“Every learner completes his or her public education with the knowledge and skills necessary for success in college, continuing education, careers and the community. The public education system provides flexible learning environments rich with 21st century tools that promote self development, academic achievement, and active engagement in learning. It operates within a framework of high expectations for every learner with support from educators, families and the community.”
- Transformative Education in VT Summary Vision Statement, VT State Board and VT Department of Education, 2010
This vision for transforming education in Vermont, particularly at the secondary level, has been further defined and articulated by the Commissioner of Education and other education leaders in the state. Part of this articulation describes a set of flexible pathways through which all students can successfully complete high school. Among these pathway options are opportunities for students to participate in Vermont Adult Learning’s High School Completion Program, in career and technical education programs, in blended virtual learning options, in dual enrollment programming with Vermont post secondary institutions, and in work-based learning experiences.
Work-based learning experiences are activities that involve actual work experience or that connect classroom learning to employment and careers. Through work-based learning experiences, educational programs become more relevant, rigorous, challenging, and rewarding for students, parents, educators, and businesses. These opportunities particularly help students make the connection between academic principles and real world applications. For many, understanding ‘Why do I need to know this?’ provides motivation for more learning.
In addition to being an essential component of good teaching and learning, work-based learning is also critical to developing Vermont’s future workforce. There are very significant workforce development needs related to all Vermont youth that were described eloquently in the report from the Next Generation Commission: Linking Learning to Earning in Vermont (Dec. 2006). This group was appointed by the Governor and Vermont Legislature to review Vermont’s workforce concerns and recommend solutions. To quote the report:
“Vermont faces critical demographic shifts in the near future and must implement bold strategies immediately if it is to retain its economic vitality. Current predictions forecast that the total number of Vermonters over the age of 65 will double during the next 25 years, but the number of taxpaying adults will remain approximately the same. Public school enrollments are projected to continue to decline. In addition, even if the high school graduation rates remain stable, the number of students pursuing postsecondary education will likely decrease...Not surprisingly, experts predict that Vermont employers will find it increasingly difficult to locate skilled workers to fill available jobs.”
In essence, the Vermont workforce will need to retain and train beyond high school as many Vermont youth as possible, including those that may have been considered ‘on the fringe’. The Next Generation Commission made four recommendations to address the pending workforce crisis in Vermont. One of these recommendations is:
“Raise post secondary aspirations by markedly strengthening career awareness education beginning in elementary school. Continue exposure to careers and the need for post secondary education and training in middle and high schools through technical education, school-to-work initiatives, internships, dual enrollment, and other efforts.”