Giving Compass’ Take:
• Career pathways models are becoming a very popular approach for getting high school students to engage more. MDRC profiles YouthForce NOLA, which provides information on how students can begin to prepare for college and careers.
• What might other nonprofits learn from this program? How can we bring better metrics to the workforce preparation field?
• Read about how The Institute for the Future is helping develop more opportunities for today’s youth.
Career pathways models are an increasingly popular approach to engaging high school students and equipping them with the academic, technical, and “soft” skills they need to succeed in postsecondary education and careers. When linked with local labor market needs, career pathways models can also create a talent pipeline for local employers. At the high school level, these programs typically combine core academic courses with a sequence of career and technical education (CTE) courses in a particular industry and incorporate a variety of work-based learning experiences.
Despite the proliferation of career pathways models over the past decade, little rigorous evidence exists on their effectiveness for high school students. One exception is the evidence for career academies, which are small learning communities within larger high schools that combine academic and technical curricula around a career theme and incorporate work-based learning. MDRC’s random assignment evaluation in the mid-1990s found that the program led to large and sustained increases in earnings, particularly for young men.
An example of a promising career pathways initiative that incorporates elements of career academies is YouthForce NOLA. The initiative aims to prepare New Orleans public high school students for postsecondary education opportunities and careers in three industry clusters with strong local employer demand and family-supporting wages — health sciences, creative media and technology, and skilled crafts, such as advanced manufacturing and construction. In 2016, MDRC began conducting a process and implementation study of YouthForce NOLA. The main goals of the study were to assess the initiative’s progress in putting key components in place and to document the experiences and perceptions of program stakeholders, including teachers, students, parents, and employer partners.
Read the full article about preparing students for their futures at MDRC.
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