April , 2019

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State to develop plan to better align its education systems with business needs so all students are ready to thrive in the workforce  


SPRINGFIELD, ILThe Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) has secured a $100,000 grant to develop a detailed action plan to better prepare students for career success and, in turn, improve the economic opportunities available to all youth across the state.

“I am proud Illinois has been selected to receive this career readiness grant. The funds and resources will build upon our efforts to help more students access robust, quality career pathways in Illinois,” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “Students are better served when we are able to align programs in the classroom to high-skill, in-demand industries. These provide them with hands-on experience that can translate to a high-paying career.”

Illinois is among 24 states and the District of Columbia that secured grants for this work through phase 1 of the New Skills for Youth grant opportunity. These grants are one piece of a $75 million, five-year initiative developed by JPMorgan Chase, in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and Advance CTE. They are aimed at increasing economic opportunity for young people by strengthening career-focused education, starting in high school and ending with postsecondary degrees or credentials aligned with business needs.

Today, too many young people lack the education or training in high school and beyond that would put them on a track to qualify for these in-demand careers. By the age of 25, roughly only half of young Americans have a meaningful postsecondary credential that enables them to compete for good-paying jobs.

“Illinois is committed to raising engaged citizens with meaningful and rewarding careers. New Skills for Youth aligns with our existing initiatives to address college and career readiness within a holistic state system,” said Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis. “We are delighted to deepen our partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers and to take this opportunity to create more high-quality, career-oriented options for our children.”

Illinois has a solid structure and is a national leader in work connecting students to meaningful career credentials through structured pathways. For instance, ISBE, the Illinois Community College Board, the Department of Commerce, and the Office for Community College Research and Leadership at the University of Illinois work together to define, align, and create quality high school and community college Programs of Study as they relate to the career pathways in each career cluster.

Furthermore, since 2011, Illinois agencies and businesses have partnered to implement the Illinois Pathways Initiative, which organizes and delivers sector-based support for career pathway implementation in eight high-growth industry sectors for the Illinois economy. Illinois Pathways includes the establishment of a six-agency committee by intergovernmental agreement for career pathways support. The program helps bridge gaps between secondary and postsecondary education through piloted bridge programs and assistance that reduce the need for remediation. In addition, legislation designed to reform school funding in Illinois includes a proposal to provide additional funding for career pathway participants.

Phase 1 of New Skills for Youth provides that Illinois and other selected states will each receive a $100,000 six-month grant, along with expert technical assistance and peer support from other grantees to perform a diagnostic assessment of their career preparation system and prepare for implementation of a new action plan. Illinois will be eligible to apply for the phase 2 grant opportunity, which will require states to demonstrate the commitment and capacity to execute the action plans developed in phase 1.

This grant opportunity builds on CCSSO’s Career Readiness Initiative, launched in 2015. The goal is to ensure that students are not only ready for college, but that all children graduate from high school prepared for in-demand careers.

For more information on the New Skills for Youth grant opportunity or CCSSO’s Career Readiness Initiative, visit www.ccsso.org/Resources/Programs/Career_Readiness_Initiative.html.


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