When we talk about students who are not succeeding in our current education system, we often say that they “slipped through the cracks.” Well, what if we filled in those cracks so that students could move seamlessly from high school to college to the workforce?
The biggest cracks in the system are the transitions from high school to higher education, and from college to finding a job. But if our secondary and post-secondary schools partner with the private sector, we can make these transitions much easier, and give students a new path from high school to rewarding careers.
That is what New Hampshire Career Academy is all about. This first-of-its-kind partnership offers New Hampshire students a way to earn a high school diploma, an associate degree or certificate, and a job interview, all at no cost to their families, and no additional cost to New Hampshire taxpayers.
We found a way to leverage New Hampshire’s charter school funding mechanism and the Community College System of New Hampshire to create a new educational path. During what would have been their senior year in high school, NH Career Academy students would attend a participating community college. Then, in their extended “super-senior” year, they would finish with a high school diploma and earn an Associate Degree. The State of New Hampshire would cover the students’ costs at the community college, and students would graduate a year early without a penny of tuition or college debt. If those students want to go on to a Bachelor’s Degree, they are halfway there, with their full Pell Grant eligibility intact.
By partnering with New Hampshire businesses, we’ve also filled in the crack between college and work. NH Career Academy students would be gain on-the-job experience as they earn their degree, and would have a job interview with a participating employer upon graduation.
NH Career Academy would produce graduates equipped for in-demand fields ranging from welding, automotive technician, and advanced manufacturing to biotechnology, nursing, and medical assistant. Graduates would enter the workforce with hands-on experience, and no college debt. Students can enroll now in NH Career Academy and begin classes in September at White Mountains Community College, River Valley Community College, Lakes Region Community College, NHTI-Concord’s Community College, Manchester Community College, and Great Bay Community College.
This new path does not eliminate any of the traditional options open to New Hampshire students. We are trying to create new opportunities for those students who haven’t been able to find the right path for them. As we built the NH Career Academy, we ran into students who went through a Career and Technical Education program in their sophomore and junior years, and were ready to continue at the post-secondary level. But the traditional high school program wasn’t equipped to handle their needs during senior year. Some schools would help these students with an independent study program to keep them engaged, but some students would end up coasting for a year, waiting to get back on a career path after high school.
NH Career Academy is for those students who know the careers they want, and are ready to move toward those in-demand jobs. By bringing together our high school CTE programs, our community colleges, and our business community, we can give students a smooth path to great careers.
Enrollment for next fall’s NH Career Academy classes is now open. Current high school juniors would contact Nate Greene, Administrator of the Bureau of Educational Opportunities at Nathaniel.Greene@doe.nh.gov or (603) 271-5252. Slots in this year’s inaugural class are limited, so interested students should get in touch as soon as possible.
by Frank Edelblut, Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Education.