TU: Saturday Lead Letter: We must embrace the modern college pathway

Link to article: http://jacksonville.com/opinion/letters-readers/2017-11-24/saturday-lead-letter-we-must-embrace-modern-college-pathway

I read the Times-Union’s recent article regarding the innovative work in career education that’s taking place in the Duval County Public Schools district — and I wanted to highlight the ongoing collaborative work that’s being done to provide access to high-level careers for local students.

Florida State College at Jacksonville is partnering with the Duval County Public Schools to align workforce programs so that students can continue in college what they begin in high school.

That’s because today’s skilled jobs often require college coursework that leads to an industry-recognized credential — one that gives a student the experience and knowledge needed to work in industries like logistics.

We recognize that this educational pathway represents a modern approach to college that is distinct from how “going to college” is traditionally understood.

Working with local industry partners, Florida State College at Jacksonville determines workforce needs and lines up the high school and post-secondary education to ensure there is a seamless path to a career.

The modern college approach frontloads college-level applied skills, so that students master them earlier in their education — which, in turn, provides the opportunity to enter the workforce sooner with less upfront expense.

Compare this to traditional college where students don’t begin to focus on their major until their third year.

Students who are on the modern college pathway can progress faster both in career and college because our certificates and associate degrees can be applied toward bachelor’s degrees.

This is not an argument against traditional college. Indeed, more than half of Florida State College at Jacksonville’s students are on a traditional college pathway that will have them well prepared to complete their junior and senior years at state universities (the homes of traditional college).

We need healthy traditional college pathways because some fields simply aren’t focused on applied skills.

But the need for skilled workers is real, and the opportunities for those who opt for the modern college path are plentiful.

More than just raising awareness that today’s skilled jobs are a viable career path in a 21st century economy, we should reframe the discussion to extol the virtues of modern college.

Cynthia Bioteau, president.

Florida State College at Jacksonville

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