A new federal skills-based learning initiative


The Biden administration on Monday announced a new multi-federal department effort to boost skills-based learning and career paths that focuses on closer collaboration between schools, colleges, workforce development agencies and industry partners.

The Education Department (ED) on Monday launched “Raise the Bar: Unlocking Career Success,” which is supported by the departments of Commerce and Labor to increase and expand access to high-quality training programs to help youth pursue jobs in in-demand fields. The initiative unites key agencies to “strengthen the connection between K-12 education, postsecondary education and workforce programs,” according to a release.

As part of the launch, ED announced $5.6 million dollars in Perkins funding for a new program to expand work-based learning opportunities for students. It also will issue new guidance on how federal funds can be used to develop and expand career pathway programs, including registered apprenticeships. As part of the initiative, the department also plans to host regional summits with students, educators, employers and other stakeholders to learn about promising practices.

ED also announced that next spring it will launch the “Career Z Challenge: Expanding Work-Based Learning Opportunities” competition, which aims to foster multi-sector partnerships and expand work-based learning opportunities for students. Semi-finalists and finalists will be eligible to receive targeted technical assistance including professional development support, webinars and training, as well as a portion of a prize pool, according to the department.

“It’s time we bridge the divide between our K-12 systems and our college, career and industry preparation programs, which leave too many students behind and perpetuate inequities in our most diverse, underserved, and rural communities,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a release. “An education system reimagined for the 21st century engages youth of all ages in the power of career-connected learning and provides every student with the opportunity to gain real-life work experience, earn college credits, and make progress towards an industry credential before they graduate high school.

Top Biden administration brass — including First Lady Jill Biden, Cardona, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh — visited a Chicago high school on Monday to roll out the initiative. The group also visited Aon’s Chicago facility to highlight registered apprenticeships, particularly in non-traditional industries and corporate careers with a focus on underrepresented populations and communities in key sectors of technology, finance, insurance and banking.

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