How Can Policymakers Prepare Students for the Future of Work?



In honor of Labor Day earlier this week, we are diving into our blog archives to revisit a post on XQ Institute’s report High School & the Future of Work. This continues to be a topic of conversation across America, and many states are beginning to implement some of the following policy solutions to better prepare students for successful careers. 

State policy can be a powerful driver and support for local innovation in education. This is one of the core principles of ExcelinEd’s work and partnership with states over the last decade. It’s also a major theme of XQ Institute’s new report High School & the Future of Work, which calls on policymakers to help communities transform high schools and better prepare students for success in a shifting economy.

Their report calls out a number of startling statistics, some we have called attention to in the past and others that are new.

The Need for Change Is Urgent and Overdue

While the workplace continues to evolve at a rapid pace, high school has remained largely unchanged for decades. Worse, it’s simply not working for many students. While 84 percent of high school students want to attend college, less than half graduate adequately prepared for postsecondary success. Worse still, high schoolers seem to know it’s not working. Just 32 percent of 11th graders surveyed said they learned something of interest in the past week, and over half of high school seniors feel their math work is “too easy.”

Schools Must Connect Students with Real-World Demands

It doesn’t have to be this way. As evidence, XQ Institute’s report highlights schools like Crosstown High in Tennessee, Grand Rapids Museum School in Michigan and Purdue Polytechnic in Indiana that have reimagined the high school experience. These schools offer rigorous, real-world instruction in high-demand fields like computer science, technology and design, and advanced manufacturing. They are doing more than just being innovative; they are solving real problems in their communities and empowering students to invest in ideas and projects larger than themselves.

As noted, scaling such local innovation requires support and action from state policymakers. Among the report’s recommendations are several we care deeply about, including:

There’s more in the report to chew on – it’s well worth a read. But for policymakers, these recommendations represent important steps to consider to help ensure their states’ future includes a skilled workforce and thriving communities.

The future of this work is now.

Solution Areas:

College & Career Pathways

About the Author

Quentin Suffren is the National Director of Policy for ExcelinEd.