The College Board Takes On Career Readiness

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Workforce 2011 Job Fair @ Blaisdell Center

The College Board is synonymous with, well, college. And that relationship is working pretty well for the makers of the SAT and AP exams, netting the organization over $720 million in revenue in 2011. But Jean-Claude Brizard, Senior Advisor for the College Board, is charged with expanding the organization’s college-ready focus to include career readiness. The former CEO of Chicago Public Schools sat down with Youth Radio to discuss the move and how the work of the College Board fits into larger career readiness work going on throughout the country.

Youth Radio:  How does career readiness fit into the mission of the College Board?

Jean-Claude Brizard: I think we’ve done well all across the country defining what we mean about college-ready. We’ve not done such a good job in defining what is career-ready. As the College Board, I think it is important for us to look at all of the kids and access to rigor for all children. What’s important for us in this ecosystem is to not shut the door [on] any child at any given time.

YR:  When I talk to people on the streets there isn’t a ton of awareness why job readiness for young people matters more than other employment or education issues.

JCB: This work is not about tracking kids to a particular place. It’s about providing access to all kids. Making sure people understand that today’s auto technician is not your grandfather’s mechanic. That today’s worker is a different kind of worker.

This is way you have so many of these folks who are unemployable, because they had a skill perhaps 10 years ago, didn’t keep their skills current, so they lost their way.

YR:  There’s no codified name for this movement — this re-think of education — incorporating more career prep into the way we teach our nation’s youth. Is that a problem?

JCB:  I’m not sure we need to have a name. If it’s [career training] really well integrated into the continuum of education that we have, it’s not about just getting someone access to a W2, but access to increasing the amount of money in that W2. So if we can teach young people that this is about continuous learning. That you can exit whenever you want, but come back and exit, and come back and stack your credentials in a way that makes sense for you. I think it’s really going to be important.

YR:  Stackable Credentials require everyone to be on the same page, so that you can leave one institution and pick up at another.  How is that going to get resolved?

JCB:  All of the players have to come together in a way to create the kind of regional proof points we need, where policy and practice align, where pedagogy and curricular assessment align in a way that makes sense for young people.

YR:  Do you see hope in the fact that parties at many levels seem to be coming to the table around this issue?

JCB:  For this to sustain, you need the players of the state level, the federal level, the school level, meaning districts, to come together in a way that aligns and makes sense and creates those kind of regional proof points where policy and practice come together.

YR:   How big of a shift is career readiness for the College Board?

JCB:  It’s a shift because we have focused quite a bit on just getting kids to four year institutions, but it is an awareness among the board of trustees and our wonderful new president that we have forgotten some of our kids, and we have to provide solutions for all of them.

We’re not looking to reinvent the wheel…we’re looking for players in this field who have done amazing work. And for us to partner and work with government and practitioners in a way that makes sense. To provide perhaps the kinds of leverage we can provide.

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