Career Academies and Economic Opportunity in East Oakland

Posted on by Alex Jonlin

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Project SUmmary

Project Objective 
This project seeks to identify opportunities for Youth UpRising (YU) to support and collaborate with the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) in developing a new career academy at Castlemont High School, both in support of OUSD’s goal to enroll 80% of secondary students in career academies by 2015 and Youth Uprising’s goal to foster economic development in East Oakland while connecting youth to long-term employment. To that end, this paper analyzes potential career academies against the current economic and educational landscape of the East Bay and provides tools for YU and OUSD to work together in the development of a career academy at Castlemont High School that prepares East Oakland youth for real workforce opportunities in the East Bay. 

Career Academy Analysis 
After an analysis of workforce data, a review of local economic development strategies, and extensive interviews with staff at OUSD, City of Oakland agencies and local nonprofits, three career academies – finance, health sciences, and advanced manufacturing – have emerged as most promising. This paper presents an analysis of the opportunities and challenges for each. 

The best fit for the Castlemont community and the East Bay’s economy may be a more tailored approach to one of these traditional academies. Two potential hybrids that take advantage of both local employment opportunities and institutional strengths within YU: 

  • Advanced manufacturing for biotechnology. This approach combines the momentum of such manufacturing initiatives as “Design It, Build It, Ship It” with the acknowledged strength of the health sector. 
  • Community development finance academy. This approach could marry a business-oriented curriculum with YU’s proven strength in fostering youth leadership to nurture a new generation of change agents for East Oakland.  

Additional Findings and Recommendations 
Interviews surfaced several additional issues that provide opportunities for action by Youth Uprising and OUSD as they move forward. 

  • Despite the challenging year that the Castlemont community is having, steps that YU and OUSD can take now to support the launch of a new academy include: 
    • Host professional development events on linked learning, particularly with an eye to building excitement among faculty, understanding faculty interest areas, and bringing potential industry partners to the table to discuss opportunities for careers and work-based learning. 
    • Administer career aptitude assessments to understand where student interests and strengths lie. OUSD has the tools to conduct these tests quickly and easily. 
    • Engage youth in further pathways research through Y-PLAN (youth-led planning) and health-impact assessments. 
  • Teachers are rarely equipped to cultivate the industry relationships required to build a fully-rounded linked learning program, nor do they have sufficient time to devote to this critical task. And, even when partnerships can be developed, they must be maintained in the face of frequent teacher turnover. 
    • Develop tools to help faculty understand the industry partners who can support their work for each of the potential academies, such as stakeholder maps outlining the roles played by various local agencies and organizations. 
    • Create a channel for sharing up-to-date workforce and economic development data with teaching staff to keep them abreast of employment and industry trends. 
  • Potential partners in the civic and private sectors have misconceptions about what career academies are and the role that outside partners play in their success. In addition, these potential partners find it difficult to respond to broad invitations to participate, preferring requests for specific types of support. 
    • Develop tools to facilitate communication between faculty and industry partners who can support their work for each of the potential academies, such as standard forms to streamline the process of finding work-based learning opportunities for both teachers and industry partners as well as FAQs about linked learning. 
    • Continue to engage the city’s economic development team to support collaboration between the civic sector and the school district.