Career and Technical Education

Why Career Pathways Are Essential for Preparing Students

As parents and guardians, we want our children to have  successful futures, and a strong foundation in job readiness skills is key to that success. 

Unfortunately, many states fall short when it comes to preparing students for the workforce. But, with the right policies in place, states can do a better job of preparing students for the workforce, ensuring they have the skills they need to succeed in today’s economy.

State career pathways can help bridge the gap between education and employment.

Career pathways are comprehensive sets of policies that aim to connect education and work. By aligning educational programs with industry-recognized credentials and career opportunities, students are better equipped with the skills and knowledge needed for today's job market. This approach provides students with a clear and meaningful path to success, and helps ensure that the education they receive is relevant and applicable to their future careers.

Key Components of Pathway Programs

ExcelinEd’s Pathways Matter website provides a wealth of information on career pathways and their benefits. It lists several key components (or focus areas) of a comprehensive career pathways system. They include:

  1. Learner pathways: Align career and technical education (CTE) programs with high-demand, high-skill and high-wage occupations and dedicate funding for those programs. State agencies can collaborate with education systems (K12-College) to get priorities in sync.
  2. Postsecondary acceleration: Empower high school students to earn credit to reduce the time required to earn degrees and replace outdated developmental and remedial education with college credit-bearing options paired with intensive support.
  3. Post secondary credential attainment: Reduce barriers—such as funding, lack of alignment and missed opportunities—to help more students attain postsecondary credentials (like earning an associate degree while continuing to work on their bachelor’s).
  4. Workforce readiness: Ensure the skills, credentials and apprenticeships students pursue help to prepare a strong workforce within the state. This gives students hands-on experiences to help them apply what they have learned.
  5. Employer engagement: Incentivize businesses to get involved in student pathways and reduce the barriers that keep them from participating. 
  6. Data-driven decision making: This is just basic accountability, but there are a set of policies to make sure states get it right. 

Each focus area offers a set of policies for states to consider, but none of them should be taken in isolation. Their superpower comes from addressing career pathways as a comprehensive strategy. 

A Clear and Meaningful Path to Success 

The benefits of career pathways are clear. For students, they provide a clear and meaningful path to success. By receiving relevant education and real-world experience, students are better equipped to enter the workforce and succeed in their careers. 

For employers, career pathways programs help to ensure that they have a steady stream of well-prepared and skilled employees. And for society as a whole, career pathways help to build a strong and vibrant economy by providing individuals with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the job market. Win-Win-Win!

The future of work is rapidly changing and it is more important than ever for students to be prepared for the workforce. By following the comprehensive set of policies found on ExcelinEd's website, states can ensure that they are doing everything they can to prepare students for the job market. 

Call To Action: Click on this link to learn more about ExcelinEd’s career pathway policies. If you want to see better pathways in your state, take the next step by connecting with ExcelinEd.

Lane Wright
Lane Wright is Director of Strategic Growth at Education Post. In addition to this role, he tells stories that help families understand how their schools are doing, how to make them better and how policy plays a role. He’s a former journalist and former press secretary to Florida’s governor, and he’s got a knack for breaking down complex education reform policy issues into easy-to-understand ...

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