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The Legislature hereby finds and declares all of the following:

(a) California must make more efficient use of limited resources to do a better job of preparing pupils for an economy that demands that workers have strong academic and career knowledge and skills, are adaptable to change, and are prepared for lifelong learning.

(b) The rapid growth of California's population and the labor force requires special efforts to attract, support, and retain businesses that pay high wages to highly skilled workers. Therefore, improvement in the overall quality of the workforce is a vital component of economic development of California.

(c) California is experiencing a growing inequality in income distribution at a time when the state's economy is strong, illustrating that economic growth alone cannot be relied upon to help improve this income gap. Therefore, California must develop and sustain educational programs that can provide youths with career guidance, organizational help in developing careers, and networks of support that will serve as the foundation for lifelong learning.

(d) The current array of educational and training programs needs to continue to move towards a more coherent system based on public-private collaboration and cooperation.

(e) The policies and methods through which California provides education to prepare all young people for lifelong learning, higher education, and highly skilled careers that are highly paid may be the most important component of California's economic growth.

(f) Sustaining and further developing a strong school-to-career system needs to be the top priority in establishing the most efficient and effective educational system and in establishing a seamless system of lifelong education and employment for all Californians.

(g) California's school-to-career system will be a long-term investment in supplying a highly skilled adaptable workforce. By successfully matching the skills of the emerging workforce with the needs of California's growing economy, the school-to-career system will be one of the most essential components to ensuring the state's competitive edge in an increasingly global economy.

(h) School-to-career programs are an educational approach that is designed to improve academic rigor through relevant, real-world experiences by integrating school-based and work-based learning with the formal academic curriculum. School-to-career programs create a much needed nexus between those preparing the future workforce and those employing the future workforce, enabling and encouraging the use of contextual, applied teaching strategies, and providing opportunities for all students to gain exposure to career-related coursework, workplace experiences, internships, and job-site mentoring. A school-to-career system establishes much needed cohesion, coherence, and infrastructure to the kindergarten through postsecondary school system by integrating and building on existing educational programs such as vocational education programs, partnership academies, regional occupational centers and programs, youth apprenticeship programs, and adult education programs. School-to-career programs use the resources of business and the expertise of the educational community to provide a more successful learning environment for all students. School-to-career programs will enable all pupils to earn transferable credentials, prepare them for jobs in highly skilled careers that are highly paid, and increase their opportunities for further education, including four-year colleges and universities.

(Added by Stats. 2000, Ch. 793, Sec. 1.)