The construction and manufacturing industries announced a new national effort to place greater focus on competency-based education to help cut rising high school dropout rates. The new partnership between the Associated General Contractors of America and The Manufacturing Institute will work to give students ways to graduate with nationally portable, industry-recognized credentials to succeed in a range of high-paying jobs.
“Giving students many paths to success is the best way to keep them from having many chances to fail,” said Doug Pruitt, past president of the Associated General Contractors of America. “Focusing on college prep is fine, but we also need to teach students skills they can use to literally build a better future for themselves and their communities.”
Pruitt said that competency-based education programs are already working to reduce dropout rates among at risk youth. He said a construction charter school in St. Louis, Mo., has nearly doubled the graduation rate of the same city’s overall public school system. And he said students completing the construction program operated within the San Diego Unified School District were passing the state’s core competency test at rates far above comparable non-construction students.
As a result, the two groups will help support the creation, design, and implementation of new ways for at-risk youth to graduate by creating opportunities for them to demonstrate mastery of practical skills that are directly applicable in the workplace. In addition, both groups are calling for new private and public sector investments in workforce development programs, industry-recognized skills certifications, and ensuring students get educational credits for successfully attaining skills with real value in the workplace.
The partnership also will work to help develop the secondary career and technical education curriculum and planning that incorporates skills certifications.
“The integration of competency-based curricula in both high school and community college programs that lead to nationally portable, industry-recognized skills certifications incites students to graduate,” said Emily DeRocco, president, The Manufacturing Institute. “It makes it worthwhile for a student to stay in school when they realize that time spent in the classroom actually leads to a high-quality job in manufacturing or construction at the other end.”
Giving students a variety of ways to graduate is one of the best ways to cut dropout rates, reducing the social and economic costs that come with it, the groups noted.
“If we don’t act now to address these staggering dropout rates, there’s no doubt that our ability to compete and win in a global economy will diminish,” Pruitt said. “Telling students their only hope lies in office jobs when construction and manufacturing positions often pay better is as odd as it is damaging.”