“Cradle to career” pathways promoted by organizations like StriveTogether and the Business Roundtable align children’s educational experiences to regional economic sectors. Instruction is outsourced to work-based “experiential” learning settings where students earn badges and stackable credentials. Regional employers create career “road maps” that are integrated into the curriculum. Work-based learning fits the “anytime, anywhere” learning premise where “your community is your classroom.” Embedding career exploration into the curriculum creates robust data profiles (academic and behavioral), so by the time students reach middle and high school their options for college or workforce pathway can be curtailed accordingly.  Rather than racial or class profiling, this process will be framed as helping children find their “passion.” STEM careers will be emphasized, though most will not realize until too late that the platform economy is transforming many of these very jobs into low-wage, contract work.

As public funds for public education continue to shrink, greater efficiencies are demanded. Maintaining a broad curriculum in K12 that encourages all students to explore multiple interest areas, particularly areas outside of STEM, isn’t prudent or cost-effective. Lean models that maximize return on investment in terms of human capital production become the priority. Dual enrollment with community colleges and the ability to earn certifications through work-based learning are selling points for families worried about rising tuition costs. It eases overcrowding in schools starved of resources and with students spending so much time outside district facilities, school boards will be able to reduce certified teaching staff and consolidate services.

Controlling educational pipelines (and the data they generate) permits industry to develop accurate projections about labor markets and profitably manipulate wages. The career pathway approach prunes away extraneous expenditures, saving school boards money, though it is likely to ultimately deliver large numbers students into dead-end or non-existent jobs. Such a model reinforces the economic status quo, which of course serves industry’s bottom line.