The U.S. Department of Education announced Nov. 14 the launch of Raise the Bar: Unlocking Career Success, a new initiative supported by the Departments of Commerce and Labor to increase and expand access to high-quality training programs to help young Americans pursue jobs in today’s in-demand fields.

The effort unites key agencies to strengthen the connection between K-12 education, postsecondary education and workforce programs. It is supported by the $120 billion dedicated to K-12 education in the American Rescue Plan and Perkins funding and seeks to ensure the next generation builds skills to fill high-paying jobs like those created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and CHIPS and Science Act. This includes expanding access to skills-based learning and training pathways, like registered apprenticeships in key industries such as advanced manufacturing, automotive and cybersecurity.

As part of the program’s launch, the USDOE announced $5.6 million in Perkins funding for a new program to expand work-based learning opportunities for students. It also issued  new guidance on how federal funds can be used to develop and expand career pathway programs, including registered apprenticeships. As part of the initiative, the USDOE will host regional summits with students, educators, employers and other stakeholders to learn about practices that have led to success and challenges that must be addressed.

“It’s time we bridge the divide between our K-12 systems and our college, career and industry preparation programs, which leave too many students behind and perpetuate inequities in our most diverse, underserved and rural communities,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “An education system reimagined for the 21st century engages youth of all ages in the power of career-connected learning and provides every student with the opportunity to gain real-life work experience, earn college credits and make progress toward an industry credential before they graduate high school.”

The USDOE also announced that it will launch the “Career Z Challenge: Expanding Work-Based Learning Opportunities” competition in Spring 2023. The competition will foster multi-sector partnerships and expand work-based learning opportunities for students. Semifinalists and finalists will be eligible to receive targeted technical assistance, including professional development support, webinars and training, as well as a portion of a prize pool.

Learn more in the full news release.