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Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century

Abstract

Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century contends that our national strategy for education and youth development has been too narrowly focused on an academic, classroom-based approach. It is now clear that this strategy has produced only incremental gains in achievement and attainment, even as many other nations are leapfrogging the United States. In response, the report advocates development of a comprehensive pathways network to serve youth in high school and beyond.

This pathways system would be based on three essential elements. The first is the development of a broader vision of school reform that embraces multiple pathways to help young people successfully navigate the journey from adolescence to adulthood. The report contends that at present, we place far too much emphasis on a single pathway to success: attending and graduating from a four-year college. Yet only 30 percent of young adults successfully complete this preferred pathway. Meanwhile, even in the second decade of the 21st century, most jobs do not require a bachelor's. The report notes that while the United States is expected to create 47 million jobs in the 10-year period ending in 2018, only a third of these jobs will require a bachelor's or higher degree. Almost as many jobs - some 30 percent - will only require an associate's degree or a post-secondary occupational credential. Given these realities, the report argues we need to broaden the range of high-quality pathways that we offer young adults. This would include far more emphasis on career counseling and high-quality career education, as well as apprenticeship programs and community colleges as viable routes to well-paying jobs.

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