For generations, young people have been told that college is the only path to success. Yet, research shows that both students and employers are open to skills-based nondegree pathways, such as certificate programscareer training and apprenticeships. Unfortunately, most students aren’t aware of or don’t have access to these options, and employers have largely not embraced workers who lack degrees. These diverse education-to-career alternatives will struggle to gain traction if policymakers don’t provide supportive legislation and funding.

To better understand policymakers’ perceptions of support for and willingness to federally fund non-degree pathways, American Student Assistance and Jobs for the Future commissioned a report, Non-Degree Pathways: A D.C. Insider’s Perspective, based on a poll of a diverse and select group of 156 policy influencers working in Washington, D.C. The vast majority — 93% of those polled — agree that nondegree pathways can lead to rewarding, successful careers, and 89% believe that vocational schools, certificate programs and other options can provide students with skills that will meet employers’ needs. Moreover, 89% of those polled want legislation to help these alternative approaches expand over the next five years, and 78% want to see a boost in federal funding for them.

I believe this can and must happen, but it won’t without support from elected officials. Here are seven recommendations for policymakers to make this a reality.

  1. Expand Apprenticeship and Work-Based Learning Opportunities
  2. Encourage Career Readiness as a Core Component of K-12 Accountability
  3. Strengthen Student Supports
  4. Improve Career Navigation and Access to Data
  5. Increase Investment in Nondegree Pathways
  6. Invest in Grants to Spur Innovation
  7. Promote Skills Building

Read the full article about helping youth succeed in alternative pathways by Julie Lammers at The 74.