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Pathways to Prosperity Levers: Career Navigation Systems

October 22, 2021

Practices & Centers

What It Is

  • Career navigation systems help students make informed, financially sound, and sustainable education and career choices. They guide students to understand their interests, the related career opportunities available, and the skills, education, and training required to pursue those careers.
  • Career navigation systems also intentionally support learners in building social capital with value in the labor market and the skills and knowledge they need to successfully navigate the world of work.
  • The systems are networks of educators, employers, intermediaries, families, and community leaders that collaborate to prepare all students to make informed decisions about their educational and career pathways.

Why It Matters

  • Today’s young people are likely to have not just multiple jobs, but multiple careers. In this new context, traditional approaches to career counseling are insufficient.
  • Fewer than a quarter of college students access campus career services, while the ratio of students to K-12 counselors and advisors is much too high in most states.
  • Providing access to pathways will do little to improve student outcomes if young people do not have access to the information needed to make sound choices about their education and career options.

What It Looks Like

  • Students participate in a carefully planned and developmentally appropriate sequence of college and career advising and career exploration activities that are embedded within pathways.
  • All students collaborate in the design of individualized plans that identify their education and career goals and the steps needed to achieve them.
  • Educators access career navigation resources and professional development opportunities that enable them to effectively advise students.
  • Students develop knowledge and skills needed to build professional networks, engage in self-advocacy, identify good jobs and good employers, and overcome barriers based on race, ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic background.
  • Career navigation systems are designed to respond to the current and future hiring needs of local employers and the outlook for high-wage, high-demand careers.

What Role Partners Play

  • Secondary and postsecondary educators, including counselors and advisors, develop and implement a college and career advising continuum. They identify student milestones along the continuum, assess students’ progress, and support students in designing and updating individualized plans.
  • Employers advise on the design of—and participate in—career awareness and exploration activities such as career fairs and mock interviews. They may also contribute to professional development for educators through the development of externship programs.
  • Intermediaries support coordination and collaboration among educators and employers.
  • Workforce development boards provide educators with labor market information and support them in developing strategies for sharing the information with students.

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Learn about the five Pathways to Prosperity Levers by clicking on the icons below.

Secondary-Postsecondary Integration

Career Navigation Systems

Work-Based Learning


Leadership and Policy