The Future of Career and College Pathways

In June 2013, the National Center for College and Career Transitions (NC3T) surveyed Career Technical Education (CTE) and Career Academy practitioners at the school, district, and state levels to learn about the state of pathways programs: Where they were, where they had been, and where they were headed. In August, NC3T published the results of that survey, which show regular organic growth over the past few years, with growth forecasted for the future, despite little support in the policy arena.

Some notable findings from the report:

  • The percentage of students participating in pathways programs is growing: 37.4 percent of the surveyed practitioners said that there are more students in CTE programs than three years ago, versus 18.3 percent saying there were fewer. Nearly a third (31.7 percent) stated that there were more students in career academies, compared with 11.7 percent saying there were fewer. While the number of CTE programs appears static, 29.0 percent said there were more academies than three years ago, compared with 14.0 percent saying there were fewer.
  • While all areas of education are facing funding challenges, pathways programs are in marginally better shape: They have seen smaller levels of cuts in the past three years than general education programs.
  • Pathways practitioners have active relationships with their communities: 71.0 percent of respondents have advisory boards for each CTE program and career academy, with strong representation from key stakeholder groups. There are opportunities for improvement in having board members take leadership roles within their partner schools, and in tying programs to current workforce needs.
  • Employers are heavily engaged in pathways initiatives, particularly through advisory boards (89.7 percent), sharing expertise with students (85.0 percent), and offering work-based learning opportunities (80.6 percent); however, there remain significant opportunities for growth in areas such as offering opportunities to teachers (35.5 percent), sharing expertise with the schools (26.9 percent), and serving as executive mentors (16.3 percent).
  • Respondents expect continued growth of both CTE programs and career academies over the next one to three years, including a higher percentage of students, more programs, and higher levels of business engagement. In spite of this growth, however, survey participants expect static levels of staffing and a slight decline in funding.

As noted, the growth of academies and pathway models, as indicated in this survey report, is occurring in the absence of strong federal or state guidance and funding, which is somewhat surprising. It may demonstrate that a movement toward pathway models is picking up grass-roots support; even modest federal and/or state encouragement could lead to widespread adoption rather quickly.

For a complete copy of the survey report, visit the link provided here. For more information on this report, contact Brett Pawlowski of NC3T at or 704-717-2864.

Brett Pawlowski is Executive Vice President at the National Center for College and Career Transition.

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