I just got off the phone with Zach Rinkins, an educator and award-winning multimedia journalist who is working to transform college students into emerging professionals.
I’ll be writing a post soon based on my conversation with Rinkins, during which he said this: “College is an investment for which we must secure a return.” By “we” he means black Americans, but his thinking is spot on for everybody: It isn’t enough to simply earn a college degree.
College is not just the next mindless step after high school. The college years are an investment in your future that needs to yield the highest return, not just a diploma. But how can students ensure that their hard-earned degree will yield that return?
For black students, and students who are low income, one way to use higher education not only as a way out of poverty but also to contribute to and stabilize their community is to use job market data, so they know what jobs are in demand, what education they need to secure those jobs, and what salaries those jobs will pay.
This crucial data is helping to inform an innovative early college high school in northern Kentucky, where most students are white and low income. But it’s an approach that could most likely work anywhere.
The Difference Job Market Data Makes
A recent Education Week article describes how well-informed the students at the iLead Academy are because their teachers and counselors use job market data to guide student course loads and post-high school plans.
“As a result, most of the teenagers here understand the nuts and bolts of the regional job market. They know which communities are clamoring for registered nurses and which ones want licensed practical nurses. They can tell you how much they’ll make as an entry level robotics technician and whether the pay differential between an associate degree and a bachelor’s degree in that field justifies a four-year college investment,” the article states.
The iLead Academy focuses only on high-paying, in-demand, regional jobs. This information could be life-altering for college students as well—but having it in high school is better, because students would know up front if a four-year college makes sense for them, or if an associate degree or other credential would be better.
The point is, making use of job market data to develop a student’s course of study in and after high school makes a lot of sense. Schools serving a predominantly black student body would be smart to follow iLead’s innovative lead.
Read more at Education Week.