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Pathways to Careers

**Symonds, W., Schwartz, R. B., & Ferguson, R. (2011, February). Pathways to prosperity: Meeting the challenges of preparing young Americans for the 21st century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Graduate School of Education. Availabile at

This report argues that American students do not have the skills necessary to compete in a 21st century job market. The authors describe vocational education programs in other countries, using them as promising examples of how vocational education can be integrated into mainstream education to help young people stay engaged in school and gain necessary skills through work-based learning. The authors suggest three strategies to address the challenge: 1) school reform should be expanded to include “multiple pathways” for students instead of a narrow “college-for-all” focus; 2) employers should become more engaged in the development and support of these pathways; and 3) as a society, the U.S. should take collective responsibility for educating young people to ensure that they are well prepared for life after school. 

**Hoffman, N., & Schwartz, R. (personal communications, February 1, 2012). States interested in joining the Pathways to Prosperity Initiative. Boston, MA: Jobs for the Future and Harvard Graduate School of Education. Not available online.

This letter is intended to solicit a network of states and/or regions interested in joining the Pathways to Prosperity Initiative. The proposed initiative, driven by the recommendations described above, encourages employers, educators, and government leaders to work together to build pathways that link work and learning and are aligned with current and projected regional labor market demand. The letter outlines the background, goals, participant commitments, and framework of the multistate, multiyear initiative. 

Greenstone, M., & Looney, A. (2011, November). Building America’s job skills with effective workforce programs: A training strategy to raise wages and increase work opportunities. (Chapter 3 and 4) Washington, DC: Brookings, The Hamilton Project. Available at

This excerpt of a report outlines existing federal training programs that operate under the Department of Labor (DOL), including Workforce Investment Act (WIA) programs, which are targeted for disadvantaged adults, disadvantaged youth, and displaced workers, and Job Corps programs, which provide vocational training and academic learning to disadvantaged youth and young adults. The second chapter outlines examples of promising training programs, such as “Career Academies” that combine academics and vocational education in themed course pathways. The authors recommend funding proven programs as well as engaging industry employers in partnerships with training providers and community colleges.

Hoffman, N. (2011). Ordinary teenagers, extraordinary results.In Schooling in the workplace: How six of the world’s best vocational education systems prepare young people for jobs and life (pp. 133–143). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press. Available for purchase at

This book chapter examines an apprenticeship program at a Swiss telecom provider, Swisscom, aimed at helping secondary school students transition into the workplace. According to the author, students enrolled in Swisscom’s competitive program enjoy an unusual exposure to professional development and one-on-one coaching, resulting in a strong understanding of the skills and competencies necessary to excel in the industry. The author argues that apprenticeship programs in Switzerland allow employers to develop productive workers more quickly and efficiently, thereby saving on labor adjustment costs. The author concludes by detailing specifics of other European apprenticeship programs that show promise.

California Edge Campaign. (2011, August). Workforce Development Overview Series. Sacramento, CA: Author. Available at http://california

These briefs outline postsecondary education and training programs in California, including apprenticeships, community college basic skills and CTE, economic workforce development, employment training panel, and one-stop career center programs. Each piece describes the program’s mission, funding source, administration and governance structure, target population, services provided to students, and accountability requirements. 

California Department of Education. (2012, February 14). State schools chief Tom Torlakson unveils career readiness initiative to lower dropout rate and prepare students for careers [press release]. Available at

California Department of Education. (n.d.) College readiness campaign [excerpt from website]. Available at

The press release from the California Department of Education (CDE) announces the new Career Readiness Initiative, aimed at better integrating CTE into California high schools and creating more opportunities for students to connect directly with business and industry. The accompanying excerpt from the CDE website outlines the 17-step plan that the state has outlined for the Career Readiness Initiative, which includes, among other things, increasing CTE enrollment, revising the state’s CTE standards to align to the Common Core State Standards, and implementing a Linked Learning pilot program.

 **This document is considered a priority reading.