Developing and Scaling Career Readiness Policies through the New Skills for Youth Initiative

For too long, “career” was an afterthought in college and career readiness. Recognizing this deficit, then-Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday chose to prioritize improving career readiness as his platform as President of the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). When CCSSO decided to form a Task Force on Improving Career Readiness, it asked ESG to help.

Promoting quality, engagement and scale

ESG facilitated the Task Force and helped draft the final report, Opportunities and Options: Making Career Preparation Work for Students, outlining a set of far-reaching recommendations for states to take to improve career readiness. Forty-three states, D.C. and two territories signed on to these recommendations:

  1. Enlist the employer community as a lead partner in defining the pathways and skills most essential in today’s economy.
  2. Set a higher bar for the quality of career preparation programs, enabling all students to earn a meaningful postsecondary degree or credential.
  3. Make career readiness matter to schools and students by prioritizing it in accountability systems.

Supporting state implementation

As a result of that work, we helped CCSSO launch a network of states committed to implementation of the Task Force recommendations. Soon thereafter, JPMorgan Chase dedicated $33 million of funding for states to apply for grants turn their visions for improving career readiness in K-12 education into a reality, based on the task force recommendations. This made way for the New Skills for Youth Initiative (NSFY) a partnership between CCSSO, ESG and Advance CTE to support state development and implementation of career readiness strategies.

Twenty-four states and Washington, D.C. secured grants through phase one of NSFY to perform a diagnostic assessment of their career preparation systems and prepare 3-year action plans. Ten of those states were later awarded additional grants of $2 million over three years to support the implementation of their action plans.

ESG is proud to be working closely with CCSSO and Advance CTE to support the states that have made career readiness a priority. We are working together to provide technical assistance, develop tools and resources, organize coaching supports, facilitate cross-state meetings and provide access to a broader array of national experts.

Proposing solutions to cross-state challenges

ESG has also taken the lead in putting together Expert Workgroups to tackle the most vexing problems facing states in the career readiness work. In 2016, ESG formed the Career Readiness Expert Workgroup (CREW) on Accountability to develop recommendations on how states can better incorporate measurement of academic, technical and professional skills in public reporting, goal setting, and school ratings systems. The ESG-authored report, Destination Known: Valuing College and Career Readiness in State Accountability Systems, is grounded in the most recent research on what it means to be college and career ready and the leading examples of how states have used that information to measure student readiness for life beyond high school in their accountability systems.

ESG recently formed a CREW on Credentials of Value to help states develop a process to reliably identify which industry-recognized credentials have value in the labor market. The Expert Workgroup brings together leaders from states, business and industry associations, and policy and research organizations across the country who have deep experience with credentials with the goal of recommending strategies and models that states can adopt or adapt. The recommendations are tentatively scheduled for release at the end of 2017.


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