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Career Pathway Quality and Rigor
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.
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New Skills for Youth states enhanced processes for identifying and promoting the industry-recognized credentials (IRCs) most valued by industry and for tracking student IRC attainment.
Aligned IRCs to the Labor Market
Five states changed their IRC approval process by expanding employers’ role in IRC review, updating lists of state-approved IRCs more frequently, and/or tightening standards for IRC approval. Some states faced challenges because of a lack of consensus between state and local industry representatives about the credentials most valued in the labor market.
Offered Incentives for IRC Attainment
Nine states rewarded secondary student IRC attainment in school report cards, included IRCs in options for meeting state high school graduation requirements, and/or increased funds available to districts for IRC costs. Available data indicate gains in IRC attainment, but state teams noted that age and work experience requirements were barriers to credential attainment in some fields.
Improved IRC Data Collection
Five states began collecting more detailed and accurate data on IRC attainment, allowing them to track students earning credentials valued by employers.
State Highlight: IRC Attainment in Kentucky
Attainment of IRCs aligned with a high-skill high-demand occupation (HSHD IRCs) increased among the three states that provided four waves of data on IRC attainment. In Kentucky, from 2015-16 to 2018-19, the percentage of students earning HSHD IRCs increased, as the percentage of students earning non-HSHD IRCs generally declined. These trends are consistent with changes to the state accountability system, which awards schools extra points for students earning IRCs in high demand by industry.
New Orleans Career Center, Louisiana
The New Orleans Career Center (NOCC) enrolls students from 17 independent charter schools in 4 career academies, including allied health. In 2018, NOCC developed a certified medical assistant (CMA) program in response to a regional demand to prepare students for career and postsecondary education options in the healthcare industry.
IRCs Aligned to the Labor Market
NOCC staff compiled labor market data and employer endorsements to petition Louisiana’s Workforce Investment Council to add the CMA credential to the state-approved IRC list.
Incentives for IRC Attainment
The state accepted the certification as an “advanced credential,” based on NOCC’s evidence that students must master complex skills to obtain it. In Louisiana, high school graduates earning statewide or advanced credentials generate more points for schools in the state’s accountability system than those earning regional credentials.