The Making of an Innovation Engine: Advancing Career-Connected Learning

To view the full report, click here

Catalyze was developed to support entrepreneurs in reimagining career-connected learning (CCL) in the US, with the ultimate goal of expanding economic opportunity to communities that have long suffered from a lack of access.

Beyond a challenge or grant competition, Catalyze was designed as an “innovation engine” that could source and fund models and programs bridging education and employment; learn from the successes and challenges of those models; and share these stories of impact and opportunities for improvement with funders, policy makers, and innovators.

Catalyze funded two cohorts of grantees in its first 14 months. These winning programs include models that focus on providing career identity development opportunities and creating career paths for students to follow after high school. In the spirit of continuous improvement, the Challenge’s cadence is under consideration and the process is still evolving. 

What is unwavering, however, is Catalyze’s focus on creating opportunities for access to economic independence and career success for historically underserved groups (HUGs), which includes, among others, learners of color, low-income learners, and learners in rural communities. In Round 2 alone, 82% of grantees serve or intend to serve communities in which >60% of learners are part of HUGs, and 76% of grantee programs are led by those with proximate or shared identity or lived experience.

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.

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.

Unlocking Career Potential

An Analysis of the Career Navigation & Guidance Product Landscape

Institutional leaders, policymakers, and philanthropists recognize that it is no longer enough to ensure that students make it to graduation. Rather, if education is to serve as a tool for social and economic mobility, it matters what students are graduating into. Jobs—and ultimately careers—are an important metric of whether K-12 and postsecondary education are expanding opportunity or simply reproducing the status quo. Yet our current systems face challenges in helping students connect education to career, which disproportionately harms the students who most need education to provide economic mobility.

It doesn’t have to stay that way. Our educational systems and institutions can build a future where career navigation and guidance support all learners, starting in middle school and continuing throughout high school, postsecondary education, and a life of learning. This paper takes a close look at how better navigation and guidance might transform the status quo. In particular, it examines the market of tech-enabled products that has emerged to help increase career navigation and guidance. 

View the full analysis by Entangled Solutions.