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Vol. 46, No. 46
June 19, 2012

Missouri Selected for National Initiative Led by the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Jobs for the Future

Initiative Emphasizes Collaboration among Employers, Educators and Policymakers

Missouri is one of six states selected for a national education initiative designed to build career pathways systems for high-school-aged students.

The Pathways to Prosperity Network is a collaboration among the Pathways to Prosperity Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), Jobs for the Future (JFF) and participating states focused on ensuring that many more young people complete high school; attain a postsecondary credential with value in the labor market; and launch a career while leaving open the prospect of further education.

The need for such an initiative is significant. For every 100 Missouri ninth graders, only 21 students will eventually earn a four-year college degree. Recent national studies show that even among those under 25 who have earned a college degree, as many as half may be unemployed or, more typically, underemployed. For those young people with no postsecondary education or no high school diploma, the unemployment situation is even more serious.

“We believe all Missouri high school graduates need post secondary education, whether that’s a degree or career training for successful, productive lives. They need to graduate twice,” said Missouri Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro. “Participation in the Pathways to Prosperity Network will help our children find opportunities to learn from the local businesses where they will work.”

Pathways to Prosperity directly relates to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Top 10 by 20 plan, which calls for all students in the state graduating from high school to be college and career ready. The Top 10 by 20 program aims for student achievement in Missouri to rank among the top 10 states by 2020.

A report released by HGSE in February 2011, Pathways to Prosperity:  Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century challenged the singular focus on the four-year college pathway, arguing that additional pathways need to be created that combine rigorous academics with strong technical education to equip the majority of young people with the skills and credentials to succeed in the increasingly challenging labor market.  The report hit a nerve among employers, educators and state officials struggling with high unemployment rates, perceived skills mismatches and the devastating effect of the financial crisis on young people.

The enormous interest generated by the Pathways report led to the launch of the Pathways to Prosperity Network. Other states participating in the Pathways to Prosperity Network are Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Pathways to Prosperity Missouri

Through Pathways to Prosperity Missouri, the Department will engage employers and educators to build career pathways systems for high-school-aged students. A steering committee of business and education leaders has been established to guide the Missouri planning effort.  Dr. Kelvin Adams, superintendent of the St. Louis Public Schools and June Fowler, vice president of Corporate and Public Communications at BJC HealthCare, will serve as co-chairs of Pathways to Prosperity Missouri.

“The opportunity to participate in Pathways to Prosperity could not have come at a more critical time,” said Dr. Adams. “It gives us a chance to work collaboratively with key leaders in our state to give our young people both the academic training and the skills they need to succeed in a challenging labor market. It will give us a chance to set our young people on a path to success.”

“Our state’s health care sector continues to need qualified young people to fill positions,” said Fowler. “Pathways to Prosperity will assist us in creating a plan that ensures we have the workforce ready to fill these jobs. It is a unique opportunity and an honor to be chosen by Harvard University and Jobs for the Future to participate in this multi-state network committed to preparing students for careers. “

JFF will provide technical assistance to the steering committee as it develops its plan. Pathways to Prosperity Missouri will initially focus on the St. Louis region with the longer-term goal of creating a statewide system of career pathways that can serve a majority of students. Next steps include stakeholder interviews and asset mapping work leading to the development of a Pathways plan for Missouri.

Pathways to Prosperity National Network

The multi-state Pathways to Prosperity Network is managed by Jobs for the Future and co-led by Robert Schwartz, Pathways report co-author and HGSE Professor of Practice, and Nancy Hoffman, vice president and senior advisor at JFF.

“The recent adoption by most states of the Common Core State Standards represents long-overdue recognition of the need for more uniform national academic standards,” said JFF’s Hoffman. “The common core is supposed to signal college and career readiness, but career has not gotten the attention it needs, especially given college costs and the demands of the twenty-first century economy.”

“The lessons from other countries strongly suggest that this might be the single most promising strategy for greatly increasing the percentage of young adults who earn a post-secondary degree or credential that prepares them to embark on a meaningful career,” added Schwartz.