Ah, career readiness. Ever since President Obama announced in March that he aimed to change federal education law so that high schools prepared their students for “college and career readiness” people wondered how to make this happen. The trouble is that no one seems to know what career ready really means.

But people are trying to figure it out, sort of. Catherine Gewertz writes in Education Week that Association for Career and Technical Education just issued a statement trying to define workplace readiness. According to the Gewertz article:

A rough consensus is emerging on a definition of college readiness as the ability to pass entry-level, credit-bearing courses without remediation. But the definition of “career ready” generally gets less attention and is often rolled into the definition of college-readiness.

In addition to academic and applied academic skills, the ACTE’s definition includes “employability” skills, such as adaptability, collaboration, and critical thinking, and “technical” skills that are specific to particular fields, such as those required for industry licensure or certification.

ACTE’s definition is here. But it’s apparently not the only definition. The National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium issued its own “vision paper” earlier this year (here) which said that the consortium would,

Develop a national common core of technical standards, built upon The National Career Clusters Knowledge and Skills Statements that are benchmarked internationally and supported by leaders form business, labor, education and government.

Currently most students who graduate from high school but don’t go to college have a very hard time getting jobs.

All of this seems awfully complicated. Since apparently no one wants to help make sure students are career ready by, say, actually training them for jobs, the administration has decided to go with, well, lobbying as a way to ensure career readiness. It’s very, very promising that policymakers are beginning to talk seriously about vocational and technical education but the official, interest group definition of career readiness probably won’t go far toward helping American high school students get good jobs.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer