The Biden-Harris Administration completed its nationwide Unlocking Pathways Summit series today in Biloxi, Mississippi. The four-part series was part of the U.S. Department of Education’s Raise the Bar: Unlocking Career Success initiative, aimed at helping young Americans access good-paying jobs created by President Biden’s Bidenomics agenda. The series was supported by the Departments of Transportation, Energy, Commerce, and Labor to increase and expand access to high-quality career pathways helping young Americans prepare for careers of the future in in-demand fields.
The Summit series was co-hosted with the national education and workforce development organization Jobs for the Future (JFF), and more than 500 guests from more than 36 states attended the convenings to highlight workforce priorities and growing opportunities for young people created by historic recent federal investments, including the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Inflation Reduction Act, and CHIPS and Science Act.
Each Summit included state teams of key decision makers across the K-12, Higher Education, and Workforce systems, and the U.S. Department of Education (Department) was joined at each event by senior leadership from both federal agency partners and state leaders, including Gov. Jared Polis of Colorado and Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin.
The series kicked off in Renton, Washington, where the Department partnered with the Department of Transportation to discuss construction and infrastructure pathways. At the Summit, the Department announced partnerships with Departments of Transportation, Energy, Commerce, and Labor to support state teams to connect across sectors to advance career-connected learning.
At the Summit in Aurora, Colorado, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona announced the launch of a $25 million Career Connected High School Grant, a new program that will provide grants to consortia of local educational agencies, institutions of higher education, and employers to pilot evidence-based strategies to increase the integration and alignment of high school, postsecondary education, and the world of work to improve postsecondary education and career outcomes for all students.
In Madison, Wisconsin, Deputy Secretary of Education Cindy Marten announced 81 semi-finalists for Phase 2 of the Career Z Challenge, a challenge designed to identify local education agencies interested in creating or enhancing work-based learning (WBL) opportunities to engage students across grades 9-12 in meaningful career exploration, development, and preparation. The 81 semi-finalists represent 34 states and collectively serve more than 1.5 million students.
At today’s final summit in Biloxi, Mississippi, representatives from Alabama and Mississippi shared regional exemplars that support students with disabilities to pursue competitive integrated employment and further connecting their education and workforce systems to support youth employment. Additionally, the Department announced the grand-prize winner of the Rural Tech Project. This is a $600,000 challenge to advance technology education and prepare students for the careers of today and tomorrow, administered by Luminary Labs. The winner, Woodlake High School in Woodlake, California, prepares students for regional aviation careers and postsecondary degrees, utilizing drone operations, geometry, and aerodynamic principles. Students use flight simulators, complete dual-credit college courses, and earn recognized industry certifications. As the grand-prize winner, Woodlake will receive an additional $100,000 prize.
“High school students everywhere need more opportunities to build the advanced technology skills that our employers need, and our economy demands. These summits allowed us to gather key officials to work together to ensure our youth are ready for the jobs of the future,” said Amy Loyd, assistant secretary of the Department’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education. “I am honored to congratulate Woodlake High School for their inspiring and innovative work in the Rural Tech Project. Woodlake’s aviation program engages students meaningfully through hands-on learning and real industry experiences, preparing them to pursue high demand, rewarding careers.”
For more information about the Career Connected High School Grant, the Career Z Challenge, or the Rural Tech Project, and for more information about the broader Unlocking Career Success initiative, sign up for our newsletter here.