Work-based learning can advance equity and opportunity for America's young people
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Work-based learning can advance equity and opportunity for America's young people

19 November 2020


For many young people, the path from the K-12 educational system to a good job as an adult is an obstacle course. High school is the last universally available educational option, and when young people leave or graduate, the next steps are not always obvious. While education beyond high school is the surest ticket to the middle class, the postsecondary landscape is complicated and hard to navigate. For those whose families and schools can't provide adequate guidance, it is not easy to identify college and training options that are affordable and a good fit. For those who do not enroll in college--as well as for the many who do enroll but don't complete a degree or certification--employment prospects are largely limited to low-wage jobs. And, with a few exceptions, neither secondary nor postsecondary systems have a clear interface with the world of work. Among students and employers, there are few shared benchmarks outlining the skill requirements for different industries and occupations, how to obtain those skills, and how to measure them. As a result, young people have high levels of unemployment and tend to cycle in and out of jobs even as employers report difficulty finding workers with the necessary skills and experience.

Published in
United States of America


Martha Ross
Senior Fellow - Brookings Metro

Richard Kazis
Nonresident Senior Fellow - Brookings Metro

Nicole Bateman
Former Senior Research Analyst - Brookings Metro

Laura Stateler
Senior Research Assistant


higher education education workforce development k-12 education business & industry u.s. metro areas cities & regions labor policy & unemployment income inequality & social mobility


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