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New Network Forms to Encourage Pathways from Education to Careers

While the new Common Core State Standards emphasize college and career readiness, some feel "career" has not gotten the attention it needs. Today, a network of educators and policy advocates announced it will be working together with a handful of states to make sure students find opportunities through all kinds of postsecondary training.

The Pathways to Prosperity Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education released a report last year that challenged the focus on four-year degrees and highlighted the need to create additional pathways for students in postsecondary training. The cost of college and demands of the economy will mean that many students opt for technical education or a credential program to launch into a career.

Seizing on the interest of the report, the new Pathways to Prosperity Network is launching a collaboration among Harvard, Jobs for the Future, the Boston-based national nonprofit that promotes education policies for low-income students, and six states: Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, and Tennessee. The initiative will be co-led by Harvard's Robert Schwartz and JFF's Nancy Hoffman.

The network will kick off this fall with a two-day institute at Harvard for participating states.

The idea is to find out what labor-force needs are in various regions and link training to those jobs. JFF is currently reviewing assets in states to help each understand the educational and employer resources available, says Hoffman. Too often, she says, students come into community college without a clear direction or good advice on what the high-demand credentials are in their area. The hope is that this network will help states identify promising careers, employer capacity, and put in place systems to support students on educational pathways from 9th grade through community college.

For the 60 percent of students who do not go on to earn a college degree, Hoffman says more needs to be done to inform them about the potential benefits of career credentials and associate degrees. The network hopes to strengthen career advising and leverage regional intermediary organizations to provide an infrastructure.

Each participating state has contributed $100,000 to the network. In turn, JFF and Harvard will provide technical assistance and consulting to each state on its individual plans to develop stronger workforce and education partnerships.

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