The Pathways to Prosperity Network is building grades 9-14 career pathways in twelve states.
Roughly half of all Americans reach their mid-20s without the skills or credentials essential for success in today’s increasingly demanding economy, according to the 2011 Harvard Graduate School of Education report, Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century.
A central reason why so many are underprepared is the nation’s overreliance on the traditional four-year college pathway to help young people transition from high school to working life. The vast majority of American young people and their families realize that a high school diploma alone is no longer sufficient to land a family-sustaining job.
Middle and high school students overwhelmingly aspire to go to college, and college enrollment continues its long-term rise. Yet 1.3 million drop out of high school each year, and less than half of all college students earn a credential within six years. The most common pathway to a career—a high school diploma and a four-year college degree—is not effective for all.
If we fail to expand the ways we prepare youth for postsecondary education and the workforce, their quality of life will suffer, our society will lose out on their potential contributions, and the costs to our economy will be severe.
The Pathways to Prosperity Network develops career pathways that span grades 9-14, enabling students to transition smoothly through high school, into higher education, and onto family-supporting careers—particularly in high-demand sectors like information technology, health care, and advanced manufacturing.
The network's 11 participating states engage regional employers and educators in building a system of pathways that are designed to launch young people into initial careers, while leaving open the prospect of further education.
While pathways include either a comprehensive high school program of study or a career academy within a high school, all programs employ four key implementation strategies:
- Schools create early and sustained career information and advising systems.
- Employers provide a continuum of workplace learning opportunities.
- Intermediaries recruit business, nonprofit, and public employers as partners.
- Proponents advocate for supportive state policies.
These strategies are implemented with the assistance of Jobs for the Future and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
- Jobs for the Future was the only national organization to win a Youth CareerConnect federal grant with its three MASSACHUSETTS Pathways sites, which include high schools, postsecondary institutions, employers, and workforce investment boards. The funding is $4.8 million over four years.
- GEORGIA has created a strong legislative foundation for the development of grades 9-14 pathways. The Work-Based Learning Act, which will take effect on July 1, 2014, calls for the creation of work-based learning opportunities linked to students’ career pathways and will expand the range of industries in which high school students in Georgia are able to participate in work-based learning.
- ILLINOIS launched a major STEM education initiative, Illinois Pathways, that brings together partners from education, business, and industry to provide early college and work-based learning opportunities to high-school students through new public-private partnerships in priority STEM career cluster areas, known as STEM Learning Exchanges, that support local implementation of career pathway systems.
- CALIFORNIA allocated and awarded $250 million for a Career Pathways Trust to invest in regional collaboratives to support career programs, including work-based learning aligned with regional economic priorities.
- NEW YORK STATE has funded 16 new P-TECH high schools with grants of $300,000 for seven years, for a total of $28 million, with support in several regions from the JFF team. The most recent budget includes funding for up to 10 additional schools.
- Three metro St. Louis school districts are building grade 9-14 pathways with $1.3 million from MISSOURI’s Innovation Campus program.
- In TENNESSEE, thirteen middle schools across four counties are collaborating with the state Department of Education to implement modules in health science, advanced manufacturing and engineering, vetted by local industry and postsecondary institutions, to raise awareness about high-demand career fields.