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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Washington high school juniors and seniors would be able to earn credit for jobs under new plan

Students leave Lewis and Clark High School at the end of classes on March 13, 2020.   (Colin Mulvany/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)

One year from now, high school juniors and seniors in Washington will be able to earn elective credits for their after-school jobs under a plan unveiled this week by Chris Reykdal, the state’s Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The goal, Reykdal said Thursday, is to give students an additional reward for what they are learning in the workplace.

“Through work experience, students learn employability and leadership skills – skills like interpersonal communication, personal finance, time management, taking direction, receiving critical feedback, and following through on commitments – that support their long-term success in the workforce and in life,” Reykdal said.

The plan will go into effect in fall 2023. It would allow students to earn up to four elective credits during their junior and senior years.

The credits would apply to all work fields, Reykdal said.

“It isn’t that we’re going to allow some employers to do it and not others; this is to honor all work: manufacturing, retail, food services,” Reykdal said.

To earn a high school diploma in Washington, students must earn 17 credits in core subjects aligning with university admissions requirements, complete a graduation pathway, meet personalized pathway requirements and earn four credits in elective subjects.

Under Reykdal’s plan, students could earn credits at a rate of one elective credit for 360 hours worked, or 0.5 elective credits for 180 hours worked. Students will be allowed to earn up to four elective credits through work experience, and no more than two of those credits may be earned in a year.

Reykdal said OSPI will work out more details in the next 30-45 days, aiming to roll out the program next fall. He said the public will have the opportunity to weigh in on the plan through late fall and winter this year.

Reykdal hopes that the plan will give students more flexibility; for example, they could adjust their daily class schedule to their working hours.

According to OSPI, roughly one-third of the state’s current high school juniors and seniors have a job.

The news was welcome to some in the business community.

“Helping equip the next generation to succeed in the workforce is critically important for the health of our families, our communities and our economy,” said Dave Mastin, vice president of Government Affairs for the Association of Washington Business.

“Giving students the opportunity to earn elective credits for their after-school and summer jobs validates the important role that work plays in their growth and development, and will hopefully encourage more young people to get a start on acquiring the important life skills that are gained through work experience,” Mastin said.