HEA is engaging our county in cross-sector collaboration to ensure all children and youth have practical, emotional and social skills to thrive in school, work, and life. Educators, business leaders, community leaders and parents generally agree that success in life requires more than academic skills, and that social-emotional skills, or non-cognitive skills, are equally important. Advances in brain research have demonstrated that these skills are linked – with social-emotional and non-cognitive skills serving as a foundation for academic learning, and predicting outcomes such as academic achievement, employment, and health later in life. Research on the needs of employers also continually demonstrates the emphasis on non-cognitive skills, with employers often identifying social and emotional skills as the most difficult skills to find. There is growing consensus around the need to focus on the whole child, including social, emotional and academic well-being, but this need cannot be met by any one sector, and requires cross-sector collaboration and attention to the environment and culture within homes, communities and schools that enable children to thrive.
Postsecondary attainment is increasingly important for economic mobility, as workers with only a high school education are being left behind in the post-recession economy. At the same time, the type of postsecondary credentials and degrees that are most valuable is shifting, and dependent on the local economy. Although it is important that students’ plans after high school include some postsecondary education, students need to be prepared for a range of postsecondary opportunities, including industry certifications, technical certificates, and other stackable degrees as well as associate and bachelor degree programs, and provided the opportunity to explore which is the best fit for their personal goals.
Connecting education and career pathways is not only important for our economic well-being, but it can also help remedy the significant challenge of student disengagement in school. The National Gallup Poll, through their survey of student engagement, has consistently found that engagement in school declines steadily as students progress in school, reaching its lowest point in 11th grade. This re-enforces the need for a system that connects students’ experiences in schools to real-world, authentic experiences outside the classroom, so that students can make the connection between education and their future and to find hope and purpose. Students who have clear visions and goals for the future and see education as relevant to reaching these goals are much more likely to be engaged and successful in school.