JFF's Response to President Obama's State of the Union

Published feb. 19, 2013

In last week’s State of the Union address, President Obama drove home the need to create good middle-class jobs as the key to growing and sustaining our economy. “Every day, we should ask ourselves three questions as a nation,” he said. “How do we attract more jobs to our shores? How do we equip our people with the skills needed to do those jobs? And how do we make sure that hard work leads to a decent living?”

Training American workers to fill today’s technology-driven jobs requires innovative approaches that closely align education programs with the skills needed by local employers. That’s why we applaud the President’s clarion call to “redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy.”

The President pointed to the Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH) in Brooklyn as an example of this new breed of school. P-TECH’s unique 9-14 model connects high school, college, and the world of work through deep, meaningful partnerships. Students graduate within six years with both a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree, equipped with the skills and knowledge in demand by local employers. We commend IBM for its commitment to spreading this innovative education model.

Across the country, these types of early college high schools are significantly improving graduation and college-going rates for our most disadvantaged young people. Similar strategies are also showing great success in helping students who have dropped out of high school earn a GED and go on to community college.

Several states are now implementing these types of integrated career and technical pathway programs for adults as well. For the 93 million adults who lack a high school diploma, they represent a unique opportunity to jump-start their educations and earn credentials that will lead to well-paying jobs as quickly as possible.

JFF is committed to developing and spreading the adoption of these early college models. We know from our 30 years of experience that creating integrated, accelerated educational pathways directly tied to the skills needed by regional employers is the best road to success for those struggling to improve their lives.

President Obama’s proposal to reward high schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers is an important step forward in preparing young people for successful careers. We urge the Congress to work with the President to “build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class for all who are willing to climb them.”