Illinois District Raises Profile of Workplace Prep

When Travis McGuire became superintendent five years ago of Hinckley-Big Rock Community Unit School District 429, a tiny, mostly middle-class district in northern Illinois, he decided early on to make career readiness a K-12 priority across the district.

As he familiarized himself with the 700-student district, he was concerned that the schools seemed to be pushing college as the only acceptable outcome for their graduates. Consequently, he brought together all the district’s teachers to discuss students’ college and career pursuits. McGuire especially wanted them to see that career readiness could be the larger umbrella under which college readiness could fit.

As a follow-up, teachers drawn from all grade levels took the lead in developing the school district’s definition of career readiness. The team launched the district on a coordinated effort to embed career readiness activities in all subjects in all grade levels. The district adopted the 16 career clusters from the National Career Clusters Framework to expose students systematically to the world of work and careers and asked teachers across the curriculum to identify opportunities to draw on examples from those sectors in their lessons.

Pursuing Pathways
With the passage of the 2016 Illinois Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness Act and its requirement that school districts create a postsecondary and career exploration framework and plan, the Hinckley-Big Rock administrators and staff developed a K-12 scheme that enables all students by 10th grade to choose a career pathway related to one of the career clusters. In a systematic way over the next two years, students explore the postsecondary education and training options aligned with their chosen path-way and then complete the necessary applications to pursue that pathway.

The goal: Every student should know what he or she wants to do upon graduation and how to get there.

(For more about the district’s career readiness plan, visit