This week, Jobs for the Future and the Harvard Graduate School of Education released a two-year progress report on its Pathways to Prosperity Network. The network, which consists of 10 states, focuses on creating career pathways for students spanning high schools and community or technical colleges. Along with statewide and regional examples, the report provides lessons from the field and policy recommendations.
The network’s mission grew out of a 2011 report from the Harvard Graduate School of Education which argued the current U.S. education system focused too narrowly on preparing all students for a four-year college degree, and by doing so ignored other postsecondary options that could better suit many students. The project’s long-term objective is “to create statewide strategies that ensure that all middle and high school students are provided with systematic, sustained exposure to the world of work and careers, and that students in their upper high school years have access to educational options that integrate academic and technical skills and lead to a postsecondary credential with value in the labor market.”
While the report found “gold standard” work-based learning opportunities in some schools and a philosophical commitment to these practices in many instances, none of the models could be found across whole districts or even entire high schools. These opportunities are not more readily available because, “employers in the United States do not take the long view about the value of investing in talent early.” The report shared the burden, however, with schools, saying that even if employers were more inclined to collaborate, teachers and administrators “do not have the time or capacity to develop the number of internships needed while attending to their other responsibilities.” The authors also pointed to other factors such as already tight class schedules and a lack of government youth employment policies.
The authors called on state agencies to better coordinate resources to scale up Pathways programs; increase dual enrollment opportunities; further integrate CTE with academic programs, particularly those with a STEM focus; and develop policies to incentivize business involvement.
Be sure to check out examples of how Pathways states are increasing work-based learning opportunities, leveraging public funds, and a state-by-state report that looks at progress through a statewide and regional lens.