The Anchorage School District officially launched their “career academies” initiative for area high schools during a conference at the University of Alaska Anchorage on Thursday. Hundreds of school staff, students and community leaders from various industries gathered to talk about how the district can better prepare students for the Anchorage workforce after high school.
ASD Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt said the changes will increase graduation rates and provide job training opportunities for students. A $15 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education will help fund the rollout of the career academies.
“Today, our community is learning more about the specifics of our career academies, which are going to be a five-year transformation of our high schools to provide all of our high school students with dual credit opportunities, apprenticeship opportunities and job opportunities right here in Anchorage,” Bryantt said.
The district plans to begin the career academies during the start of the next school year. Anchorage high school students will be able to learn technical skills from multiple industries during their freshman year before choosing a career-themed academy. For the duration of their high school education, students will then enroll in at least three electives related to that career. Bryantt said the district is partnering with some of the largest employers in the state.
“This isn’t just about schools, this is about the future of the Anchorage economy and workforce,” he said. “We have a lot of challenges in the state, and I believe that ASD high schools can be a part of the solution in retaining and attracting a workforce for years to come.”
The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District approved similar changes to their schedule in 2021, focusing a separate class period to work on credit, career, community and college. Anchorage district officials and community business leaders traveled to visit districts in the Lower 48 to see how other career-focused high school models worked.
Legislators and elected officials from the Anchorage Assembly and Anchorage School Board also attended Thursday’s event. Rep. Julie Coulombe, R-Anchorage, said she was encouraged by the presentation.
“I think this is an exciting idea, and that’s why I’m here,” she said. “I’m about workforce development, and this is just the perfect time for us to do something like this.”
Ford Next Generation Learning is among the organizations partnering with the district to implement the new high school model. Scott Palmer is a career coach with Ford with a decade of experience helping communities make changes to provide more technical training opportunities to students.
“The world that we’re preparing these young people for is not the world that my generation had to enter,” Palmer said. “So we have to realign and reimagine and transform education as a system to be able to be ready for the world that we know is much different.”
The district will hold another conversation with community members in December to gather additional input from local employers about what career training should be offered to students.