Session recap: Reimagining college and career prep in 2024

2024’s National Future of Education Technology Conference was willed with inspiring sessions and workshops, one of which put students at the center of its message.

The National Future of Education Technology Conference, which took place last month in Orlando, Fl., is the perfect place for passionate educators, K12 district leaders and technology professionals to network, collaborate and get up to speed with the latest trends and innovations in the world of edtech. Embedded in this experience is a plethora of sessions and workshops for attendees to choose from. From artificial intelligence to leadership strategies and best practices, participants had seemingly little trouble finding a session that piqued their interest.

Among the variety of sessions available was one that District Administration’s Micah Ward had the opportunity to sit in on, which was student-centered and meant for passionate educators who are in the profession for the right reason: to build up and support the next generation of students for a lifetime of success and purpose.

If you didn’t get a chance to attend many sessions or weren’t able to attend FETC 2024, here’s a brief recap of the session so you can incorporate the ideas and solutions presented in your own district.

Reimagining college and career pathways

In this session, attendees were introduced to the major findings from the 2023 K12 Career and College Readiness Benchmark Report, sponsored by Paper’s MajorClarity. As the definition of postsecondary success continues to change year by year, educators must meet students’ demands as far as understanding what opportunities they desire to be exposed to before graduating high school.

Fortunately, more districts are beginning to improve their career readiness, allowing kids to gain essential work-related skills as early as eighth grade. During the 2022-23 school year, nearly 74% of respondents (ranging from students, teachers, principals and other education leaders) reported their district provides a range of postsecondary options.

However, structural gaps in access to postsecondary options still exist. Educators should start revering opportunities for students to gain skills relevant to trade skills and other non-college-related pathways.

“Four-year degrees are not the answer to all our needs,” said Peyton Holland, Executive Director of the National Technical Honor Society, during the panel.

Because fewer students are entering higher education in 2024, K12 schools are starting to recognize this shift and are providing more pathways to career readiness.

Founder and CEO of Paper Philip Cutler also encourages leaders to reflect on how they think about individual learning plans because they’re becoming the norm.

“Schools and districts have become aware that students need context,” he said during the panel.

However, many students aren’t given the proper resources and plans that show them which courses they need to take in high school to enter their desired trade, unlike ILPs that prepare students for a four-year college.

“Connecting a student to a career plan early on is motivating,” Cutler said. Schools can achieve this goal by connecting classes to students’ desired career goals. However, the panelists noted that schools often have trouble leveraging student data to bridge the two together.

Holland asked attendees, “Even if you have the data, what is your ability to scale and make changes based on that data?”

For instance, there’s often a disconnect between what educators believe to be a valuable credential and what an industry looks for in a potential employee. School leaders should engage in conversations routinely with their local industries so they can actually prepare students to meet their local workforce needs.

The day we start celebrating CTE certification as much as we do acceptance to four-year colleges, Cutler closed, that’s when schools will get the most out of their college and career prep programs.