Career-Connected Learning, What Can Educators Learn from Learners and Business

As a proud sponsor of The Attainment Network and CareerWise Colorado’s Career-Connected Education – A Colorado Pathways Conference, Colorado Succeeds facilitated a panel discussion: A Call to Action: What Education Advocates Need to Know from Learners & Business.

The panel facilitated by Colorado Succeeds’ Vice President of Policy, Katie Zaback, featured Dr. Jandel Allen Davis, President and CEO at Craig Hospital; TeRay Esquibel, Executive Director, Ednium; Yvonne Myers, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, Fort Collins Area Chamber of Commerce; and Larry Blackshear, student, University of Colorado Denver.  

The panel allowed conference participants to hear from learners and business on what’s working for learners and how educators can engage and partner with industry to improve our education system and better serve Colorado students. 

At their core, work-based and career-connected learning programs are about centering learners and their needs. They put learners at the wheel, allow them to explore fields of interest, and help them connect their education and their future careers, leading to more engagement. Results from early adopters show that students engage with these opportunities because they are ready to be challenged.

“When you expose students to work-based learning opportunities early on their journey, we know the buy-in is already there. Students are hungry for real-world experiences, and if we are honest about expanding career-connected learning as an equity tool, then we need to give students the mic.”

Panelists shared insights on challenges that need to be addressed to ensure a balance between expansion and equity. All education should be career-connected education, TeRay Esquibel shared. [There is] this false dichotomy of you either going to college or in the trades and the assumption that students who participate in internships or graduate with a credential are not going to college. If you graduate high school with a credential and decide to go to college, that credential can help, make college more affordable.”

For career-connected learning programs to be successful, there needs to be a collaborative effort, and strong partnerships between industry and education and training providers to provide learners valuable and accessible opportunities.  

Business is increasingly at the education table, ready to engage; as Yvonne Myers shared, businesses have changed their minds about young people. We can now get industry at the forefront…”– to work with educators and expand apprenticeship and work-based learning opportunities to learners. 

Career-connected learning begins in K-12, but it does not, nor should it stop there. As learners transition into the workforce, we need to create more opportunities for them to upskill and reskill. This especially requires industry buy-in and investment.

“I think when you have the right executives in the room who are willing to be creative and rethink what a workday looks like, we can unlock so many opportunities for workers, especially as it pretends to upskilling and reskilling opportunities.”

Amadou Dieng

Communications Manager

Colorado Succeeds