The “Career” in College and Career Ready

Mary Shumway, State Director of Career and Technical Education

Mary Shumway, State Director of Career and Technical Education

The “Career” in College and Career Ready

Too often recent efforts around “College and Career Ready” focus almost exclusively on college entrance and completion.

“Career readiness” is often a very confusing part of College and Career Ready with a host of varied definitions, frameworks, policies and implementation strategies. Some definitions focus on learning skills for a specific entry-level job, and other definitions provide a broader context of workplace skills. 

To be career ready in our ever-changing global economy requires adaptability and a commitment to lifelong learning.

We have seen some definitions be narrowly focused on knowledge and skills for a particular industry sector such as health care or business. Career readiness is a convergence of all several definitions.

A career-ready person effectively navigates pathways that connect education and employment to achieve a fulfilling, financially-secure and successful career. A career is more than just a job. Career readiness has no defined endpoint. To be career ready in our ever-changing global economy requires adaptability and a commitment to lifelong learning.

Being career ready also means that a study has a mastery of key academic, technical and workplace knowledge, and skills. Those skills may change and need to be adapted from one job to another as a person progresses along a career path.

A broad coalition of national education, business, philanthropic and policy groups has come together to create a clear, unified and focused vision for what it means to be career ready. The coalition is called the Career Readiness Partner Council—careerreadynow.org. Their goal is to enhance reform efforts around college and career readiness to include a more comprehensive understanding of what it means to be career ready.

The council recently released a statement entitled “Building Blocks for Change: What it Means to be Career Ready.” This statement makes clear that career readiness is a process of connecting “education and employment to achieve a fulfilling, financially-secure and successful career.”

The document establishes that career readiness must foster “adaptability and a commitment to lifelong learning, along with a mastery of key knowledge, skills and dispositions that vary from one career to another and change over time.”
This comprehensive definition, supported by an unusually broad alliance of groups, will help inform policy in states and communities across the country.

It offers clear guidance, and lays out next steps for:
• Policymakers • Higher education
• High school teachers, leaders, and counselors • Parents and students
• Business and industry • Communities

Over 27 influential groups representing a wide group of the education and workforce- development spectrum spent months outlining the vision. The coalition consulted leading researchers and practitioners during the development, and drew heavily from the rich body of work from many of the participating organizations.

 As Utah education and business leaders embrace the College and Career Ready needs of our students, Career and Technical Education (CTE) is well positioned to provide the needed knowledge and career ready skills to students. The link between education, including CTE, and the economy has never been more apparent.

CTE has a window of opportunity for bold change and opportunity to impact students and the economy. The future of our nation and each and every citizen depends on it.

Mary Shumway is the Director of Career and Technical Education at the Utah State Office of Education. You may reach her via email at or by calling 801-538-7500. Learn more about Career and Technical Education on the UtahCTE.org website. This is a cross-post from the CTE Directions newsletter.

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1 comment to The “Career” in College and Career Ready

  • Jason Sprenger

    Skills gaps do exist and are getting worse in the economy today, and it’s prudent for communities to invest in solutions. One of them is career and technical education (CTE), which has proven to produce a return in areas like improved student achievement, career prospects, more trained workers for the jobs of today and improved community vitality. Congrats to Utah for realizing these efforts are needed and valued, and investing in them.

    The Industry Workforce Needs Council is a new group of businesses working together to spotlight skills gaps and advocate for CTE as a means of bridging them. For stats and other information, or to join the effort, visit http://www.iwnc.org.

    Jason Sprenger, for the IWNC

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