Career Readiness

Career Readiness

In the United States, higher education is seen as an important step on one’s journey to a fulfilling career with financial stability. While it’s true that a degree from a four-year institution can be the key to economic opportunity, there is a growing demand for a workforce with education beyond a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree. Postsecondary career and technical education (CTE) provides the academic, technical, and professional skills needed to access these middle-skills jobs that offer family-sustaining wages and lifelong learning opportunities while providing employers with the qualified and diverse talent they need.

Today, 38% of all undergraduate students are seeking subbaccalaureate occupational credentials: certificates or degrees awarded for the successful completion of a postsecondary career and technical education program. The students enrolled in these fields of study are more likely to be over 25 and the first in their family to attend college; defined as independent students they often face competing demands for their time including work and family responsibilities.

The community and technical colleges and community-based organizations offering postsecondary career and technical education are often under-resourced, limiting their ability to create and sustain the environment necessary to meet the needs of a diverse student body and the demands of local industry.

The Career Readiness focus area is committed to improving postsecondary career and technical education (CTE) outcomes for students from underserved backgrounds. Grants made as part of the Career Readiness focus area typically fund intermediaries supporting, institutions and organizations implementing, or third parties researching or evaluating credit-bearing postsecondary pathways for adult learners that lead to credentials and provide a pathway to careers paying family-sustaining wages.

Career Readiness supports projects, programs and initiatives that aim to:

  • Build the capacity of institutions and organizations to provide accredited, credit-bearing, industry-informed and transferable postsecondary CTE pathways.
  • Conduct research and evaluations to inform the field and promote postsecondary CTE programs that are part of educational pathways that lead to portable certificates or degrees.
  • Support adult learners’ postsecondary CTE advancement toward a certificate or associate degree with the inclusion of learner-centered approaches and academic and non-academic wraparound supports.

Learn more about our Career Readiness grantees.

Special Populations

While not exclusive to these special populations, this focus area places importance on projects that improve postsecondary educational outcomes for single mothers and currently and formerly incarcerated individuals.

  • Single mothers represent 11% of all undergraduate students in the United States. Higher rates of college attainment among single mothers would substantially improve economic security and long-term outcomes for their families.
  • Currently and formerly incarcerated individuals have had limited access to the opportunities, resources, and support needed to succeed in postsecondary education despite the fact that higher education reduces recidivism and builds social mobility.

Special Initiatives

While not exclusive to these initiatives, Career Readiness values supporting this nascent field through funding to organizations and individuals who can lead innovative approaches to improve outcomes for postsecondary CTE.

  • CTE Leadership Collaborative (LC) is an initiative focused on bringing together diverse perspectives and equipping CTE leaders with the tools, resources and skills needed to advance postsecondary CTE. Rooted in the belief that prepared and diverse leadership leads to better outcomes, each LC grantee provides opportunities for individuals dedicated to improving postsecondary CTE. Funding from the Foundation supports targeted solutions that address specific challenges facing postsecondary CTE. Learn more about the CTE Leadership Collaborative.
  • Zenith Education Group (Zenith) is an affiliate of ECMC Group and a nonprofit CTE provider. Above all, Zenith is driven to promote the long-term success of its graduates. Funding from the Foundation supports the testing, adopting and sharing of new approaches to add new programs in high-demand industries, design quality curriculum, modernize program delivery with new technologies and build simulated learning environments to match real-world experience. Learn more about the Foundation’s support of Zenith Education Group.

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