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Connecting Education to Economic Development via Career Pathways

October 12, 2009 by Joshua Wright

The National Career Pathways Network and Institute for a Competitive Workforce, affiliated with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have released a new report that details successful career pathways models across the country. The biggest successes, the report points out, come from areas where employers, education providers, and community organizations form productive partnerships.

At a time when secondary and postsecondary institutions are struggling to produce a steady supply of well-trained workers, business engagement is particularly vital. But so too is an emphasis on two-year degrees after high school, the report says.

The education-to-career continuum is a kind of pipeline: As students progress from secondary to postsecondary and beyond, they exercise choice in determining what directions they will take and how far they will go. The reason many employers struggle to find qualified workers is that the pipeline has become weak. Too many students exit before they have gone far enough to gain the skills necessary to meet the needs of employers.

We need to make the pipeline stronger, but how? One of the first steps is to identify where we should invest the bulk of our resources. For many students, the answer is community and technical colleges. It is widely believed that the only road to real success in the workplace involves at least a bachelor’s degree, but that’s not true. While most of today’s jobs require education and training beyond high school, only 20 percent require at least four-year college degrees. Consequently, the institutions that are ideally positioned to provide the postsecondary education and training needed for most jobs are the country’s almost 1200 community and technical colleges.

You can find more on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce web site.

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