From Classroom to Career: Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ Vision for Postsecondary Pathways
By Jose L. Dotres, Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools
As the third largest and one of the most diverse school districts in the United States, Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) recognizes its crucial role, hand in hand with other local educational institutions and business partners, in shaping the next-generation workforce. Through our strong commitment to academic excellence, career readiness, and strategic partnerships, we prepare students to thrive in a rapidly evolving global economy by providing them with a comprehensive education that combines rigorous academics, cutting-edge technology, and career-building experiences.
Committed to delivering exceptional education to its students, M-DCPS has strived to build a strong reputation for excellence and remains dedicated to ongoing growth in academic attainment. As students move through the PK-12 continuum, we provide engaging educational opportunities in every grade level to ensure they receive the preparation they need to be college, career, and workforce ready. This work has led to remarkable accomplishments in graduation rates, Florida Statewide Assessment outcomes, and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
As the global economy adapts to the disruptions of the pandemic and the innovation resulting from it, the advent of artificial intelligence, and an aging workforce in key industries, we must reevaluate what it means to prepare a student for the workforce and how we go about teaching the next and current generations the skills they will need to succeed. These challenges, however impactful they may be, present educators with unique opportunities to revolutionize how and what we teach.
At M-DCPS, our response to these challenges has focused on providing robust and dynamic secondary and postsecondary educational pathways for students. We have accomplished this, among other things, through the provision of Advanced Placement, Dual Enrollment, School Choice, Career and Technical Education, the addition of new pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs, the implementation of Integrated Education and Training, and an emphasis on STEAM education. Most of these programs contain one facet in common, critical to the success of our students: the provision of hands-on learning opportunities that are both applicable and related to the careers and industries with which they are connected.
M-DCPS offers extensive Advanced Placement (AP) options. Participating in AP courses can provide students with a head start on their college journey and the opportunity to cultivate valuable skills for future success. More than 40 schools offer AP courses. Our district’s AP program has consistently been recognized for its excellence.
Expanded Dual Enrollment
Our secondary academic and career dual enrollment programs provide students with credits that can be applied toward career certificates and associate degree programs. These rigorous programs integrate academic, career, and technical education, providing students access to career pathways that lead to higher education. Credit earned through dual-enrollment programs can be used to fulfill high school graduation requirements, achieve stackable credentials through industry certifications, and satisfy undergraduate college and university requirements, greatly reducing the total cost and time required for students to complete higher education programs.
Last year, as an element of our “Connecting the Dots” initiative, Miami-Dade County Public Schools’ Office of Postsecondary Career and Technical Education embarked on a reimagined marketing and communications campaign to educate secondary students on expanded postsecondary offerings available through their local public schools. Composed of expanded digital marketing efforts, social media campaigns, college fairs, and professional development for counselors and College Assistance Program advisors, this massive undertaking increased enrollment across career and technical education programs at our seven nationally certified technical colleges. These programs offered no-cost alternatives to traditional university or college degrees while providing students with a maximum return on investment.
M-DCPS offers 1,200 choice programs across the district, including 380 magnet programs in 119 schools. These programs provide students with specialized instruction, academic rigor, career preparation, and an engaging learning environment. They allow students to explore their passions, develop their talents, and achieve their full potential. Our programs align curriculum with real-world skills and career pathways, preparing students for success in higher education and future careers. Students gain practical knowledge, hands-on experience, and exposure to industry professionals, preparing them for college and career opportunities.
Career and Technical Education (CTE)
CTE programs bridge the gap between education and employment, equipping students with practical skills, industry connections, and career pathways. They promote academic and career readiness, enhance engagement and motivation, and contribute to the economic development and prosperity of individuals, communities, and society.
M-DCPS offers students over 80 industry certifications in major business/industry areas. The District maintains advisory boards in STEM, Business/Finance, and Hospitality whose missions are to ensure that students are future-ready in preparation for their selected career pathways. Our annual Student Industry Conference is provided to approximately 1,800 students and encompasses workshop sessions conducted by business and higher education partners on current career trends. National Groundhog Job Shadow Day is held annually in February to provide on-site and virtual work-based learning opportunities for students to explore their interests with different companies and organizations in our community. Students in CTE programs also participate in leadership conferences and competitions that business partners judge in the various career cluster areas.
Our Summer Youth Internship Program is now in its eighth year. Students participate in five weeks of paid internships in over 700 companies across our county. Interns utilize e-portfolios to create work-based learning plans and earn digital badges. Over 2,700 student interns were matched with local employers last summer, and M-DCPS expects to hire 3,000 student interns this summer.
Apprenticeships and Pre-apprenticeships
Providing students with access to paid learning opportunities is a critical component of our commitment to facilitate upskilling our local workforce. In collaboration with local partners, apprenticeships allow employers to provide our students with hands-on learning opportunities in which they can earn as they learn. This facilitates not only educational attainment but also job placement. As our district continues to expand its apprenticeship offerings, local labor market data is closely analyzed and reviewed with industry partners to ensure program alignment with local economic needs. Collaboration with industry partners and CareerSource South Florida has led to the implementation of Air Conditioning, Electrician, Plumbing, Sheet Metal, Automotive Service, and Diesel Systems apprenticeships. Close ties with local companies for the continuous development of new apprenticeships are critical in serving the labor market needs of our local communities.
In addition to our postsecondary apprenticeship programs, M-DCPS offers secondary students access to high-demand pre-apprenticeship programs in information technology, building construction trades, teaching and instruction, and hospitality. Recently, in partnership with Miami Dade College, we have provided access to three new apprenticeships: Teacher Assistant, Hotel Associate, and Restaurant Cook (in progress). To support the ongoing need for cybersecurity professionals, our district partnered with Florida International University to launch a new Cybersecurity pre-apprenticeship program and Computer Help Desk with Miami Dade College.
Integrated Education and Training
As part of the Florida Department of Education’s vision for the future of adult education, Integrated Education and Training has brought new relevance to English Language acquisition and GED programs across the state by incorporating an interdisciplinary curriculum, exposing students to career and technical education curriculum as they learn English or complete their secondary education. This new model for adult education is closely tied to the needs of local industries to ensure that adult education facilitates the establishment of workforce pipelines needed to develop South Florida’s robust and rapidly growing economy. Our adult education programs are now tailored to language acquisition, workforce readiness, and continuing education. Students completing Integrated Education and Training programs often transition into postsecondary career and technical education programs or directly into the workforce in high-demand career areas such as information technology, transportation and logistics, manufacturing, healthcare, and professional services.
K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) Education
STEAM education prepares students for the demands of the future, nurtures their creativity and problem-solving abilities, and equips them with the skills necessary for success in the 21st century. It empowers students to become critical thinkers, innovators, and contributors to a rapidly advancing society. To expand access to STEAM educational opportunities throughout the district, we launched a STEAM school designation program that has yielded impressive results. This program, which was developed to ensure that students are prepared for the challenges of tomorrow, includes a year-long process where participating schools receive different designations based on their efforts to expand STEAM education opportunities for their students.
Through innovative programs, Miami-Dade County Public Schools is enabling its community to prepare for the future of work. Apprenticeships, career and technical, and integrated education and training coupled with rigorous secondary magnet, pre-apprenticeship, and dual-enrollment programs provide students with various avenues for completing workforce preparation and gaining employment in high-wage careers within rapidly growing industries. Our initiatives, programs, and courses align with our student’s needs and the local economy. Our commitment is to develop this community and its citizens by providing ample opportunities to succeed economically and in their personal lives. Our mission is to provide the highest quality education so that all of our students are empowered to lead productive and fulfilling lives as lifelong learners and responsible citizens.
This is the seventh essay in an ongoing series with Opportunity Miami’s Academic Leaders Council, which includes the presidents of the University of Miami, Miami Dade College, Florida International University, Florida Memorial University, St. Thomas University, and Barry University, along with the Superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The essay series, called “The Class of 2040: Essays on the next-generation workforce,” explores how we will meet the talent development needs of the future. Opportunity Miami is powered by Miami-Dade Beacon Council.