In responding to a survey from Baltimore’s K-12 system, one student compared the loss and disruption of the pandemic to living through World War I. Reengaging thousands of students in Baltimore, and millions of young people and displaced workers around the nation, is a once-in-a-generation challenge. And returning to the status quo won’t cut it, says Pfeifer.
“Everyone needs a career, and there are many paths to get there.”
That’s the system’s message to students, which is a shift from its previous focus on encouraging students to enroll in college.
“We found that the ‘college for all’ message was turning off many students, and they were not talking to any adults at all about their post-high school plans,” Pfeifer says. “We changed our language to help our students see that there are many pathways to a career, but we have also been clear that we want them to be prepared to access a career that pays them family-supporting wages.”
Options school counselors now discuss with students, in addition to attending a community college or four-year institution, include apprenticeships, the military, or the system’s Grads2Careers
workforce training program.
“Ultimately, we want our students to be lifelong learners who are able to pivot with our changing economy,” says Pfeifer, “and this learning can take place in a variety of settings that can help our students advance professionally and economically.”
When asked what college leaders and employers can do differently to help young people who have left the education-to-jobs pipeline, Pfeifer says:
Our students have met this time with incredible resilience, but they are also demanding of us – college leaders and employers included – that we don’t return to business as usual when this pandemic ends. They are looking for opportunities that address their practical realities – jobs, mental health resources, and assistance in transitioning to post-high school life. Coming out of this pandemic, our students are asking for evidence that they are not just a face on a screen, but worthy of being known, invested in, and supported toward their dreams.