What is career-connected learning and why do we need it?

Fact Sheet




Today’s jobs require some kind of training or education beyond high school. However, too many students are leaving high school without ever getting the chance to learn about, or prepare for, real jobs. Even throughout their 20s, too many young people don’t know what jobs are “out there” or how to prepare for them. This is true whether they go straight to a 4-year college or not.

At the same time, many Washington employers are hiring people from outside our state because they can’t find local residents with the right training or qualifications. The state expects 740,000 job openings over the next five years – almost three quarters of which require a credential beyond high school.

COVID -19 has a huge impact on young people though school disruption, job losses particularly in the service sector, and a recession for those just entering the job market. In Washington, work-based learning models result in higher earnings and significant returns on taxpayer dollars. The speed and strength of our state’s recovery is dependent on maintaining and growing our state’s pipeline of skilled labor.

Career Connect Washington exists to close these gaps by helping local young people get the knowledge and the skills to step into those in-demand, high-potential careers.

What does career-connected learning look like?

Career-connected programs give students the chance to meet and work with people in jobs that interest them.

There are a lot of ways to do this, and at different times. Some of these activities can start before high school, such as job fairs; others continue through early adulthood, such as internships and apprenticeships.

We have three general categories of programs that get gradually more intense and rewarding: Explore, Prep and Launch.

Kids as young as kindergarten think about what they are going to be when they grow up. Starting in elementary school, students can learn how their interests can lead to different jobs in different fields.

Career Explore is not just for students, however. Even young people who have already started working can benefit by talking to professionals in the field. Ages 5-30.

These programs are more hands-on, such as a pre-apprenticeship or internship. This helps them get professional experience and helps them make decisions about the next steps in their education or training. Ages 13-30.

The most intense type of career connected learning program, Career Launch programs combine paid work experiences with classroom learning so students can receive a credential and become a competitive job candidate. 

These programs include registered apprenticeships and Career Launch programs in the K-12, CTC, and 4-year systems. We aim to ensure that 60% of young adults beginning in the class of 2030 will participate in a Career Launch program. Ages 17-30.

Support Resources

Combining work and education is a challenge, but we can help. This directory can help you find local support for problems related to money, transportation, childcare, housing and more. Check back regularly, as new resources are always being added.