Establish workforce development academies in every school district.

To provide opportunity to students in every corner of the state and improve workforce preparation, North Carolina should implement “Career Readiness Academies” in every local school district. Based on California’s Linked Learning Program, Career Readiness Academies would prepare more students for in-demand jobs in their home area.

Coursework in the academies would be aligned with local workforce needs in existing and emerging industries such as aerospace, clean energy technologies, health informatics, energy and power, advanced manufacturing, global logistics, and supply chain management. Courses would be offered in partnership with nearby community colleges and relevant industry partners and would lead to AA, AAS, or recognized industry certificates/credentials with labor market value. Programs of study would reflect projected local labor markets and enroll students beginning in the 10th grade. 

Linking high school with post-secondary education is not new to North Carolina. The state is nationally recognized for its early college high school model whereby students attend high schools on community college or university campuses and complete their high school diploma and associate’s degree or two years of university credit in four to five years. Early college high schools have impressive achievement rates, college credit attainment, and retention and graduation rates.1 Yet, the state is home to only 70 of these schools and not every local school district is home to a community college or university.

While the early college model is not for all students, the academic support, postsecondary integration, and connections to local industry are important to many more students than early college high schools can serve.

1 North Carolina New Schools. (October 2013). Changing the Future Through Early College High Schools