Labor Economics talks about a type of unemployment in which the jobs available are not the jobs that workers are looking for. This “mismatch” can occur because of geographical issues (as when the jobs are in California but the unemployed workers are in New York), or because of other issues. One such reason might be a mismatch in the skills possessed by workers and the skills desired by employers in search of employees. I found myself thinking of this recently when I read an article about a new type of high school that has captured some people’s attention, including the attention of the President of the United States.
I read about this in a recent edition  of TIME magazine, and it is an idea that some hope will transform education. It seems that some high schools are re-designing themselves into six year schools, where students will graduate with both a high school diploma and an Associate’s Degree. As I read the article, I began to think about the wisdom of what it was proposing.
The program, which has been used in high schools in Chicago and New York City, gives students six years to finish both a high school diploma and earn an Associate’s Degree. At the same time, students are matched up with a business which promises them a good job upon graduation. For example, one school has IBM as a sponsor, which provides internships and job opportunities upon graduation. Students graduate with the skills needed for jobs that are in demand. As one IBM executive is quoted as saying “six is the new four.” As a college professor, I find myself wondering if this is a good idea, and if it is, where else it might be implemented.
It strikes me that this approach is not very different from options that are currently available to high school students. For example, some high schools near us allow students to take classes at area community colleges that can be applied to both an Associate’s degree and to a high school diploma. These opportunities are not limited to community colleges, and some four year colleges will accept such students. Indeed, I have had students in my classes over the years that were doing this; they take college classes while teenagers with plans to enter college with many courses, if not entire years, completed before they arrive. Further, this approach is not very different from options already available to students to earn advanced placement credit for courses usually taken in the first few years of college. I hope that my daughter will be able to take advantage of such opportunities some day.
Perhaps, however, it is not the opportunity to earn college credit that is unique, but the mentoring by businesses and the promise of a well-paying job upon graduation that distinguishes these programs from those already in existence. What are your thoughts about this approach, and if you think it is a good idea, how can this idea be built upon to allow more students this opportunity?