Reimagining the School-to-Work Experience for Transfer High School Students

Out of school. Out of work. Underemployed.

These are phrases that, all too often, represent the post-secondary experience of New York City’s 15,000 over-age, under-credited transfer high school students.

Today’s labor market requires that students entering into the world of work be equipped with some post-secondary training or credential.

The problem: Only about half of New York City’s transfer high school students graduate with a high school diploma. Of those students, only about 30% move on to college, in many cases attending two-year schools that have low graduation rates, especially for low-income students of color. Even those students who reached college too often leave without the credential necessary to be competitive in the job market.

On January 30th, New Visions celebrated the launch of a partnership with JobsFirstNYC that aims to provide students with better options.

Leveraging JobFirstNYC’s expertise in workforce readiness and New Visions’ long-time role as a laboratory of education innovation in New York City, the two organizations have teamed up to form the In-School Sectoral Employment Project (ISSEP), a three-year project that will embed a work-based learning model into school experiences in order to connect students to the workforce while still in high school.

As part of the partnership, a successive learning model will help students build knowledge and experience required for future employment. Students familiarize themselves with college and career options, learn academic concepts through real-world application, gain paid job experience, and expand their professional networks. These opportunities help students make informed choices about careers and postsecondary education and training options, select and enroll in credential training, and, ultimately enroll in college or obtain employment.

The project also relieves schools of a burden. Focusing on multiple growing sectors of the economy, JobsFirstNYC and New Visions will facilitate relationships between schools and workforce development training providers; identify partner employers; collaborate to design the project; and help design and implement the successive learning model.

“There’s a lot of work involved in being a principal. Building post-secondary relationships is a job in and of itself,” argued DezAnn Romain, principal at Brooklyn Democracy Academy, a New Visions network school. “Your job as a principal is not to think about a student as someone who needs to receive a diploma, your job is to educate a child so that their life can change after they receive the diploma.”

To launch the collaboration, New Visions and JobsFirst brought together over 100 educators, philanthropists, representatives from community based organizations and workforce readiness advocates for a dialogue called “Stem the Flow: Reimagining the School-to-Work Experience for Transfer High School Students.”

Over the course of three hours, guests exchanged ideas about the structural and systemic barriers that transfer students face in getting jobs. Panelists, including transfer high school principals and administrators and experts in the workforce readiness arena, brought diverse subject-matter expertise to the conversation.

“The nature of work has changed,” shared Marjorie Parker, JobsFirstNYC President and CEO, as she opened up the evening’s dialogue. “Young adults increasingly need more skills, more experience, and the market is demanding more.”

New Visions President Mark Dunetz added, “All students should have the opportunity to be exposed to work. The question becomes, ‘How can we make this happen consistently at scale?’”

Over the next three years, working with 12 New Visions transfer schools, ISSEP hopes to answer just that question.

“The lives of our young people are tremendously unpredictable,” commented Dr. Dunetz, as the panel discussion drew to a close. “The systems that support them should not be.”

To learn more about New Visions transfer schools, click here.

To learn more about JobsFirstNYC and workforce readiness, click here.


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