Our Views: Better start for jobs

Louisiana’s “career diploma” for high-schoolers never achieved the lofty goals of its promoters.

Those goals included both the high academic standards demanded by the state’s accountability program and proficiency in a chosen vocation after high school.

It’s still a tall order, but we are encouraged by the new state initiative to make career education in high schools better for students’ post-graduation employment.

The idea of a revitalized career diploma owes much to the energy of Superintendent John White. Despite his conflict with White on other issues lately, Gov. Bobby Jindal has also been on board, supporting legislation on vocational education during the 2014 Legislature.

Also part of the mix are business and industry leaders who are working with local school systems to identify the job training that will match employment opportunities in different regions of the state. The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be presented with 23 graduation pathways that will be made available to students. Obviously, it makes sense that forestry will be bigger in north Louisiana and hospitality industries in New Orleans. There will be a number of the industry-specific credentials that are part of the program.

The Louisiana Community and Technical College System also is producing standards from its training programs.

These can be expensive programs, and White said there is about $12 million in new money in the main state aid for local schools, the Minimum Foundation Program, for career education. Schools get more credit for certificate completion in performance scores from the state, but we suspect that quality programs still will require considerable support from both local systems and from donations or volunteer trainers from business and industry.

It’s a good sign that the Jump Start program is working across jurisdictional lines to make career education more effective, particularly in the junior and senior years.

Collaboration is the key.

“We are seeing an unprecedented level of attention being paid to this initiative in school systems across the state,” White told reporters.

We think this is a positive development and the state department and its partners, public and private, should be commended for the Jump Start initiative.