High school students in Delaware are getting a jump start on careers in growing fields including health care, hospitality, advanced manufacturing and biomedical science. The Delaware Pathways program is part of the national Pathways to Prosperity Network aimed at preparing students for a secondary education and careers in high-demand fields.
Delaware Pathways was created to help fulfill the Delaware Promise: By 2025, 65 percent of Delaware's workforce will have a two- or four-year degrees or professional certificates to match the percentage of Delaware jobs that require them. In Delaware, because employers need middle- and high-skill employees, academic degrees and industry certificates are given equal weight. The program is quickly expanding, in part due to a $2 million, three-year grant from JPMorgan Chase & Co. and a $3.25 million, three-year grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies.
"Pathways is allowing students to explore career paths that heretofore they may have never thought about or considered," said Kurt Foreman, president and CEO of the Delaware Prosperity Partnership, the nonprofit that leads the state's economic development effort. “We know that there is demand for these positions. By giving high school students the training in these fields, Delaware is positioning the students and the state for success. This makes Delaware that much more attractive to prospective businesses."
The first pathway, advanced manufacturing, is "immersive," said Paul Morris, associate vice president for workforce development and community education at Delaware Technical Community College. "Students come to Delaware Tech every other day," Morris explained. "The two-year program has 600 hours of training and education."
In allied health, students can earn credentials that will make them job-ready when they graduate high school. They can become a licensed, certified nursing assistant, a certified phlebotomist and nationally certified patient-care assistant. The program also is a bridge between high school and college. While certain pathways don't require 600 hours, they let students explore high-demand fields.
Workplace experience is an essential part of the model. In Delaware, 85 percent of employers surveyed said they were likely or very likely to hire the student they had engaged with for an immersive work-based learning experience.