Harvard report calls for career-specific training, counseling

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The United States needs to reevaluate higher education because of high dropout rates, according to a report by the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The report challenges the presumed need for all young people to go to a four-year college and calls for the development of vocational training for young adults and an increase in career counseling.

“The reason we are failing to prepare so many young people is because we are taking an overly narrow approach to education and youth development,” said William Symonds, project director and primary author of the “Pathways to Prosperity” report.

“While we put a lot of emphasis on sending kids to college, many of them are not successfully completing,” Symonds said.

About 80 percent of freshmen that entered UT in 2004 completed a bachelor’s degree within six years, according to data from the Office of Information Management and Analysis at UT. That number is higher than the national average of 56 percent.

The report challenges the idea that the path to success for young people means attaining a four-year degree, Symonds said.

“We need to offer students multiple pathways to success,” Symonds said. “For some students that would be vocational or career education. We’re suggesting we need to raise the quality.”

Symonds said because of the increasing failure to prepare young people for future success, both high schools and colleges need to put more emphasis on career counseling, helping students decide what they want to do and how to best achieve it.

According to the study, positions that were once suitable for people with a high school diploma or less in 1973 made up 72 percent of the job pool. By 2007, that number had shrunk to 41 percent, with a rising need for workers who have some college experience but not necessarily a degree.

Almost 30 percent of workers with licenses or certificates, which require less education than an associate’s degree, were earning more than people with bachelor’s degrees, according to the report.

Mike Midgley, vice president of instruction at Austin Community College, said many jobs once available directly from high school now have more advanced technical requirements and additional training is required to prepare students.

“What’s driving that shift is this evolving level of technology,” Midgley said. “You are getting into the zone when you simply can’t do these jobs anymore without an ability to work with technology.”