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Preparing our youth for the future

 Susan Bunting
News Journal

How can we help prepare young people fortheir future? Without a crystal ball, it’s hard to say exactly, but we can make a few educated guesses. One fact experts share is that more and more jobs will require either a college degree or professional certification. The rapid advancement of technology dictates that career-focused education is more critical now than ever before.

That’s why so many leaders in Delaware, from the K-12 education world, business, nonprofit, government, and higher education, are focusing on what steps we can take today to help prepare our youth, our employers, our schools, and our workplaces for a rapidly changing world.

On Wednesday, I’ll sit on a panel with my fellow cabinet secretaries: PatriceGilliam-Johnson from the Department of Labor and Bernice Whaley from the Economic Development Office, along with Delmarva Power CEO and Workforce Development Board Chair Gary Stockbridge, at the Third Annual Delaware Pathways Conference. We’ll do our best to flash forward to the year 2025 and talk with attendees about how we see the future taking shape from the perspective of our public-private nexus. Luckily, for those of us working on Delaware Pathways, the future is looking bright.

For example, in the fall of 2014, there were just 27 young people in an advanced manufacturing pathway. Today, Delaware has one of the fastest growing career pathway networks in the country with nearly 6,000 young people in 14 state model pathways.

Through Pathways, we are empowering students to feel confident about life after high school. Whether they have an interest in finance, IT, health care, agriculture, or hospitality, students enrolled in a pathway have options and opportunities to learn from real world industry experts and gain real life workplace experiences. The goal, by the time graduation comes around, is for many of them to have industry-recognized credentials or certifications plus job connections on top of their diplomas.

We owe much to the leadership of our former governor, Jack Markell, and his administration's initiative in engaging a diverse group of public and private sector partners to help move the work forward. The new administration under Gov. John Carney is excited to take the reins and help grow Pathways even more.

Educators see great value with Pathways since they equip our students with tangible skills, tools, and postsecondary connections that will help them as adults along with non-academic skills like collaboration, communication, and problem-solving. They also engage students, thus incentivizing them to excitedly attend school each day.

As we peer into the future, I would like to see even more career-alignedcoursework opportunities for our K-12 students, expanded work-based learning opportunities like job shadowing, internships and apprenticeships, and even stronger partnerships with local employers.

The rest of the country is watching us. Delaware has been recognized and lauded for our progress and for the partnerships that have made this work a possibility.

It’s essential that we continue working together and thinking creatively about our approach. The more connections we can build, the more opportunities we can create for students as they exit formal K-12 education and pursue postsecondary education and careers. That’s a future we can all promote.

I hope you’ll join us at the Delaware Pathways third annual conference, taking place on Wednesday and Thursday at the Chase Center in Downtown Wilmington. Visit www.delawarepathways. org for more details.

Susan Bunting is the Delaware secretary of education.

DELAWARE VOICE

SUSAN BUNTING

The News Journal | Page A11Wednesday, 29 March 2017

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Wednesday, March 29, 2017 - 19:45