Denver Public School Students Participating in CareerConnect Contributes to All-time High Graduation Rate 

Denver, Colorado – Denver Public Schools has taken on an impressive goal: create the largest work-based learning program of any district in the country. Focused on providing students with access to relevant, project-based coursework, technical skills training and in-depth experiences in leading career areas, Denver Public Schools CareerConnect has developed a program that is working for both students and industry.

DPS CareerConnect launched in 2014 in partnership with the City of Denver, the Denver Office of Economic Development, two- and four-year colleges and universities, and business and industry partners. Supported by the JPMorgan Chase New Skills for Youth initiative beginning in 2016, the program offers rigorous industry-focused classes, hands-on work-based learning experiences, professional internships, mentoring for students, and a three-year apprenticeship opportunity where students split their time between the classroom and the workplace.

DPS CareerConnect has contributed to an all-time high graduation rate for Denver Public School (DPS) students. Specifically, participating in CareerConnect increases the odds of on-time graduation by 40 percent for students participating in two to five CareerConnect courses, 90 percent for students participating in five or more CareerConnect courses, and 90 percent for students who have a CareerConnect industry mentor.

Nearly 80 percent of DPS high schools are participating in the CareerConnect initiative. Overall, CareerConnect reaches more than 12,600 middle and high school students throughout the district. More than 200 Denver area businesses play a key role in the development and delivery of the program. The unique program builds a pathway for students while creating a pipeline of future employees with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in high-opportunity, in-demand industries including finance, engineering, advanced manufacturing, bioscience and technology.

“We want to enable young people to both contribute to and share in the rewards of a growing economy, and it starts right here with access to programs like DPS CareerConnect,” said Chris Jensen, Senior Executive for the Greater West Segment for the Commercial Bank in Colorado. “Working collaboratively, we can make sure young people in Denver are trained and competitive for the most in-demand jobs.”

Data plays a major role in the CareerConnect program, providing insight into ways CareerConnect can and should expand to meet the needs of each student. DPS CareerConnect uses data gathered from school districts such as attendance, graduation progress and test achievement, number of students participating in work-based learning, and more, all disaggregated by demographic characteristics to ensure that every single student is set up for success in the program. As offerings grow equitably, so does participation. K-8 School-Based Learning enrollment increased from over 9,400 in the 2016-17 school year to more than 13,600 in the 2017-18 school year. “CareerConnect is making a lasting impact both in schools and our local community by introducing students to their career passions and initiating a lifelong upward career trajectory,” said Bernard McCune, Senior Executive Director for Career and College Success at Denver Public Schools. “I look forward to the continued growth of the DPS CareerConnect program and equipping all students with invaluable skills for career and college success.”

As the program evolves, it will continue to focus on serving Denver students by identifying and implementing solutions to strengthen and expand programming, supporting innovative career readiness approaches and sustaining essential existing efforts.

Denver Public Schools CareerConnect is a JPMorgan Chase & Co. New Skills for Youth Innovation Site aiming to improve career pathways for learners. This snapshot is part of a series documenting the progress of the local investments from across the globe that aim to identify and implement the most promising ideas in career education, with a special focus on communities with the greatest needs. Learn more about the innovations sites here.

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