When job training is not enough: The cultivation of social capital in career academies

By Michael Lanford and Tattiya Maruco

In this article, published in the American Educational Research Journal, the authors used a qualitative data set of 52 academy coordinators and teachers as well as 41 students from a single American school district to examine social capital in career academies and the factors that potentially make them viable and effective. A career academy is a stand-alone vocationally focussed school or a distinct academic program that emphasises specific academic disciplines, professional fields, or career paths.

According to this study’s participants, the primary benefits of a career academy have surprisingly little to do with vocational or work-based components. Instead, the benefits are largely attributable to the personalized support that enables students to build confidence, develop their academic skills, clarify their personal and potential job-related interests, and enjoy a multiyear relationship with committed teachers. The authors also discovered that the social capital within a career academy is essential for cultivating industry ties; building trust between coordinators, teachers, and students; and student motivation. Industry contacts may be difficult to forge and maintain without teachers and coordinators who have significant professional experience, knowledge of the local context, and the ability to serve as boundary spanners between the different organizational cultures of industry and education.

Read the article here.