While the federal Covid-19 national emergency has officially ended, the pandemic’s impact on high school students continues to be evident, particularly as they chart their course for the future. A majority of these students understand the benefits of education after high school—a statistic that has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels—but only 13% feel prepared to make a decision about their education and career path after graduation. That statistic drops to 8% for those who are from low-income households, BIPOC or the first in their family to attend college.

These are just a few of the statistics that we uncovered recently in a national survey of more than 1,000 high schoolers from around the country. Our findings illustrate that we have an opportunity to hear these young voices and advance our efforts to ensure they can meet their education and career goals. Actively listening to students helps everyone. Nonprofits and for-profit businesses alike have an obligation to listen to what this generation has to say. Doing so can impact the future workforce and our overall economy.

While students understand that education and training beyond high school will give them a lifelong advantage, the type of education they are seeking has shifted. Students considering a four-year college degree have dipped 10 percentage points since before the beginning of the pandemic. In addition, more than a third say that because of the pandemic, they feel more comfortable following a path other than a four-year degree. Data also shows that students have an increased interest in career and technical education (CTE) or on-the-job training.

Cultivating the next generation of learners and workers will involve action on the part of educators, policymakers, business leaders and philanthropy. Keeping the data in mind, the following are some key takeaways to consider.

While many of today’s high schoolers are interested in pathways that take less time to complete than a four-year degree, they also fully expect to be lifelong learners and continue to grow their skill sets throughout their lives. To address these expectations, education institutions may consider bachelor’s degree programs that take less time to complete or integrate credentials, such as associate degrees and certificates, into four-year programs. Institutions also should consider how to support students' desire for ongoing learning through stackable credentials or other continuing education opportunities. Organizations that wish to recruit and retain tomorrow’s workers should consider offering additional opportunities for experiences such as internships, externships, apprenticeships and lab-based learning, or offering credit for learning gained while on the job.

Read the full article about preparing gen-z students by Dan Fisher at Forbes.