Neil Strege is Vice-President of the Washington Round Table. This group of senior executives has focused on education reform. Their main objective is to fill the teeming job market with WA graduates. Otherwise, talent from outside shall have to be imported. And presently, the demand exceeds the supply. It is projected that 740,000 job openings will occur in the next five years.
He described three major career pathways, to wit:
- Career. High skilled, high pay. Academic credentials needed.
- Pathway. Blue collar. Skilled. Pathway to career jobs over five years
- Entry level. Low skilled, low pay.
Today 31% of WA high school students go on to earn a post-secondary credential. The goal is 70% by 2030. That is, a credential by age 26.
Not good! WA is 47th in the nation in college-going high school graduates. The 70% goal, if achieved, will yield significant social benefits, i.e., reduction of unemployment and poverty. It will be necessary to improve the performance of the K-12 system, enhance the participation of WA State in post-secondary education, and help students develop better awareness of careers that will be available.
It is a fact that poor students start behind and finish behind. There have been identified 255 low performing K-12 schools; more than one-third of school districts have at least one. However, only 100,000 students attend them. The challenge extends beyond low performing schools:
- There is a correlation between poverty and race
- Other factors include homelessness and the various reasons for it.
- Steps to be taken:
- Improve K-12 financing.
- Enhance support and accountability
- Increase access to educator talent
- Close achievement gap early.
Comment: This is an important and far-reaching undertaking. The more successful these efforts, the more everyone, statewide, will benefit.