Toward Work survey said school would be more interesting
and meaningful if it were taught in connection with careers.
Article by Linda Starr
Copyright © 2006 Education World