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Op-Ed: Career and college readiness in Duval County

In today's Jacksonville Business Journal, find the below op-ed about the findings of our new report on career and college readiness among Duval County public school graduates.


By Trey Csar, President
Jacksonville Public Education Fund

For all the recent consternation about college graduates struggling to find jobs, it is important to remember that education is still one of the best investments around - both for individual students and for our economy.

By 2018, 6 in 10 jobs in Florida will require postsecondary training, according to recent projections from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. For college graduates, the unemployment rate currently stands at around 4 percent - for high school dropouts, it is three times that.

As a recent story in the Jacksonville Business Journal pointed out, only about 20 percent of young adults here have a bachelor's degree. Clearly, we have much work to do to ensure that our young people are prepared for the future and ready to build a stronger economic climate in Northeast Florida. But there is reason to be optimistic: The Duval County School Board has already taken many important steps to increase the number of students ready for postsecondary education, be it a four-year degree or vocational training.

More students from Duval County Public Schools are enrolling in college after graduation. Enrollment in career and technical education in the district is up 50 percent between 2009 and 2012, preparing more students for both the workforce and postsecondary training in their field of study.  Meanwhile, the number of students passing AP, IB, or AICE exams district-wide has risen by over 53 percent from 2007 to 2011. And graduation standards in Duval County are higher than many other school districts, requiring students to take additional science and foreign language classes in order to earn a diploma.

The participation of the business community will be key in helping to improve our public education system. We applaud business leaders such as the JAX Chamber for playing an ever more active role in education via their committees. And the recent Champions for Education summit at THE PLAYERS on May 8 was a great example of the growing opportunities for business leaders to get involved in public education.

You can find out more about the career and college readiness of Duval County students in a new report from the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, available online at www.jaxpef.org or by calling (904) 356-7757.

Accelerating the transformation of Jacksonville's workforce to one that offers a deeper pool of highly-skilled workers and innovators to attract higher-level jobs in a globally competitive marketplace is one of critical importance. As a community, we must commit to treating public education as an important investment in our city's future. Our children and our economic prosperity depend on it.