Helping Young People Move Forward On Their Pathways

When young people progress along their pathways from education to the workforce, transitions from one stage to the next can feel like a big deal. From one school year to the next, from middle school to high school, and from high school to postsecondary options, some leaps can feel bigger and more challenging than others. Many leaders working to support young people to advance along these journeys are looking for ways to transform education and workforce systems so pathways for young people feel more seamless and richer in possibility and exploration–especially for Black and Latino young people, and young people from low-income backgrounds. Only by looking across these systems and knitting connections between them can we create a more equitable and coherent vision for supporting young people as they explore their career aspirations and goals and achieve the lives they dream of for themselves and others.
In our most recent issue of Wayfinders, we announced that 12 design teams had received grants as part of the Accelerate ED initiative – a new project funded by the Pathways team of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Accelerate ED supports cross-sector partnerships between education, workforce, and youth development leaders through the creation of regional design teams to streamline pathways for young people to obtain an associate degree in an in-demand field with only one additional year of high school.

For more information about the Accelerate ED initiative, you can visit the website or click on the following articles, below:

Also in this issue of Wayfinders:

  • Results of a landscape scan of national intermediaries working to support students along their career pathways, along with an action guide for stakeholders
  • Efforts to increase the availability of career readiness services so young people can have a wider range of options outside the high school to four-year-college pathway

Strengthening Pathways Systems through Intermediary Organizations

Young people are strongly motivated to build good lives for themselves, even during periods of social and economic upheaval, such as what the United States has experienced during the past few years. For young people to achieve their goals, they need education and career readiness support that, taken together, will eventually allow them to access a good job. However, the transitions between education and employment are often rocky, and more coordination and focus on equity is needed in order to smooth those transitions. This is where national intermediary organizations can play a vital role.

Intermediary organizations are national organizations that generally do not directly provide services or programs, but instead help shape national and state policy on urgent topics, conduct research, and develop tools and resources to help local organizations and districts share knowledge and insights. Intermediary organizations that focus on career pathways can help support students on their journeys towards good jobs by connecting education and employment systems and fostering collaboration between K-12, postsecondary, and workforce systems so that students get the consistent and aligned programmatic support they need.

Education First, a national policy and strategy advising group for education leaders, recently conducted a nationwide landscape scan of pathways intermediaries with support from Ascendium and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Their research resulted in a full report, an executive summary, an action guide for stakeholders and a literature review synthesizing previous research. Major findings include the following:

  • Intermediaries bring six crucial capacities to pathways ecosystems, and those capacities can be performed by one organization or by multiple organizations operating in close partnership
  • There are a common set of enabling conditions that can accelerate intermediaries’ impact, and these conditions vary according to local context and history
  • An analysis of a sample of 190 intermediaries demonstrates that the concentration, approach, and structure of intermediaries varies widely across the country and illuminates new areas of opportunity for philanthropy to provide support.

Education First’s research can help funders, policymakers, employers, postsecondary providers, and K-12 educators better understand the role of pathways intermediaries and identify ways they can access the benefits of stronger and more equitable systems of pathways.

Breaking Down Barriers Between High School, College and Career Readiness

National intermediary organizations are uniquely positioned to look across multiple fields that comprise our education and workforce systems and help find new ways to help young people explore career pathways and achieve their life goals. For example, national intermediaries are finding alternatives to the more common approach of using college and postsecondary education as the primary means of workforce development. Instead, leaders in K-12, higher education, and the workforce are banding together to create opportunities to prepare students in grades 11 through 14 for the workforce by bridging gaps in career readiness.

With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and others, organizations across the United States are developing and implementing programs to increase access to post-high school bridge years. For example, Here to Here – a nonprofit that partners with existing programs to increase work-based learning opportunities for young people in the Bronx and New York City – recently awarded 15 grants to NYC public schools, postsecondary institutions, and community based organizations to integrate work-based learning into students’ academic experiences. Similarly, in New Orleans, YouthForce NOLA was awarded a grant, also from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to increase access to career and technical training opportunities for young people who often come up against greater barriers, relative to other groups of young people, when entering the workforce. Summer interns participating in the YouthForce NOLA program will receive career-readiness and soft-skills training and will also be placed with employers working in high-wage, high-growth industries, such as digital media or health sciences.

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