Skip to Content
Phil Jarvis

Creating Pathways to Prosperity

Harvard Pathways To Prosperity

Harvard recently hosted a Creating Pathways to Prosperity conference for education, government, business, and third sector leaders from across the U.S.  The goal was to address the growing concern for young people’s career prospects.

Among the invited participants were over 400 leaders, including governors, secretaries of education and workforce development, CEOs of major corporations, youth leaders, and champions of the most promising initiatives to help youth transition from school to success.

Career Cruising played a prominent role in this historic conference.  I was invited to speak on a Guidance Panel, along with several distinguished U.S. guidance leaders. Career Cruising also introduced conference organizers to Thoughtstream, an online community engagement tool.

Career Cruising and Thoughtstream presented six questions to conference invitees a month ahead of the actual meeting dates.  Well over a thousand ideas were painstakingly distilled into a clear pattern of collective priorities for the conference.

What follows is a very abbreviated, yet informative summary of the results. The implications for guidance and career development practitioners are profound. For a comprehensive summary and detailed reports, click here.

Question 1: What are the most important steps we can take together to launch a national Pathways movement aimed at preparing far more young Americans to lead successful lives as adults?

The ideas receiving the most stars centered around making career pathways and guidance a more central focus in schools through a combination of strong partnerships with businesses, improved guidance counseling, and a more flexible and evolving approach towards career pathways in general.


Question 2: What are some examples of ways existing institutions need to change in order to create more effective Pathways systems?

The top theme among the prioritized “changes to be made” included the creation of structures and systems that would help business and community partners better align with the education system to create a greater number of flexible and individualized pathways for students to explore while learning. Some of the ideas receiving the most stars were:

  • We must transform the current K-20 system to a comprehensive Pre-K to 20 system that prepares students for success in career and life
  • We need to implement comprehensive school guidance and counseling programs to improve career development, advisement and guidance counselor support for students in schools at all 
levels and make career and life guidance a central part of education
  • We need to create and promote world class career and technical education with expand dual credit, apprenticeship, and advanced placement opportunities, and articulated courses between high school, colleges, and universities
  • We need to redefine the goals and skills sets (including “21st century” and “soft” skills) needed for students to be successful in life



Question 3: What are some new institutions we might need to create to build robust Pathways systems?

Among the top ideas of institutions that could be put in place to build robust Pathway systems were meeting centers, hubs and structured networks that would bring partners together on a regular basis and help them align their incentives and continue a dialogue. Some ideas receiving the most stars were:

  • Higher education needs to engage with K-12 to recognize and promote different pathways
  • We must align K-12 and higher education into one closely linked, consistent, accessible system with portable cross-credit programs, articulation agreements, and clear bridges from K-12 to post secondary
  • College credits should be provided for CTE classes to reduce the cost of post secondary education and we need newer, more flexible credential systems
  • We need a modern apprenticeship system


Question 4: What are the key impediments to creating effective Pathways systems?

The perceived top challenges in creating effective Pathway systems were clear: current rigid structures and resistance to change.  Many of the recommended changes (see Q2) involve adding more flexibility to the curriculum, credential systems and community perspectives.  Overcoming these challenges will involve creating a shared understanding among all stakeholders and partners that will inevitably take time and continued discussions. Among the ideas receiving the most stars were:

  • We need to revisit and revise post secondary accountability
  • We need to educate teachers, administrators, counselors and the community at large about options beyond 
traditional college or university degrees and reduce the stigma, and increase the prestige, associated with non academic pathways
  • We need to develop training and curriculum around labor market information
  • We must educate parents on emerging employment needs and supporting their children’s career
  • We need to integrate workforce and academic classes, and create and promote high-quality work-based and project-based individualized learning opportunities like volunteering, community service, mentoring, summer jobs, co-op education programs, internships, and apprenticeships
  • Academic and technical learning is not a dichotomy


Question 5: What is the “low hanging fruit” — i.e., the most promising opportunities we could leverage soon to create better Pathways systems?

Among the top were ideas on ways schools could work with partners to integrate work experience directly into the curriculum.  Some of these ideas included encouraging businesses to sponsor learning, apprenticeships and teacher-industry externships that would expose new pathways to students, teachers and community members. There was strong consensus that:

  • We need to integrate workforce and academic classes, and create and promote high-quality work-based and project-based individualized learning opportunities like volunteering, community service, mentoring, summer jobs, co-op education programs, internships, and apprenticeships


Question 6: Is there anything else you would like to add at this time?

Among the ideas receiving the most stars were:

  • We need to take advantage of the current economic situation to muster support for and build a national organization to further the Pathways movement
  • This is the most important thing we can do in education. It is essential for economic and workforce growth and development, and change needs to happen NOW
  • We should collect and promote accurate data/evidence that defines the issues and the value proposition


Next Steps

A Creating Pathways to Prosperity Conference report is being prepared and the Creating Pathways to Prosperity Thoughtstream website has been shared with conference participants and is available to the public.

The Pathways Project team is now developing a draft Call to Action that will be fleshed out and refined through a further Thoughtstream community engagement process. Career Cruising will be involved throughout. Stakeholders from diverse sectors across the United States will identify gaps and vote on the action steps needed. Further, they will be challenged to commit to specific actions they will take and investments they will make as their contribution to mobilizing the Creating Pathways to Prosperity movement.

Stay tuned. The Call to Action materials will appear soon on the Creating Pathways to Prosperity Thoughtstream website. We are proud that two Canadian organizations, Thoughtstream and Career Cruising, are playing pivotal roles in this historic movement to transform they way we prepare and equip youth to transition from school to success.

Skip to Top