Career Connected Learning – Formal or Informal?

There are all kinds of approaches to Career Connected Learning. Some of these are formal initiatives, such as CTE programs of study, Pathways programs such as career academies, or Career Technical Student Organizations. There are others that are simpler, “one-shot” or informal efforts, such as career fairs, guest speakers, or online research. Which is better for students?

The answer, of course, is that both are good, but they differ in important ways. Formal, programmatic work is the most intensive: Here, schools have integrated CCL into instruction, ensuring students receive regular exposure tied in to graded instruction. Informal activities are standalone efforts; these are often incorporated into Career Connected Learning programs but can also be done on their own.

Think of it as the difference between joining a basketball league versus participating in a pickup game on a Saturday. For those serious about basketball, the league experience offers regular practices and coaching culminating in a series of refereed games. But you wouldn’t say the pickup game offers no value: It offers a chance to work on your skills in a less structured environment, also giving you more freedom to try new things. Similarly, students can benefit from any form of CCL, but we encourage people to pursue a program model if they want the strongest, most immersive experience.

Brett Pawlowski is Executive Vice President of NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions ( NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance and tools to help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.

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