Work readiness of career and technical education high school students
Hall, Valery Lang
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The definition and scope of work readiness skills have been guided by the 1991 landmark report What Work Requires of Schools: A SCANS Report for America 2000. The report identified that employers are lacking workers who can use technology effectively, think critically, and solve problems and that more than half of students leave secondary education without the knowledge or foundation required to sustain meaningful employment. Whether enrolled in a comprehensive high school career and technical education program (CTE) or in a career academy, students should learn certain basic work readiness skills before graduating. Despite this, there is no evidence to support if either of these educational structures is making a difference in Georgia. The purpose of this study was to examine the influence of CTE enrollment in a comprehensive high school and a career academy on the work readiness of high school students in two Georgia school districts. Work readiness, as defined by the Occupational Information Network, is the foundational skills necessary to learn additional job-specific skills in an occupation that offers wages sufficient to support a small family and the potential for career advancement in a growing field. For this study, work readiness was measured using the WorkKeys® Skills Assessments in the areas of locating information, applied math, and reading for information. The 256 comprehensive high school students and 245 career academy students were seniors who had taken the WorkKeys® assessments in school year 2009-2010. Statistically significant differences found between the two groups on the three WorkKeys® scales were deemed to have little practical significance when effect sizes were calculated. Examination of the number of WorkKeys® certificates earned indicated a small association between type of certificate earned and type of CTE program; although, 27% of career academy students earned platinum and gold certificates, while only 7% of comprehensive high school students did. Career academy students otherwise showed no real advantage over comprehensive CTE students in terms of work readiness. The addition of community relationships and required work-based learning experiences in career academies do not seem to influence the level of basic workplace skills obtained by high school students.
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