Career readiness skills are important for all students. How can students best prepare for life after high school?
Regardless of desired career paths, 21st-century high school graduates need a way to make their job applications rise to the top of the stack. Gone are the days of high-paying jobs fresh out of high school. Students now need additional preparation and experiences to secure jobs that set them on their desired career paths right out of high school. There are lots of ways students can prepare themselves to compete in the world of high-paying jobs: job shadows, apprenticeships, internships, and vocational credentials.
Among the most promising pathways for post-high school career preparation? The ACT's National Career Readiness Certificate. While you may be more familiar with the ACT as a measure of college readiness, they also offer a metric for students seeking to show evidence of career readiness right out of high school. The benefit? A high-quality certification from a reputable source gives high school students in career and technical education (CTE) a leg up in the job market.
What's the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate?
For students pursuing a CTE path right out of high school, the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) is ideal.
On the ACT NCRC website, Jo Ann Honeycutt, CTE Director at North Carolina DPI said:
For those who do choose a CTE path, they would also leave with some industry-standard credentials and technical studies, so we think it's a good way to ensure students have a broad array of choices after they graduate.
Many employers want the credential from candidates because it's a valid, reputable predictor of job performance and success. Industries like energy, construction, information technology (IT), and manufacturing value this credential. While the job application may not require it, applicants who have their NCRC have a likely chance of getting an interview.
Those students interested in the possibility of attending college later can also use the NCRC to demonstrate college-level competency. There are four levels of qualification on the NCRC: bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. Earning a Platinum or Gold level on the NCRC may also allow students to earn college credit, as the American Council on Education (ACE) recommends. They advise institutions of higher education to offer three credits of quantitative reasoning and one credit of information literacy for applicants presenting Gold and Platinum performance levels on the three core areas of the NCRC.
How can students prepare for it?
They can take the ACT WorkKeys Curriculum courses.
The ACT WorkKeys Curriculum allows students to practice and demonstrate career-ready skills within the comfort of their schools. It's online and completely web-based, so students don't need any downloads or plug-ins. All they need is a computer, tablet, or phone with internet access, and a school that offers it. It's currently the only curriculum that offers preparation for the ACT NCRC assessment.
ACT WorkKeys core courses currently include Applied Math, Graphic Literacy, and Workplace Documents, all of which build students' abilities to apply math, graphic information, and written content respectively, to workplace problems.
How can students take ACT WorkKeys Curriculum courses?
To take these courses, students must register for them at a school that participates in the program.
Here's the good news: VLACS has recently become an approved testing site for the ACT NCRC and will offer Projects that support students in the three main WorkKeys classes.
The VLACS WorkKeys Projects use all the ACT WorkKeys preparation materials that are specially designed to prepare students for the exams. VLACS instructors will support students in the WorkKeys Projects the same way they support students in all of the VLACS learning pathways: welcome calls, weekly meetings, discussion-based assessments, and office hours.
With the added support of the VLACS Project pathway, VLACS aims to have students score a five or higher on the exams.
There's an added bonus, too, for New Hampshire students.
How ACT NCRC aligns with NH indicators for career and college readiness
In NH's recently approved Consolidated State Plan (the Plan) for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), there's a stipulation for career and college readiness in high school that "reflect[s] and respect[s] that students may have different paths."
To demonstrate college and career readiness students in NH can achieve any two of the following:
- completion of an NH Scholars program (Standard, STEM or Arts)
- a "C" or better in a dual enrollment course
- SAT/ACT scores meeting or exceeding the college-ready benchmark
- a score of 3 or better on an AP exam, or 4 or better on an IB exam
- earning an industry-recognized CTE credential
- scoring at least level Ill on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test
- successful completion of the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate
For high school graduates seeking a credential that allows them not only to demonstrate competency in career readiness but also to give their job applications that critical competitive edge, taking the ACT NCRC is a good investment in time and energy.
For NH students seeking support in earning the ACT NCRC credential, VLACS offers not only the opportunity to take the test but also the chance to earn high school credit while preparing for it.
Interested in taking the NCRC assessment exam in NH? VLACS will offer the exam on its Exeter campus a few times per year. Stay tuned for updates!