College & Workforce Readiness Opinion

What It Means to be Career Ready

By Anthony Jackson — October 19, 2012 3 min read
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How many times a week do you hear the term “college and career ready”? If you’re like me, quite a bit. There are many definitions of each. But a now there is an effort to bring clarity to career readiness. My colleague Heather Singmaster reports.

By Heather Singmaster

To be career ready in our ever-changing global economy requires adaptability and a commitment to lifelong learning, along with mastery of key knowledge, skills and dispositions that vary from one career to another and change over time as a person progresses along a developmental continuum." -Building Blocks of Change report

Yesterday the Career Readiness Partner Council, of which Asia Society is a member, released, Building Blocks of Change: What it Means to be Career Ready. National education, business, philanthropic, and policy organizations have signed on to the statement, which defines what it means to be career ready.

Asia Society’s education mission is to ensure our students graduate from high school globally competent—that is, they have the knowledge and skills for success as part of a global workforce. Building Blocks of Change lists academic and technical knowledge, as well as employability knowledge, skills, and dispositions. I want to highlight four broad skills that are particularly important for global competency:


People change careers frequently. New technologies, volatility of markets, and entrepreneurship account in part for the widely cited statistic that people have about seven careers in a lifetime. Being adaptable and continuing to develop skills to keep abreast of new technology and industries is a key to not only personal success, but also the economic prosperity of any country. The career readiness statement highlights learning to learn and adaptability as requirements for success in today’s global labor market. We are not alone in seeing this as a key to success; many other countries are making this the cornerstone of their education reform initiatives.


Communications skills are also important for career readiness. Clear and effective communications skills are important for any worker, but in this increasingly globalized world, students also need to be able to communicate with workers who don’t share their culture or their native language. Indeed, we are seeing an increase of interest from Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs to ensure their students have an opportunity to learn a second language. At the Phelps Architecture, Construction, and Engineering High School in Washington, DC, students are encouraged to learn Chinese and study abroad in China. Employers are calling for this. One of my earlier posts highlighted the increase in local jobs in the Twin Cities area as the result of a growing export economy. Many of these positions remain empty due to a lack of workers able to speak a second language or the skills to work with people in markets like Brazil or China.


Effective use of technology is another key to a globally competent, career-ready graduate. Technology is integral to many jobs and will probably look completely different by the time students entering school now collect their diplomas. Integrating technology into teaching and learning ensures students not only gain these skills and the interest in continuously upgrading them, but can also provide a window to the world so students can learn to communicate with a broad range of people. In turn, when they enter the 24/7 global workforce, they are comfortable and conversant in many cultures. Learning about the vast global marketplace can only enhance a student’s productivity and engagement in the learning.

Workplace Experience

The career readiness statement also calls for students to have engaging real-world workplace experiences as part of their preparation. Schools are beginning to think about a global aspect to these job shadowing, apprenticeship, internship and service learning programs. For instance, at the International School of the Americas, every student must complete an internship with a global focus, even if their job is in the local community. Some students have even secured international internships: one worked in a radio station in the Philippines, two others worked in a hospital and community store in Mexico, and still another wrote for a flight industry publication in the Netherlands. The state of Georgia, too, is working to provide summer travel opportunities for CTE students to intern for international companies.

Field Test

What does this definition of career readiness mean to you locally? And to your businesses? How do global innovations fit in? What new resources and programs can be created?

Talk to us! We want to hear how we can help your CTE program with resources and tools to teach for global competence. A globally competent workforce benefits not only our students, but all of us and puts us on the path to economic prosperity.

The opinions expressed in Global Learning 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.