Posted December 8, 2023

Exclusive: Building a New Generation: Pearson’s Initiative for Trade Talent Transformation

An interview with Casey Welch, VP of Careers at Pearson.

As the U.S. economy experiences an unprecedented post-Covid growth spurt, the surge in demand across various sectors has exposed an increasing challenge: an extreme shortage of skilled workers. Nowhere is this scarcity more apparent than in the construction industry, a cornerstone of the nation's infrastructure.

The construction sector faces an unparalleled crisis of unfilled job openings. The demand for skilled labor has skyrocketed, with up to two job openings for every available worker. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. construction industry urgently needs to fill nearly three-quarters of a million jobs yearly, with projections indicating a staggering growth of almost 250,000 jobs over the next decade. The hunt for qualified talent has become a top priority, with an increased emphasis on raising the profile of construction as a career path.

Recognizing this industry need, Pearson's Connections Academy, a leading K-12 online school program in the U.S., teamed up with The Home Depot through its Path to Pro program. The partnership aims to build a new generation of trade professionals. We recently caught up with Casey Welch, VP of Career at Pearson, to delve deeper into this initiative.

Contractor Supply: Can you share more about your role as the Vice President for Careers at Pearson Virtual Schools and your involvement in the recent partnership between Connections Academy and The Home Depot's Path to Pro program?

Casey Welch: As the VP for Careers at Pearson Virtual Schools, I focus on creating innovative pathways for students transitioning from high school to their future careers. In the recent collaboration with The Home Depot's Path to Pro program, we aim to introduce high school students to diverse and rewarding trade careers. This partnership aligns with our commitment to providing students with practical training and education to prepare them for success in these fields.

Contractor Supply: How do you envision Pearson’s partnership with Home Depot benefiting high school students and recent graduates interested in pursuing trade careers, as well as addressing the workforce gap in the construction industry?

Casey Welch: The Path to Pro Skills and Network programs are game-changers for high school students and recent graduates. They offer on-demand courses to equip participants with the skills needed for trade-based careers. Whether it's electrical, drywall, paint, plumbing, HVAC, or general construction, this program provides a valuable opportunity for students to explore these fields, build their profiles, and be connected to a network of professional contractors actively seeking skilled workers.

This practical and comprehensive approach to preparing the next generation of skilled trade professionals is a strategic effort to bridge the gap between the demand for qualified professionals in the construction industry and the talented individuals emerging from our education system.

And for those concerned about the impact of artificial intelligence on jobs, Pearson just released some research citing construction workers as one of the professions requiring skills that can’t be easily replicated by generative AI and, therefore, less likely to be under threat of elimination from the technology.

Contractor Supply: How do Connections Academy's expanded college and career readiness offerings, including this partnership with The Home Depot, provide students with alternative pathways and more direct routes to employment after high school?

Casey Welch: Our expanded college and career readiness offerings acknowledge that only some students follow the same path post-high school. Some may prefer alternative pathways directly into the workforce. This initiative provides students with a tri-credit approach, where courses offer high school credit, industry-recognized micro-credentials, and eligibility for college credit. It's about providing flexibility and diverse options to students, ensuring they're well-prepared for their chosen path, whether further education or immediate entry into the workforce.

Contractor Supply: How can students navigate the evolving landscape of career choices, considering the many pathways available and the changing dynamics in the workforce, including the impact of artificial intelligence?

Casey Welch: In career exploration, especially for Gen Z, there's a noticeable shift in how they approach their professional journeys compared to previous generations. Unlike the traditional path of attending college first and then deciding on a career, today's students have many options, including credentials, certificates, and alternative routes. Many employers are also moving away from the rigid requirement of a four-year college degree, creating a more diverse range of opportunities.

So, how can individuals determine their ideal career paths? It goes beyond just identifying skills and matching those with a job; it's about discovering careers that resonate with a sense of purpose and meaning. Crafting a fulfilling life involves finding an environment that complements your lifestyle and meets your financial needs. The challenge lies in guiding individuals through these various pathways, emphasizing exposure and awareness.

Statistics show that a significant percentage of people change their college majors, and the average person transitions through five to seven careers in their lifetime. Connections Academy recognizes that fact with initiatives focused on offering meaningful exploratory experiences such as internships, apprenticeships, mentorships, and partnerships. The “SHIPS,” as we call them, provide insightful experiences in fields and often lead to valuable relationships and connections that significantly shape a student’s career trajectory. In the grand scheme of things, while education provides a solid foundation, real-world experiences often set individuals apart as they enter the workforce. CS

About Pearson
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