The Tennessee Department of Education announced the state’s involvement in a pioneering new network focused on career preparation for high school students, created in collaboration with national education nonprofit Jobs for the Future and Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.
The Pathways to Prosperity Network is a multi-state, multi-year initiative promoting school partnerships with public and private sector leaders in six states: Tennessee, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri and North Carolina. The network aims to address unemployment among students without high school or college diplomas by combining rigorous academics with strong technical education to equip more young people with the skills to succeed in today’s increasingly challenging labor market.
“Every high school graduate should find viable ways of pursuing both a career and a meaningful post-secondary degree or credential,” said Kevin Huffman, Tennessee Commissioner of Education. “To achieve this goal, we must improve our work in career and technical education. We must build strong and relevant pathways for our students. We must give students richer and better opportunities to learn from the industries that will later seek to employ them. We must ensure that the courses and counseling in high schools set them on a path to success.”
The new partnership builds on Tennessee’s existing career-preparation programs in diverse regions across the state. Students in the rural Upper Cumberland region around Putnam County invest in their communities through the Highlands of Tennessee, an economic initiative of the Cookeville Chamber of Commerce. In the Southeast region, they connect with growing industrial centers by working with Volkswagen, the Public Education Foundation and the Chattanooga State Community College and Tennessee Technology Center at Chattanooga.
Through the Pathways to Prosperity Network, Tennessee will continue its efforts to ensure more students graduate prepared for career opportunities and further education, eventually expanding these regional programs to a statewide system of career pathways, said Danielle Mezera, the department’s assistant commissioner for career and technical education.
"We want to make sure Tennessee’s programs of study at the high school level align clearly with the needs and opportunities in our state, allowing both students and their communities to be successful,” Ms. Mezera said. “Through this network, schools will make more, stronger connections with community leaders, businesses and industries in their areas and provide students with relevant pathways to future careers.”