Guest Blog: Delaware Pathways steering students in the right direction
“How did you find your first job? Did your education support your transition to the world of work?”
For many of us (including myself), the answer to the first question is through our social capital networks: our family and family friends, people we know from our community.
For many of us (including myself), the answer to the next two questions is a resounding “no.” This is a problem.
Last Thursday, Governor Jack Markell signed an executive order to establish the Delaware Pathways Steering Committee, which will change the answers to these three questions for young Delawareans.
This committee, composed of 14 cross-sector state and local leaders, will provide sustainable leadership and support to improve the connections between school and work in Delaware, so that students can better navigate their college and career opportunities and shape their own futures.
Students taking part in Delaware Pathways will explore career interests and possibilities starting in middle grades. They’ll develop real-world knowledge and a complementary array of technical skills. They can earn college credits and industry credentials while still in high school, and they’ll gain equitable access to real life work-based learning (like internships) with leading employers. Kids in a career pathway can earn postsecondary credentials that will help them to launch careers in high-demand, high-growth, high-wage fields.
I lead the national Pathways to Prosperity Network—a partnership among Jobs for the Future (JFF), the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and member states and regions—that designs and develops systems of high-quality career pathways to help more students succeed in school and life. In the two years since Delaware joined our Network, it has quickly emerged as a national leader in the career pathways movement. We have been impressed by the state’s deep commitment and capacity to do this work, championed by Gov. Markell with the Department of Education, the Department of Labor, the Workforce Development Board, Delaware Technical Community College, the United Way of Delaware, the Rodel Foundation, and others. Over the past year, the state collaborated with diverse agencies and organizations—including seeking public input—in developing a five-year strategic plan for Delaware Pathways. This fall, over 5,000 students will be engaged in new pathways across the state. In the years to come, student participation and pathways will grow exponentially.
Delaware Pathways is good for all students in the state. And all young people across our nation should be so lucky to have opportunities such as this!
State-level steering committees are a critical implementation lever for our Pathways to Prosperity Network. In order to be successful, career pathways must be co-created and co-owned across K-12, postsecondary, workforce, and employers. The Delaware Pathways Steering Committee epitomizes the ideal structure for this work, broadening the circle of ownership and leadership to more agencies, including health and social services and economic development, and to local leaders, including superintendents from public and technical school districts and representatives from nonprofit organizations. This Steering Committee will be a “collaborative workforce development partnership which will create a fluid relationship between [Delaware’s] public education system, post-secondary education, non-profit, and employer communities to ensure that the pathway to college and a well-paying job is accessible for every Delawarean, and to help the state fulfill the ‘Delaware Promise’ of ensuring that 65 percent of [the State’s] workforce earns a college degree or professional certificate by 2025, and that all of our students graduate high school.”
Delaware Pathways sets out an ambitious and exciting vision for transforming education and career readiness, and it is a key contribution in Gov. Markell’s legacy for the state. I am confident that Delaware Pathways will continue to grow, improve, and inspire other states to follow its lead. The Pathways to Prosperity Network and JFF are grateful to Gov. Markell for his exemplary leadership in this work, and we look forward to continuing to partner with, provide support to, and learn from Delaware Pathways.