Commentary: Are Los Angeles high school students ready for tomorrow’s job market?

Southern California’s job market is hot right now. But unless something changes, many Los Angeles-area high school students won’t be ready for it when they graduate — especially if they don’t go on to earn a bachelor’s degree — which many of them won’t.

For as long as anyone can remember, American high schools have mostly failed to provide their students with genuinely marketable skills. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And in recent years, a growing number of “career and technical education” (CTE) programs have sought to bridge the gap between what students learn and what local labor markets demand.

In a new study, we took a closer look at that gap by examining the relationship between the kinds of CTE courses high school students take and the kinds of jobs that will likely be available to them — national and locally – when they finish their education.

Nationally, we found that approximately half of the jobs that currently exist are in four big fields: Business Management & Administration (18 percent), Hospitality & Tourism (13 percent), Marketing (12 percent), and Manufacturing (9 percent). Yet only one of these fields — Business Management & Administration — sees significant course-taking in high school. Worse, most students appear to be dabbling—taking electives across various fields instead of “concentrating” by taking three or more courses in the same field, which prior research suggests improves their odds of success in college and the workplace. Click here to read more: