Blurring the Lines

How Blurring the Lines Between High School, College and Careers Can Set More Teens Up for Success

In offering students more opportunities to gain skills, we can save time and money, create a better-trained workforce & better support our businesses.

This essay was originally published as part of the Center on Reinventing Public Education’s 2023 “State of the American Student” report. As part of the effort, CRPE asked 14 experts from various sectors to offer up examples of innovations, solutions or possible paths forward as education leaders navigate the current crisis. (See all the perspectives)

I’ve always believed that education is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet for life success. A quality education leads to greater personal earnings, better health outcomes, a stronger economy, and lower community crime rates, among many other benefits. For example, bachelor’s and associate degree holders take home median weekly earnings of $1,334 and $963, respectively, compared to $809 for their peers with only a high school degree, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

But as the global economy rapidly evolves, we must rethink the way we educate students and our workforce. A fragmented approach—where high schools, postsecondary institutions, and employers all work in their own silos— shortchanges everyone.

We need to create more seamless pathways from school to careers. In Colorado, for example, 91.4% of jobs that can support a family of three require postsecondary education or some form of training or certification in high school beyond diploma requirements. Conventional four-year degrees alone cannot solve this problem, as more and more jobs value skills over a formal college diploma.

Blurring the Lines

In Colorado, we refer to breaking down silos as “blurring.” Advanced degrees and credentials are now table stakes to participate in the modern economy, but accessing them usually requires students to persist through four years of high school work that often doesn’t feel relevant to their futures. Then they proceed to postsecondary programs where they must take on debt, pay tuition, or forgo work while they pursue credentials. Blurring can make high school more relevant and credentials more attainable for all students.

While Colorado has seen one of the strongest economic recoveries in the country following the pandemic, employers across our state still struggle to find the right talent for their available jobs. One factor: we have historically asked students to make choices about their careers after leaving high school, often without the appropriate data needed to identify industry-specific needs or what kind of return on investment a particular pathway will afford.

That’s why we have been laser-focused on blurring the lines between high school, higher education, and the workforce. Students and young professionals deserve more opportunities to gain skills.
By increasing those opportunities, we can save people time and money, create a better-trained workforce, and better support our businesses.

Today, roughly 53% of high school graduates in Colorado earn college credit or industry credentials through dual and concurrent enrollment while in high school, saving them an estimated $53 million annually on tuition costs. A growing number also participate in apprenticeship and “learn while you earn” models.

Innovative intermediaries, such as CareerWise Colorado, are working between education and business to provide youth apprenticeship opportunities in industries such as banking, finance, health care, insurance and advanced manufacturing.

Additionally, Pathways in Technology Early College High School models (PTECH) provide students the opportunity to learn on the job while in high school, earn an associate degree and be first in line for those jobs following graduation.

However, more students can and should be participating in these opportunities. Our vision is that every student will graduate with a diploma in one hand and a certificate, degree, or meaningful job experience in the other.

That’s why the Colorado Legislature created a task force that brought together partners from schools, postsecondary pathways, and industry. Its mission was to “develop and recommend policies, laws, and rules to support the equitable and sustainable expansion and alignment of programs that integrate secondary, postsecondary, and work-based learning opportunities.”

This past year, the task force identified several impediments to the various pathways available to students: lack of awareness, confusion about program goals, affordability, and inadequate data on outcomes. Schools are already working to better target and maximize their resources, and the task force will present a final report with clear recommendations on how to scale this work by the end of 2023.

Continue reading full article here.

Or if you are ready to learn how Jobspeaker can help you move to a Skill-Based Hiring Approach, schedule a demo today.

author avatar
Celia French

You May Also Like…

Is College Worth It?

Is College Worth It?

These findings come amid rising tuition costs and mounting student debt. Views on the cost of college differ by Americans’ level of education. But even among four-year college graduates, only about a third (32%) say college is worth the cost even if someone has to take out loans – though they are more likely than those without a degree to say this.

read more



Terms of Use

Privacy Policy

Help + Tips



How it Works

Contact + Press


Press Kit

News & Stories

Do Not Sell Request

Follow Us For the Latest Updates

Yes! We have a plug-and-play job board – but we offer so much more!

Ability to manage and scale quality hands-on learning experiences.

Finally, a way to make curriculum mapping easy! Jobspeaker maps your curriculum to skills employers demand. Then Skills Mapping™ guides learners to programs that teach the skills needed for their dream job.

Automatically built from a student's completed coursework. It showcases what a student has learned, earned, and how it relates to employment.

Our products bridge the education-to-workforce talent pipeline through an AI data-driven platform matching in-demand skills to career pathways.