College & Workforce Readiness Opinion

Next Generation Career Pathways: A Manufacturing Case Study

By Tom Vander Ark — January 06, 2016 3 min read
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Mary Ryerse & Tom Vander Ark

The 2015

Manufacturing Institute jobs report

indicated that 3.5 million American manufacturing jobs will be created over the next decade but a skills gap could result in 2 million of those jobs going

Young people drawn to making things often struggle in high schools focused on memorizing things. The problem is a lack of technical training pathways that
allow students to earn and learn in pathways to real careers.

In a paper released today, Next Generation Career Pathways: A Manufacturing Case Study, we assert that new career pathways
that combine blended learning strategies with work-based experiences can close the manufacturing skills gap.

The rise of anywhere, anytime learning and competency-based approaches provides the opportunity for next generation career and technical education. Next
generation programs provide learning experiences that are a personalized, blended, applied, and work-based.

A great next-gen example is GPS Education Partners which operates 15 eastern Wisconsin education centers. Located at
manufacturing facilities, GPS education centers immerse students in a blended learning high school academic program and manufacturing apprenticeship that
leads to certification and employment.

Nonprofit GPS contracts with school districts to provide turnkey educational services for high school juniors and seniors; districts maintain the student’s
transcript and diploma. Districts provide approximately two thirds of their annual funding for each student. Students have the opportunity to earn high
school and college credits as well as industry certificates through the process.

In 2000, Generac Power Systems provided an internship and high school completion program for five students. With
support from Generac and the Kern Family Foundation, and a network of over 200 manufacturing partners, GPS Education
Partners has grown into a nationally recognized applied learning program serving 200 students from 35 school districts.

GPS Education Partners leverages several important trends including blended and competency-based learning and a focus on employability particularly in
emerging high wage job clusters including advanced manufacturing. Increasing college costs and high young adult unemployment are boosting interest in
career and technical training that accelerates employability.

Rather than precluding college, GPS creates postsecondary credit opportunities and prepares young people for careers that combine ladders of earning and
learning with stackable credentials and advancement opportunities.

GPS Education Partners will grow to more than 50 learning centers over the next three years. The committed board and talented team, led by CEO Stephanie
Borowski and CIO Andy Hepburn, are seeking corporate and district partners as well as impact investors.

The Kettle Moraine School District, a member of the League of Innovative Schools, sees the GPS education model as a key
component to its overall district approach. Superintendent Pat Deklotz stresses the importance of real work experience for students and says, “Just talking
about education and career pathways isn’t very useful. Instead, providing articulated options for students to gain college credit, certification and paid
work experience is quite useful.”

GPS Education Partners is an innovative education model that uniquely prepares students to succeed in technical careers and is a cost effective approach to workforce development for business.

For more, download the paper and listen to the Getting Smart podcast, How Applied Learning is Accelerating Students to Technical Careers.

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The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.