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New York City students are getting a taste of carpentry and other trades through a partnership with the National Park Service (NPS) focused on refurbishing historical buildings.

Former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar challenged NPS’ New York regional department about five years ago to gather ideas to increase involvement with local communities that were not engaged with urban national park sites.

Students in Maryland’s Anne Arundel County Public School System learn to make drones in a career technology class developed with a local engineering company. At Mississippi’s Ocean Springs High School, students in the robotics and engineering program design about 40 robots. Tempe Union High School District in Arizona has created living labs in solar thermal, fuel cell and other types of power.

At POLYTECH High School, Delaware students take an EMT training course, something that was recently added because the region needed more EMTs.

Delaware’s New Castle County Vocational Technical School District offers 41 career programs in four technical high schools. And while some programs are in cutting-edge fields, like biotechnology, robotics and athletic health care, many are the same programs that have been offered for decades.

Students at Haas Automation Inc. in California take part in a lesson. Haas supports SkillsUSA and manufacturing education, and is considered a best practice by the Manufacturing Institute.

When career tech students in 21 West Virginia districts returned to school this fall, they didn’t head to classrooms. They went to work.

Through the state’s Simulated Workplace pilot program, high school students learn in classes that are restructured to feel like workplace environments. For instance, students will clock in upon arrival, take random drug tests, and be evaluated based on their “company’s” bottom line.

For years, schools have focused on preparing students for jobs that require a four-year degree from a university, and federal and state education policies “have prioritized college preparation over career preparation,” says Ashley Parker, spokesperson for the Association of Career and Technical Education (ACTE).

As it becomes clearer that many high-paying jobs are remaining unfilled—and that many university-educated job seekers are not prepared to fill them—that focus has started to change. But to get students and parents on board, districts must start early.

On July 30, The New Teacher Project (TNTP), a nonprofit dedicated to closing the achievement gap, released a study that, according to David Keeling, vice president of communications, tells a story of systemic neglect for our nation’s best teachers.