Pathways to Prosperity Network

Pathways to Prosperity Network

Building Career Pathways to Help More Students Succeed

Building systems of career pathways linking high school, work, and community college, to increase the number of youth who complete high school and attain a postsecondary credential with labor market value.

Amy Loyd
Senior Director
617.728.4446 x282

The Pathways to Prosperity Network is building grades 9-14 career pathways in twelve states.


Roughly half of all Americans reach their mid-20s without the skills or credentials essential for success in today’s increasingly demanding economy, according to the 2011 Harvard Graduate School of Education report, Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century.

A central reason why so many are underprepared is the nation’s overreliance on the traditional four-year college pathway to help young people transition from high school to working life. The vast majority of American young people and their families realize that a high school diploma alone is no longer sufficient to land a family-sustaining job.

Middle and high school students overwhelmingly aspire to go to college, and college enrollment continues its long-term rise. Yet 1.3 million drop out of high school each year, and less than half of all college students earn a credential within six years. The most common pathway to a career—a high school diploma and a four-year college degree—is not effective for all.

If we fail to expand the ways we prepare youth for postsecondary education and the workforce, their quality of life will suffer, our society will lose out on their potential contributions, and the costs to our economy will be severe.

The Pathways to Prosperity Network develops career pathways that span grades 9-14, enabling students to transition smoothly through high school, into higher education, and onto family-supporting careers—particularly in high-demand sectors like information technology, health care, and advanced manufacturing.

The network's 11 participating states engage regional employers and educators in building a system of pathways that are designed to launch young people into initial careers, while leaving open the prospect of further education.

While pathways include either a comprehensive high school program of study or a career academy within a high school, all programs employ four key implementation strategies:

  1. Schools create early and sustained career information and advising systems.
  2. Employers provide a continuum of workplace learning opportunities.
  3. Intermediaries recruit business, nonprofit, and public employers as partners.
  4. Proponents advocate for supportive state policies.

These strategies are implemented with the assistance of Jobs for the Future and the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

  • Jobs for the Future was the only national organization to win a Youth CareerConnect federal grant with its three MASSACHUSETTS Pathways sites, which include high schools, postsecondary institutions, employers, and workforce investment boards. The funding is $4.8 million over four years.
  • GEORGIA has created a strong legislative foundation for the development of grades 9-14 pathways. The Work-Based Learning Act, which will take effect on July 1, 2014, calls for the creation of work-based learning opportunities linked to students’ career pathways and will expand the range of industries in which high school students in Georgia are able to participate in work-based learning.
  • ILLINOIS launched a major STEM education initiative, Illinois Pathways, that brings together partners from education, business, and industry to provide early college and work-based learning opportunities to high-school students through new public-private partnerships in priority STEM career cluster areas, known as STEM Learning Exchanges, that support local implementation of career pathway systems.

  • CALIFORNIA allocated and awarded $250 million for a Career Pathways Trust to invest in regional collaboratives to support career programs, including work-based learning aligned with regional economic priorities.
  • NEW YORK STATE has funded 16 new P-TECH high schools with grants of $300,000 for seven years, for a total of $28 million, with support in several regions from the JFF team. The most recent budget includes funding for up to 10 additional schools.
  • Three metro St. Louis school districts are building grade 9-14 pathways with $1.3 million from MISSOURI’s Innovation Campus program.
  • In TENNESSEE, thirteen middle schools across four counties are collaborating with the state Department of Education to implement modules in health science, advanced manufacturing and engineering, vetted by local industry and postsecondary institutions, to raise awareness about high-demand career fields.
  • The Pathways to Prosperity Network: A State Progress Report

    The Pathways to Prosperity Network: A State Progress Report

    To address persistent high levels of youth unemployment and prepare students for good jobs in growth industries, a number of states have, in a few short years, initiated ambitious system-level reforms designed to enable many more young people to gain traction toward careers and postsecondary degrees. Eight states that are members of the Pathways to Prosperity Network have launched or dramatically expanded career pathways that offer flexible work and learning opportunities. This new report includes the unique stories of the developments in each state as well as observation and description of key aspects of this work across the states in the Network as a group.
    Learn More
  • Work-based Learning

    Not As Hard As You Think: Engaging High School Students in Work-Based Learning

    Work-based learning, which is a sequenced and coordinated set of activities through which students gain increasing exposure to the world of work, is a core component of the Pathways to Prosperity framework. Work-based learning addresses a shared goal of educators and employers: preparing students with the knowledge and skills, including both technical and 21st-century skills, needed for productive careers. In addition, students who participate in work-based learning deepen their understanding of both specific career options and of the world of work. These resources are intended to support leaders who are implementing and scaling up work-based learning in states and regions across the Pathways to Prosperity Network.

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  • Pathways

    State Strategies for Sustaining and Scaling Grades 9-14 Career Pathways: Toward a Policy Set for Pathways to Prosperity

    In collaboration with state leads from across the Pathways to Prosperity Network, the JFF team recently published this report, which provides a comprehensive overview of the state-level policies and actions that support the Pathways to Prosperity work, as well as concrete examples of how the Pathways key implementation levers are put into practice across the network.

    Learn More