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RTI International evaluated JPMorgan Chase’s New Skills for Youth initiative to study its effect on the development and growth of career pathways in 10 states. Explore the findings here to learn about the most promising approaches and opportunities for strengthening career-focused education.
Following a 6-month planning period in 2016, the 10 New Skills for Youth states—Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and Wisconsin—each received 3-year grants of $1.95 million through a competitive application process.
During Phase 2 of New Skills for Youth, states refined plans to improve students’ career readiness, solidified the engagement and responsibilities of participating agencies and stakeholders, and implemented pathway-related innovations and strategies.
Waves of Data
RTI International analyzed 4 waves of state data, studied program documentation, and interviewed state agency, school, and district staff and employers to evaluate the effects of New Skills for Youth on career pathway development.
Key Takeaways
Over the course of New Skills for Youth, secondary student participation in and completion of pathways aligned with high-skill, high-demand career fields grew across the 10 states.
Student enrollment in pathways aligned with high-skill, high-demand careers increased.

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.

View state-by-state data >

Data Source: New Skills for Youth state education data systems. See data sources for more information.
Data Source: New Skills for Youth state education data systems. See data sources for more information.
Completion rates for pathways in high-skill, high-demand career fields increased across the New Skills for Youth states.

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.

View state-by-state data >

The Research

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.

Employer-Driven Pathways
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New Skills for Youth states formalized and expanded their approaches to partnering with employers and using labor market data to inform pathways work.
Key Findings
  • 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.
Career Pathway Quality and Rigor
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The New Skills for Youth states addressed career pathway quality and rigor by developing statewide pathway models and policies and ensuring equitable access to pathway components that enhance students’ college and career readiness.
Key Findings
  • 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.
Career-Focused Accountability Systems
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All New Skills for Youth states modified their state or federal accountability systems or report cards to incentivize career readiness, and most improved data collection on career readiness.
Key Findings
  • 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.
Scaling Local Pathways
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Recognizing the time and resources needed to develop high-quality pathways, New Skills for Youth states offered incentives and support to encourage pathway expansion.
Key Findings
  • 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.
Funding and Sustaining Pathway Innovations
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New Skills for Youth state teams highlighted new funding sources, partnerships, staff positions, legislation, and statewide alignment as key to their plans for sustaining their work.
Key Findings
  • 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.
Postsecondary and Workforce Connections
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New Skills for Youth teams aligned their career pathways work with statewide initiatives promoting dual credit attainment and workforce training programs.
Key Findings
  • 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.
Expanded State Capacity for Career Pathways

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.