January , 2019

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Collaboration among employers, educators and policymakers needed to lead students from education to careers


SPRINGFIELD, IL – The Illinois State Board of Education announced that Illinois is among six states to participate in the Pathways to Prosperity Network, a coalition that aims to increase the number of high school graduates who attain a postsecondary credential with value in the labor market while also leaving open the prospect of further education. The work will initially focus on Chicago and Aurora, but the long-term goal is to create a statewide system of career pathways.

“This is about schools and businesses working together to provide greater guidance and options so our young people can make smart choices as they complete high school and move on to post-secondary education and jobs that will better support them and the Illinois economy,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch.  “This is a proven strategy for keeping students engaged in high school and mindful of their future.”

The Pathways to Prosperity Network is a collaboration between the Pathways to Prosperity Project at Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), Jobs for the Future (JFF) and six states: Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina and Tennessee. It follows HGSE’s 2011 report “Pathways to Prosperity: Meeting the Challenge of Preparing Young Americans for the 21st Century,” which challenged the American education system’s emphasis and support for a four-year college degree. The report argued students need additional pathways that combine rigorous academics with strong technical education to equip them with skills and credentials to succeed in the labor market.

Both the City of Chicago District 299 and Aurora West Unit School District 129 will help lead the work in Illinois to support better career guidance and job pathways for students in their communities.

“This collaboration is critical to the work we’re doing to prepare our students for success in college and career,” said CPS CEO Jean-Claude Brizard. “Our young people are the key to the future of our state, and this program will help us to ensure our students have the tools and support needed to be prepared for, and compete in, today’s economy.”

The districts will move with local community partners in education and commerce toward planning efforts to provide education and training that improves employment outcomes in their areas and throughout the state.

“We understand the important role education plays in the economic development of our communities, state and nation,” said School District 129 Superintendent Jim Rydland. ”This role includes guaranteeing that our students are prepared for the workforce of the future.”   

A 2011 report by Complete College America showed that only about 37 percent of Illinois students graduate with a bachelor’s degree within four years while 61 percent of full-time students and 23 percent of part-time students in Illinois earned a college degree within six years, or by their mid-20s. Recent national studies also show that even among those under 25 who have earned a college degree, as many as half may be unemployed or, more typically, underemployed.

As part of this endeavor, the Illinois Pathways Interagency Committee -  made up of six state agencies focused on education and economic development – will work with employers and educators to build career pathways systems for high school students. Each state will be led by a coalition of key public and private sector leaders committed to generating and sustaining political and financial support for the agenda and addressing legislative or regulatory barriers that inhibit progress.  For more information on Illinois Pathways, visit: www.illinoisworknet.com/ilpathways

“Employers need to be heavily engaged with both educators and policymakers if we hope to put more young people to work with a credential of value,” said Jeff Mays, President of the Illinois Business Roundtable.  “I truly applaud the efforts of leaders in Illinois to move this project forward.”

Earlier this year, Gov. Pat Quinn, with business and education leaders, launched Illinois Pathways, a public-private partnership to develop Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) learning exchanges across the state with federal Race to the Top funds. The Initiative expects to award grants later this year for the planning and implementation of eight STEM learning exchanges.

For more information about the Pathways to Prosperity Network and its partners, please visit:

The Harvard Graduate School of Education: http://www.gse.harvard.edu/

Jobs for the Future: http://www.jff.org/

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