As you may know from my book The Power and Promise of Pathways and our work in pathways, I recommend that leaders at the state and local levels pay attention to six complementary factors in creating a pathways system:
- Identify the knowledge and skills that prepare an individual with Career and Life Readiness. (This leads to a broader approach for education than just teaching subject matter.)
- Develop a comprehensive, K-12 and beyond approach to Career Development
- Offer an array of high-quality Pathway Programs
- Invest in educators so they facilitate dynamic teaching and learning
- Engage business and community partners
- Foster collaboration and communication across K-12, postsecondary, workforce systems, and employer-led organizations. In the book we called this “Cross Sector Partnerships.”
For me, when I get deep into daily responsibilities and the tasks of a particular project, I can quickly lose the big picture and ultimately, my motivation to keep moving forward. In our work with pathways, we certainly must focus on our short-term goals and action steps; but occasionally, we need to step back, look at the landscape, and remind ourselves about our strategic vision and mission.
The vision for a pathways system (every learner with a dream and plan; every community with a capable, ready workforce) is like the North Star, which mariners used for navigations for thousands of years. Even if you get violently blown off track by a storm or just gently and gradually drift off course by inattention, looking up at the North Star helps you find your bearings and then gets you back on your original course.
If the pathways movement is to be locally-led and self-sustaining, we need thousands of men and women who are navigating according to the big, shared ideas, not necessarily proscriptive implementation models. Models can help simplify the planning and implementation process, but invariably, a lot of adaption and continuing innovations will be needed at the local level.
The big ideas – here described as Six Commitments – provide clarity as to the purpose and outcomes you are seeking.
Here are the Six Pathway Commitments that I suggest each Pathways System be built upon and that each Pathways System Leadership Team adopt, in some form or fashion.
We, as the adults with responsibility for our schools, our families, our places of business, and related organizations, systems and services, will help our youth and young adults make well-informed decisions about their future education and careers, and equip them so they can successfully navigate through life obstacles to achieve their aspirations for career and life success. Specifically:
Commitment 1. We will recapture the essential purpose of education to prepare individuals for success (not just teaching subjects). We will work to ensure that every learner, both youth and young adult, develops the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary for career and life success.
Commitment 2. We will ensure that every youth and young adult participates in meaningful career development to help them find a good personal fit between their skills, knowledge and passion and quality career opportunities.
Commitment 3. We will build a variety of engaging and relevant Pathway Programs so youth and young adults can explore their career interests and participate in secondary and postsecondary education, training, and apprenticeships that support their career aspirations.
Commitment 4. We will strive to make every class and school experience engaging and meaningful by utilizing dynamic teaching and learning strategies.
Commitment 5. We will engage a large percentage of employers and community organizations with our Pathway Programs in schools and colleges, so learners can get a meaningful understanding of the expectations of the workplace.
Commitment 6. We will develop strong and sustainable collaboration between key community partners, including schools, colleges, employers, community organizations, and workforce systems.
These are the commitments that will guide your work in transforming your schools and communities. Refer to them. Act on them. Start, in some small but meaningful way, today.
Note: Some of this post was excerpted from the conclusion of The Power and Promise of Pathways by Hans Meeder.
Hans Meeder is President of NC3T, the National Center for College and Career Transitions (www.nc3t.com). NC3T provides planning, coaching, technical assistance and tools to help community-based leadership teams plan and implement their college-career pathway systems and strengthen employer connections with education.