Never Too Young
While most school-to-career programs focus on the high school years, the Fort Worth Project C3 (for "Community, Corporations, and Classrooms") serves students from kindergarten through 12th grade. After surveying 3,500 local workers about the levels and types of skills needed in their jobs, the Fort Worth City Schools used the results to link school work to careers and to encourage students to stay in school.
Throughout their elementary and middle school years, students work on projects that put their learning in the context of real-world activities. A middle-school English class, for example, redesigned the brochures for a county health agency. Another program helps fifth graders visit work sites like banks, the mint, and the airport. An air traffic controller had this to say about the visits: "Something magical happens to your understanding of your job when you have to explain it to a 10-year-old."
Starting in seventh grade, all students take part in Vital Link, a two-week program that provides students with a job-shadowing experience (in which a student follows a worker to see how a job is done). Tenth graders can participate in NexLink, a program which builds on Vital Link by offering longer paid internships. These experiences are closely tied to a redesigned applied-technology curriculum that actively engages students in subjects such as robotics manufacturing and computer-based publishing. More than 330 local businesses have already contributed to the success of Project C3.