Roughly half of all Americans reach their mid-20s without the skills or credentials essential for success in today’s increasingly demanding economy, according to the 2011 Harvard Graduate School of Education report, Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century.
A central reason why so many are underprepared is the nation’s overreliance on the traditional four-year college pathway to help young people transition from high school to working life. The vast majority of American young people and their families realize that a high school diploma alone is no longer sufficient to land a family-sustaining job.
Middle and high school students overwhelmingly aspire to go to college, and college enrollment continues its long-term rise. Yet 1.3 million drop out of high school each year, and less than half of all college students earn a credential within six years. The most common pathway to a career—a high school diploma and a four-year college degree—is not effective for all.
If we fail to expand the ways we prepare youth for postsecondary education and the workforce, their quality of life will suffer, our society will lose out on their potential contributions, and the costs to our economy will be severe.
In June 2012, Tennessee was selected to join a multi-state consortium, the Pathways to Prosperity Network, a multistate initiative aimed to address the “skills gap” that threatens the preparedness of young Americans entering the workforce. Entrance into this consortium led to the founding of Pathways Tennessee.
The mission of Pathways Tennessee is to provide Tennessee students rigorous academic/career pathways, which are linked to economic and labor market needs and trends. To be successful, Pathways Tennessee recommends a framework which is comprised of the following:
- Active industry involvement in student learning, starting in middle school
- Strong integration of student supports, interventions, and counseling
- Utilization of early warning indicators and remediation strategies
- Allows students to acquire postsecondary credits and/or industry certifications in high school
- Supports seamless transition from secondary to postsecondary education institutions
- Participants have multiple entry and exit points through grades 13-16
- Program completers are competitive in Tennessee’s fastest growing sectors
Four regions are currently developing/implementing pathways based on their strengths and opportunities to braid education and industry in order to better support their students, employers, and communities. The expectation is for local pathways initiatives to build off existing resources and interests, and partner regionally.
- Governor’s Office
- State Board of Education
- State Collaborative on Reforming Education
- Tennessee Board of Regents
- Tennessee Department of Education
- Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development
- Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development
- Tennessee Higher Education Commission
- Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association
Jobs for the Future works with our partners to design and drive the adoption of innovative and scalable education and career pathways leading from college readiness to career advancement for those struggling to succeed in today’s economy. The organization strives to fulfill the promise that education and economic mobility in America is achieved for everyone. Jobs for the Future works to ensure that all lower-income young people and workers have the skills and credentials needed to succeed in our economy, by creating solutions that catalyze change in our education and workforce delivery systems.
The Pathways to Prosperity Network seeks to ensure that many more youth complete high school, attain a postsecondary credential with currency in the labor market, and get launched on a career while leaving open the prospect of further education. State and regional stakeholders across education, business, and government lead the work in each Pathways to Prosperity state, with the long-term goal of creating statewide systems of grade 7-14 career pathways that serve most students. Key sectors of the economy identified for building career pathways across the states include STEM fields such as information technology, health care, and advanced manufacturing. The Network is a collaboration of states, Jobs for the Future, and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.