What It Takes to Create Educational and Career Pathways for Young People

Posted May 10, 2021, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Blog whatittakestocreate 2021

A new resource from the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion exam­ines the steps pub­lic sys­tems, ser­vice providers and non­prof­it orga­ni­za­tions can take to devel­op sup­port­ive edu­ca­tion­al and career path­ways for young peo­ple. It draws on lessons from Learn and Earn to Achieve Poten­tial (LEAP)™ — a mul­ti­state ini­tia­tive that is increas­ing employ­ment and edu­ca­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple ages 14 – 25 who have been involved in the jus­tice or child wel­fare sys­tems, expe­ri­enced home­less­ness or who are parents.

Young peo­ple striv­ing to get an edu­ca­tion and devel­op careers often face chal­lenges on the road to adult­hood. This is espe­cial­ly true for youth of col­or, young peo­ple who have been involved in pub­lic sys­tems and young par­ents. Sup­port­ive edu­ca­tion­al and career path­ways enable youth and young adults to obtain a high school diplo­ma or equiv­a­len­cy, earn indus­try-val­ued cre­den­tials and begin devel­op­ing careers that align with their inter­ests — all while access­ing ser­vices and sup­port that enable them to over­come the unique chal­lenges they’re fac­ing and meet basic needs.

Draw­ing on lessons from their work and find­ings from a nation­al eval­u­a­tion, mem­bers of the LEAP net­work iden­ti­fied six core ele­ments of these path­ways and cor­re­spond­ing activ­i­ties to max­i­mize the ben­e­fits for young people.

These ele­ments, as well as exam­ples of the rel­e­vant activ­i­ties, are list­ed below.

  1. Equi­ty-cen­tered and inclu­sive envi­ron­ments: Activ­i­ties include devel­op­ing clear process­es, such as orga­ni­za­tion­al audits, to iden­ti­fy and address inequitable prac­tices and poli­cies that cre­ate bar­ri­ers to suc­cess and cause dis­par­i­ties for youth of color.
  2. Flex­i­ble learn­ing expe­ri­ences tai­lored to young peo­ples’ needs and respon­sive to the labor mar­ket: Activ­i­ties include pro­vid­ing high-qual­i­ty learn­ing expe­ri­ences that equip young peo­ple with the tech­ni­cal, aca­d­e­m­ic and employ­ment skills and com­pe­ten­cies they will need for career and post­sec­ondary success.
  3. Youth-cen­tered design: Activ­i­ties include ful­ly inte­grat­ing young peo­ple into design and deci­sion-mak­ing process­es so they can iden­ti­fy bar­ri­ers, pri­or­i­ties and need­ed sys­tem improve­ments and, ulti­mate­ly, advo­cate for the pol­i­cy and prac­tice changes they want to see.
  4. Sup­port in meet­ing basic needs and nav­i­gat­ing sys­tems: Activ­i­ties include help­ing young peo­ple access resources, includ­ing hous­ing, men­tal health, child care, trans­porta­tion and technology.
  5. Empow­er­ing rela­tion­ships: Activ­i­ties include fos­ter­ing avenues for strong peer-to-peer con­nec­tion and support.
  6. For­mal­ized struc­tures for col­lab­o­ra­tion and shared account­abil­i­ty: Activ­i­ties include estab­lish­ing for­mal refer­ral and data-shar­ing agreements.

The pan­dem­ic has cre­at­ed new edu­ca­tion and employ­ment chal­lenges for young peo­ple that require even stronger rela­tion­ships, greater access to crit­i­cal resources and flex­i­ble learn­ing envi­ron­ments,” says Patrice Cromwell, vice pres­i­dent of the Foundation’s Cen­ter for Eco­nom­ic Oppor­tu­ni­ty. Edu­ca­tion and career path­ways that are equi­ty-cen­tered and inclu­sive can help ensure more young adults stay con­nect­ed and have the sup­port they need to tap into their tal­ents and reach their full potential.”

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