Volume 26, No. 1: Steady Progress in CP Systems

Starting on a Career Pathway While in High School? Why Not?

Ann Westrich, Education Director, Career Prep, Career Transitions and Transfer, Wisconsin Technical College System

Over 27,000 students last year in Wisconsin earned college credit while in high school. These students were part of a dual enrollment program that allowed them to gain high school credit as well as college credit and offered them the chance to experience the rigor of college-level curricula.

Today’s high school students are looking to gain more value from their traditional high school experience, and college credit is one of those values. Students in high school are able to choose career areas of interest and in many cases start gaining college credit within their chosen career pathways. One example in Wisconsin is in the Health Career Cluster. Students are not only graduating from high school, but they are leaving with a three-credit Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) credential, as well as a three-credit Medical Terminology course and a two-credit Health Careers course. These eight credits are the first eight of a 12-credit pathway certificate. This certificate will lead to an entry-level health-related job, or will be the stepping stone to a one-year technical diploma in the health area offering a full-time, wage-sustaining job.

The sense of success and accomplishment these students are gaining is priceless. Many of these students come directly to one of Wisconsin's sixteen technical colleges with credits already earned. They are engaged in the career area, have an understanding of what to expect, and know what they want and where they are headed.

The following list below shows the number of students enrolled, courses taken, and credits earned in the five dual enrollment areas in the sixteen technical colleges: 118.15 Compulsory Education, Youth Options, Transcripted Credit, Youth Apprenticeship, and 38.14 Contracts. (The numbers “118.15” and “38.14” refer to sections of the Wisconsin state code governing the relevant course offerings. The colleges are Blackhawk Technical College, Chippewa Valley Technical College, Fox Valley Technical College, Lakeshore Technical College, Mid-State Technical College, Milwaukee Area Technical College, Moraine Park Technical College, Nicolet Area Technical College, Northcentral Technical College, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, and Southwest Wisconsin Technical College.)

  1. 118.15 Compulsory Education: 971 students took 8690 courses and earned 9973 credits.

  2. Youth Options: 2447 students took 4227 courses and earned 11,796 credits.

  3. Transcripted Credit: 22,472 students took 29,785 courses and earned 77,907 credits.

  4. Youth Apprenticeship: 279 students took 484 courses and earned 1167 credits.

  5. 38.14 Contracts: 2880 students took 3980 courses and earned 10,913 credits.

Health is not the only area. Below is a visual representation of high school dual credit opportunities offered through Moraine Park Technical College (MPTC), and how those courses lead to MPTC programs of study and employment and transfer opportunities.

I am sure you are asking yourself how to begin. Listed below are some simple steps:

  • Start small. Add in one college course at multiple high schools in your area.

  • Engage partners. If you know what industry wants, creating the pathway will be easier.

  • Don't be afraid to try new things. Change is never easy but can be successful.

  • "Pilot" at first if need be. You can always change things up!

  • Gather the data. It's always good to see the results.

  • Keep building. It will be worth it in the long run.

For more information, contact the author at Ann.westrich@wtcsystem.edu or 608.261.4588.