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December 17, 2020

Leveraging Promise Programs to Connect Students to Careers

For years, Promise programs have focused on helping students get to and through college, but how can they better help students achieve strong, fulfilling careers? Martha Kanter, CEO of College Promise and Former U.S. Undersecretary of Education, facilitated a conversation about how Promise programs can help economic and workforce policymakers, businesses, and colleges create better alignment and efficiencies.

Kanter was joined by cross-sector leaders William F.L. Moses, Managing Director of Education at Kresge, The Honorable James “Jim” Geringer, Former Governor of Wyoming and Honorary Vice-Chair of the College Promise Advisory Board, and Yolanda Watson Spiva, President of Complete College America. They shared advice on how to improve education and workforce decisions; assist college leaders in making program-related decisions that take into account labor market needs, and help workers understand how to take advantage of postsecondary education and training options as they change jobs and navigate their careers.

Strategic Priorities, Outcomes, and Accomplishments

Bill Moses, relaying his experiences at Kresge, says the main idea is: how do we keep moving and how do we keep scaling programs for the whole country? He pointed out partnerships as one of the strongest ways to do this, highlighting Kresge’s human service agency’s partnership with community colleges. It’s one of the best ways to make sure that students get not just a job, but a springboard job, which will allow them an opportunity for growth and a way to progress.

Moses said, “It might mean additional training, but they might have good benefits and they can have a family serving job, a job that really can support their family.” Combining education and training with opportunities that can support students’ needs is key.

Completion Goals and Career Success

Complete College America, Yolanda Watson Spiva says, has been known for being able to track and provide data back to states and systems and help them to understand and identify the location of their achievement or attainment gaps. “But it is integrally important that we talk about the equity gaps because that's where the rubber is going to meet the road when we look at this COVID-19 environment,” Watson Spiva said.

She raised the point that Black, Latinx, and Indigenous folks have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, socially, economically, and even in terms of health. “So we think about their life prospects and outcomes because these are the individuals that tend to be in employment that is at the intersection of face-to-face jobs. Unfortunately, that means they would have more exposure to things like a pandemic and they're more likely to be in lower-wage jobs,” she added.

Discussions about attainment have more than just personal consequences. It has economic, social mobility, and health consequences as well. To address this, CCA is tracking data in partnership with the National Student Clearinghouse’s Postsecondary Data Partnership. “We are helping to democratize data and helping institutions understand how they can access data and states as well and utilize it to inform their thinking about how they create policies for students,” Yolanda concluded.

Next Steps for the U.S.

Governor Jim Geringer highlighted one of the opportunities that haves come about, especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic: online education. “It has demonstrated that there are other ways to deliver the type of certification or college completion that we're after,” said Geringer.

He advised leaders to rethink higher education and its business model to deliver education that's more affordable to students, and of higher quality at the same time, urging them “to consider that you can do better for less if you'll change your business model and your delivery.”

Geringer also pointed out that coaching for students is an essential part of increasing the quality of education, which he says will make sure they are prepared as they matriculate and start college. “As they progress through that, they have constant contact with somebody who cares about them. We've demonstrated that at Western Governors -- every student has contact with a coach or a mentor or a subject matter expert at least twice a week to encourage them,” continued Governor Geringer.

He noted that these students, with coaching, have a two and a half year average time of completion and that their average debt is less than ten thousand dollars. “That's a pretty dramatic approach. We're not unique, but it does depend on online and as we've learned with both K-12 and higher education, not everybody has access to online schooling that's adequate. That will challenge us as a nation, but it can dramatically increase the opportunity for learning,” he concluded.

This blog post is part of a series of recordings from the College Promise Careers Institute. In November 2020, College Promise held the virtual 3-day summit convening hundreds of our nation's leading practitioners, educators, employers, and thought leaders for sessions tackling the most complex challenges American workers face -- from the rise of artificial intelligence to the role free college plays in maintaining a competitive edge.

Want to learn about upcoming College Promise events? Sign up for our monthly newsletter, State of the Promise.

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