In Vermont, decreasing numbers of students are deciding to attend college in their home state, and extremely low numbers of students remain in Vermont for their adult lives. This so-called "brain drain" of young Vermonters has particularly detrimental effects on the state's economy, as a young workforce is vital to economic growth. In his 2006 State of the State Address, Vermont Governor Jim Douglas sought to address this issue by proposing the 15-year, $175 million Promise Scholarship program. The initiative was designed to provide college scholarships to Vermont students in an effort to encourage them to remain in Vermont upon graduation. With the expectation that recipients will either remain in the state to begin their adult lives or pay back the scholarship as a loan, the program was intended to encourage more young people to start their lives in Vermont and engage as active citizens in the state well into the future.
However, the Vermont General Assembly sought an alternative to the Governor's plan and in 2006 created the Next Generation Commission to develop the Next Generation Initiative, "a plan to encourage Vermonters to live and work in Vermont." In creating the Initiative, the Commission has interpreted its charge very broadly, as its goal is to develop an extensive economic development plan. A major component of this plan will be broadening the scope of academic and technical training in Vermont to improve the likelihood of job acquisition and career success for Vermont residents. This includes a significant element devoted to secondary, post-secondary, and technical career education options. In addition, the Commission recognized that it may also be necessary to initiate career education programs with elementary school students. Citing the need for students to become engaged in and excited about potential careers from an early age, the Commission has requested this report on innovative elementary career counseling initiatives being implemented in other locales. Therefore, the report's purpose is to provide the Commission with background information and policy options for implementing career education programs for elementary and middle-school aged students.
This report identifies the potential benefit of career education, highlights the current state of career education programs in Vermont, and identifies programs in other states that could be used as models for developing a Vermont career education plan. Furthermore, this report explores various funding options available for these programs. Finally, the report proposes a collection of best practices for the Commission and the state to use in more effectively implementing career education for elementary and middle-school aged children.