In 2011, the Harvard Graduate School of Education released Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century. The report argued that our current education system was too narrowly focused on the goal of preparing all young people to pursue a four-year college or university degree immediately after high school, while other postsecondary routes to careers might suit significant numbers of students far better.
Only one young person in three obtains a four-year degree by age 25—and roughly 30 percent of the job openings projected over the next decade require some education beyond high school but not necessarily a four-year degree. The report’s authors called for much more attention to building career pathways in high-growth, high-demand occupational fields that span high school and community or technical college preparation and can provide young people with skills and credentials valued in the labor market.
Given the rising costs of four-year higher education institutions and the no longer certain economic returns on that investment, the Pathways report found a ready audience among policymakers and the public. Consequently, in 2012, the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Jobs for the Future, a Boston-based nonprofit focused on creating educational and economic opportunity for low-income youth and adults, decided to invite a small group of states to join them in creating the Pathways to Prosperity Network.
The Pathways to Prosperity Network is now two years old, with eight state members—California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Ohio, and Tennessee—doing significant work in creating career pathways in grades 9-14. Two more states, Arizona and Delaware, joined the Network in June 2014. This report is a letter to the field about what’s been accomplished to date. As is often the case in such initiatives, the results thus far are due to a combination of good luck, good timing, deep knowledge of implementation, and a simple but urgent message and strategy. The unique stories of the developments in each state are included in this report as well as observation and description of key aspects of this work across the states in the Network as a group.
Read the press release about this publication.