Georgetown report identifies 10 education and career interventions that improve economic outcomes for young adults

A new report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) recommends 10 “pathway changes” that have the greatest potential to improve the likelihood that young adults can get a good job by age 30.

“All along the journey from adolescence to early adulthood, there are critical junctures at which a change in pathway can have a tremendous impact on a young person’s future,” the report says. With philanthropic support from JPMorgan Chase, CEW researchers developed a Pathways-to-Career policy simulation model that uses longitudinal data to explore the impacts of certain academic and professional choices.

The pathways that most affected young people’s progress toward a good job in the simulation involved attainment of a postsecondary credential or bachelor’s degree. Other promising pathway changes replaced or combined academic studies with on-the-job training.

Stronger pathways to good jobs

The 10 pathway changes that substantially increase the likelihood that young people work in good jobs include:

  1. Specializing in CTE programs in high school
  2. Beginning a certification or associate’s degree program by age 22
  3. Beginning a bachelor’s degree program by age 22
  4. Working in a blue-collar job by age 22
  5. Experiencing uninterrupted employment from age 20 to 22
  6. Working in a STEM or other high-paying job at age 22
  7. Earning an associate degree by age 26 after enrolling in a certificate or associate degree program
  8. Earning a bachelor’s degree after entering by age 26 after enrolling in a certificate or associate degree program
  9. Earning an associate’s degree by age 26 after enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program
  10. Earning a bachelor’s degree by age 26 after enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program

“Our research clearly indicates that the bachelor’s degree is still the most traveled pathway to a good job. But through this work, we also find there are alternative pathways to good jobs through career and technical education (CTE) and work experience,” Anthony Carnevale, director of CEW and lead author on the report, said in a statement.

Exploring the data

The model shows that layering pathways can have a significant impact on the number of young people in good jobs. There are 4.8 million eligible high school graduates in the college-age cohort who are not expected to enter a bachelor’s program by age 22. Moving this group into a bachelor’s degree program by age 22 could result in 765,000 more young adults with good jobs at age 30. But ensuring they complete those four-year degrees by age 26 could result in 1.2 million more young adults in good jobs at age 30.

However, the effectiveness of the 10 pathways varies by race, ethnicity, and gender, researchers say. Enrollment in Career and Technical Education (CTE) in high school increases the likelihood of working in a good job by 30 for white and Black young adults, but CTE would decrease that likelihood for Latine youth, the report says. Researchers surmise this reflects disparities in access to high-quality CTE programs among Latine high schoolers or biases associated with CTE for Latine youth in particular. The majority of the 10 pathway changes also benefit men more than women, with the exception of working in a STEM role or another high-paying occupation at age 22, according to Higher Ed Dive.

The CEW researchers not only pinpoint ways education leaders can develop better pathways to good jobs but also emphasize employers’ role in increasing wages and reducing bias and discrimination in the workforce. “A coordinated and comprehensive policy strategy is therefore needed to expand access to economic opportunity broadly while also achieving economic justice on a societal level,” Zack Mabel, report co-author and research professor at CEW, said in the statement.

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