Across the New Skills for Youth states, annual enrollment in at least one high-skill, high-demand pathway among students in grades 9-12 increased by 5 percent.
The proportion of students completing pathways aligned to high-skill, high-demand career fields during high school grew from 12 to 18 percent from 2015-16 to 2018-19.
What innovations and strategies did New Skills for Youth states use to transform policies and programs to improve students’ career readiness?
State and local stakeholders undertook efforts in the following six areas to scale high-quality career pathways aligned to labor market needs.
- States convened employers to provide input on pathway priorities, content, and credentials at the state level.
- States created or strengthened processes for using traditional and real-time labor market data to prioritize pathway development and funding.
- Recognizing a need for staff time to build and maintain employer connections, state teams and districts established new positions at the state, regional, and local levels.
- More than half of the states created model pathways, and three states developed pathway approval processes to ensure the consistency and rigor of local pathway development.
- All 10 states developed policies and directed funding and support to expanding work-based learning opportunities, and most strengthened processes for identifying and promoting industry-recognized credentials.
- States included equity as a component of statewide pathway initiatives and launched pilot programs supporting local sites in identifying and addressing equity gaps.
- All states included dual credit as an accountability indicator for career readiness. Career-readiness indicators include career and technical education or pathway program completion; work-based learning participation; and industry-recognized credential attainment.
- New Skills for Youth spurred states to improve data collection on career pathways and career-readiness indicators, such as industry-recognized credential attainment and work-based learning participation.
- Most states were able to track pathways students into postsecondary education regardless of whether they attended in-state or out-of-state institutions, but data on employment outcomes either were not available or limited.
- Local sites adopted statewide pathway models to accelerate program implementation and meet accountability and funding requirements.
- States facilitated pathway expansion by providing financial and other support, with a focus on aspects of pathways that districts and schools found most challenging to implement, such as work-based learning and employer engagement.
- States promoted the benefits of pathways through stakeholder marketing and branding campaigns, but noted that negative perceptions of pathways persist among parents and school staff.
- More than half of the states dedicated new state funding for pathways and pathways-related programs or anticipate budget increases after New Skills for Youth ends.
- States established new state-level agency and organizational partnerships in support of pathways, with some states creating staff positions to oversee pathways activities after New Skills for Youth.
- State teams aligned their grant work with other pathway-related initiatives and benefitted from legislation supporting pathways and pathways components.
- Early college credit attainment rates increased during New Skills for Youth, reflecting funding increases for dual credit and other incentives promoting college readiness.
- States developed pathway models and partnered with local districts to expand pathway-aligned dual credit opportunities.
- Most workforce system partnerships focused on aligning pathways with registered apprenticeships, but some also included work-based learning and serving at-risk students and students with disabilities.
Over the course of New Skills for Youth, states’ capacity to support high-quality career pathways increased through the introduction of new pathway models, resources, and implementation strategies. These changes are still being implemented, but early indications suggest that states succeeded in expanding career pathways opportunities during New Skills for Youth. State team members highlighted the value of the sustained connections and shared vision among pathways stakeholders for making career pathways a priority in their states.