As the skilled labor gap grows, the conversation around educational gaps and skills gaps is growing as well. Despite knowing that a major cause of these gaps is lack of awareness among youth over good careers available to them, there are still far too few resources available for those who would benefit the most: low-income families without access to programs, or students where enthusiasm for education attainment is not shared in the home. Career awareness is a crucial and early step students need to develop their career interests. In order to empower students to become career ready, businesses and the community must invest in career awareness programs to provide younger students with exposure to jobs that align with their interests and aptitudes.
Opportunities for career exploration through work-based learning (WBL) programs expose students to new ideas, career paths, and experiences in the working world that offer a solution to close the skills gaps. Work-based learning is designed to open students’ eyes to the connection between school and career. These programs motivate them to learn and utilize the skills they will need for the future — skills that aren’t always taught within a traditional classroom setting.