confident student

ECMC Group, along with VICE Media, conducted five national “Question the Quo Education Pulse” surveys among 5,000+ high school students between 2020-2022. The surveys are part of ECMC Group’s Question the Quo campaign, which works to empower students to explore higher education options and find a fulfilling career path that fits their personal interests and goals. 

The study confirmed that high schoolers (ages 14-18) are highly aware of current, in-demand occupations and how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the job market. This historical event has led students to evaluate their postsecondary options and make career decisions based on today’s job market. 

A Promising Outlook on CTE 

  • Half of the teens surveyed are no longer considering attending a four-year college and less than half think a four-year degree is necessary to be successful. However, 85% felt pressure to attend a four-year school, yet less than half felt prepared for higher education after high school, even as most schools have returned to a pre-pandemic way of life. They believe postsecondary education is not a way to find a career, but to refine and pursue career options. Students expect employers to play a role in their ongoing education as learning is a lifelong endeavor.  
  • On a brighter note, career and technical education (CTE) is gaining awareness with over half of the students surveyed knowing what the term meant. This is a 13% increase from when the first survey was conducted in 2020. 
  • The Gen Zers are open to pathways other than a four-year college and almost three-quarters of them think it is imperative to have their career plans determined by the time they graduate high school. If students pursue postsecondary education, they want a direct path to a career. 

Eliminating Cost Concerns 

  • A majority of those surveyed believe the government (91%) and employers (85%) need to play a role in postsecondary education by providing formal education and additional money to pay off student loan debt. 
  • Students today are more interested in connecting skills rather than degrees to jobs with over 80% stating that learning the skills they need to succeed is a crucial factor in their decision about postsecondary education. This includes skill-based education (ex: trade skills, nursing, STEM, etc.), apprenticeships, or several short (one year or less) experiences over a lifetime versus a traditional four-year college experience. 
  • Cost is still a major factor in the decision-making process and is further exacerbated by socioeconomic differences and income inequality. Almost 60% worry about how they will pay for college and students from lower-income households are less likely to consider higher education and have less access to career exploration resources. 

The results indicate that teens have a pulse on current jobs and economic outlook, which is pushing them to make real-world choices that benefit them immediately rather than far off into the future. 

Read the entire article here

  1. career and technical education
  2. college and career readiness
  3. featured
  4. workforce development

About The Author

Jess Wegmann

Jess Wegmann is a senior digital marketing specialist for Kuder. She holds a degree in marketing with an emphasis in advertising and digital media from University of Northern Iowa.

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