Early Insights on Catalyze Challenge Applicants and Winners, Rounds 1-2

Through the Challenge, Catalyze has collected and analyzed a large applicant and winner data set. This memo synthesizes a few key learnings relevant to the JFF Horizons summit, including insights on the state of career-connected learning in the U.S. today

Catalyze is a grant fund that finances, learns from, and shares insight on career-connected learning (CCL), with an emphasis on groundbreaking models that serve young people from historically underserved groups.

The Catalyze Challenge, a cornerstone of this initiative, sources and seeds innovative approaches designed for learners in grades 6-14 that bridge education and employment and provide access to long-term career success and economic opportunity. The Catalyze Challenge is supported by a group of philanthropic funders committed to advancing innovative career-connected learning for young people. In its inaugural round in the Fall of 2021, the Catalyze Challenge awarded over $4 million to 15 solutions, reaching learners across more than 15 states. The Challenge is now in the process of selecting a second cohort of innovators to support. These grantees will be announced in late summer 2022.

Through the Challenge, Catalyze has collected and analyzed a large applicant and winner data set. This memo synthesizes a few key learnings relevant to the JFF Horizons summit, including insights on the state of career-connected learning in the U.S. today. In line with the announcement of the second cohort of winners in August 2022, Catalyze will share more detailed insight in its initial impact report

Read the full memo here.

To Find Career Success, Students Need More Real-World Skills

That said, recent surveys show there’s still debate about which skills students should learn and the value of a college degree.

There’s a profound shift happening in attitudes about what life and work skills high school and college should offer students, according to recent national surveys conducted on behalf of the Kauffman Foundation.

If gainful employment is considered one of the primary goals of education, employers are increasingly looking at credentials other than degrees when making hiring decisions, whereas most adults and parents still believe a college degree is the best predictor of success in life.

But both employers and parents believe that a happy medium would be possible if high schools and colleges offered students more opportunities to gain real world skills and experiences. Where high schools are still locked in to preparing students for standardized tests, all parties surveyed also agree that students would benefit more from learning “essential” skills like communication, problem-solving and financial literacy, as well has having internships and projects with employers.

The online surveys, conducted by Global Strategy Group, reached three different groups: 2000 adults nationwide, including 680 parents; 750 high school students nationwide; and 523 employers responsible for hiring, also nationwide. The surveyors took care to ensure a wide range of demographics were represented among the respondents. Of the adults, 800 adults, including 200 parents, were from Missouri and Kansas.

Read the full survey by the Kauffman Foundation.

The State of Youth Employment

Navigating the World of Work During COVID-19

What do you do? How has your work changed over the past year? What role does work play in your life?

These kinds of questions highlight the central role of work for many individuals and families—beyond exchanging time for a paycheck. Work offers opportunities to fulfill basic needs, support oneself and one’s family, participate in society, and for some, to express identity and purpose. Year after year, however, unemployment rates for young people remain far greater than for the general population. When young people are unable to gain a foothold at work, they lose more than a learning opportunity. They are disconnected from the social networks, family and community contributions, and sense of identity that work can offer.

Unemployment has spiked dramatically over the past year, and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have widened the longstanding employment gap between young people and the rest of the working population. Further, young people of color, already facing the greatest barriers to decent early employment prospects, are experiencing disproportionate hardships as they try to secure sustainable employment in good jobs. For these reasons and more, youth unemployment and underemployment has grown in size, complexity, and urgency during the pandemic.

View the full report by the Yes Project.

The Words of the Workforce

A Field Guide to the Terms and Ideas Shaping the World of Work

America’s workforce is undergoing unprecedented change. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated impact on the labor market, workers and job seekers are finding themselves empowered to demand more from their employers—and business leaders are making renewed commitments to supporting their employees. Despite this shift, there are still many people facing barriers to economic mobility, with millions out of work as the country navigates a rocky road to economic recovery. 

The seismic effects of the pandemic have generated increased media attention on issues of workforce development, economic mobility, and opportunity. But as is so often the case, the more prevalent a given issue becomes in the national narrative, the muddier the terminology used to describe that issue becomes. Today, there is a lack of a strong, clear definition for many words in the lexicon of workforce development. 

To address that challenge, a collaborative team of stakeholders and subject matter experts from several workforce-related organizations has developed this new field guide, which serves as an overview of key terms and concepts related to workforce development. 

The guide is divided into thematic sections, each of which includes a number of terms related to workforce development. We hope it fosters a better understanding of preferred terms and how to use them with clarity. 

Our goal is not to prescribe definitions that will always apply in every case. Rather, it is to shed light on the way that critical terms are (and are not) used, so that journalists, analysts, and advocates can move toward a shared lexicon for an increasingly critical issue in the national discourse. 

In addition, this is a living document, and one that draws on the great work and advocacy of organizations like JUST Capital that have also promoted the need for more precise language around workforce development. We look forward to continued feedback, input, and critiques that can help make this document as helpful as possible. 

Read the full article by WorkingNation.