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Creating Postsecondary Pathways to Good Jobs for Young High School Dropouts

The Possibilities and the Challenges

SOURCE: AP/Nick Ut

Students wait outside Jefferson High School in Los Angeles. With a 58 percent dropout rate, Jefferson has the worst record in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which averages 33.6 percent dropouts.

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This paper looks at strategies for connecting high school dropouts between the ages of 16 and 24 to pathways to postsecondary credentials that have value in the labor market. We will highlight examples of innovations in policy, program delivery, pedagogy in adult education, youth development and dropout recovery, and postsecondary education. We do this not only to advocate for expanded adoption of these best practices, but to seed thinking about ways these policies and practices, if better integrated and funded, can bring about more robust and successful dropout recovery and postsecondary education to address this challenge.

Without question, many of the millions of youth who have dropped out of school have talent, ability, and aspirations for a better future and can benefit from being connected to a supported pathway to postsecondary credentials. This tremendous pool of talent and potential, if properly supported and channeled, can help close the skills gap in this country and greatly contribute to our nation’s productivity and competitiveness. These youth deserve a second chance, but our second-chance strategies must be more robust and focused on delivering to youth the set of postsecondary skills and credentials that will open the door to higher wages and career opportunities. Thus, converting this raw talent into skilled workers with the credentials and mastery for the 21st-century economy will require considerable rethinking of how our secondary, postsecondary, workforce, adult education, youth development, and youth recovery systems work in tandem to build the supports and create the pathways at some scale to bring these youth back into the education and labor market mainstream.

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To speak with our experts on this topic, please contact:

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Print: Chelsea Kiene (women's issues, Legal Progress, Half in Ten Education Fund)
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TV: Rachel Rosen
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Radio: Chelsea Kiene
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