Connecting College and Career Success
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“There are many key moments when postsecondary preparation and persistence intersect with career preparation. Career exploration in middle or high school, an effective choice of college major and postsecondary institution, working during college, and the acquisition of non-cognitive skills can all improve rates of college access and completion as well as employment for our students.”  â€“ Kim Cook, NCAN Executive Director

Thanks to a generous one-year grant from Strada Education Network, NCAN provided professional development and member services for helping underrepresented students graduate from high school prepared to succeed in both college and a career.

College access and success cannot be separated from career preparation. NCAN views this work as the "next frontier" for our field, much as we have made the pivot from college access to college success in the last several years. To help members begin to think about incorporating career readiness services into their programming, we will share tools and resources that make the college success/career intersections more explicit, highlight successful programs that are already making the college success/career connection, and build capacity to make this pivot smoother. 

Definition of College and Career Readiness

There are many but most definitions point to ensuring that students are prepared to be successful in the postsecondary pursuit of their choosing. For many NCAN members, this means ensuring that high school graduates are prepared for a full range of postsecondary opportunities, but this could also apply to adult learners. Many states have developed very explicit definitions of college and career readiness that specify the knowledge, skills, and abilities students must demonstrate in order to meet state standards. These definitions address areas such as:
  • academic preparedness
  • critical thinking and problem solving
  • social and emotional learning
  • communication and working in teams
  • community involvement and citizenship
  • grit and perseverance

Some states require that students explore their postsecondary interests and make personalized plans to determine how to achieve them. Few mention very specific workforce preparation skills such as resume writing, interviewing skills, or internships.

As we continue to explore this area, NCAN will be working closely with our members to not only develop a definition that is relevant for their students and community but also to determine the role members should play in ensuring the implementation of this definition.

Tools and Resources

Below are some of the tools and resources NCAN has curated to help members learn more about this topic and think through their role in ensuring students are college and career ready. Programs may decide to expand their service offerings to include career readiness or partner with a local organization that already provides these services to ensure their students can access them. In all cases, we believe the goal of this work is to equip all students with the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to make an informed choice about the postsecondary path they would like to pursue.


  • Achieve does work in the area of college and career readiness. Their website includes information on college and career readiness standards, assessments, graduation requirements and accountability mechanisms. The site includes a number of resources that represent the business perspective including a set of resources for businesses to help them think through how to best support college and career readiness for all students.
  • The College and Career Readiness Center at the American Institutes of Research (CCRS) is funded by the US Department of Education to serve the Regional Comprehensive Centers in building the capacity of states to effectively implement initiatives for college and career readiness and success. They have numerous briefs, an interactive state map that compares college and career readiness policies, and a blog that are well worth reviewing. This website will definitely help you stay up to date on goings on in the field of college and career readiness.
  • Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce (CEW) studies the link between education, career qualifications, and workforce demands. The Center conducts research in three core areas with the goal of better aligning education and training with workforce and labor market demand: jobs, skills, and people. Their website includes publications and a blog, as well as a diversity initiative with interactive tools on the economic value of college majors (profiled below) and a state initiative that is helping states improve the alignment between education and its economy.
  • New America has created a website called Atlas that aggregates information from a number of their education policy initiatives. Their interactive Mapping College Ready Policies 2015-2016 provides an interesting overview of which states have college and career ready policies, definitions, and assessments.  Their Education Policy area in general has informative newsletters and blogs that often address the topic of college and career readiness and success. We expect to see more on this issue from New America in 2017.
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Center for Education and Workforce mobilizes the business community to be more engaged partners and connect education and workforce reforms to economic development. The site includes a blog, the Achieving Tomorrow state-by-state education data and standards website, publications (one of which is profiled below,) and information on the Launch My Career websites, profiled below.

Research, Documents, and Tools

  • Connecting College and Career Success: Implementing and Managing Services for Students is a white paper from NCAN that focuses on the lessons learned from four presenters at NCAN's national conference:
    • Antoinette Haygood (ACCESS College Foundation; Norfolk, VA) presented “Establishing Organizational Priorities,” a discussion of how programs know when they want to grow and expand into a new direction of work and how they can tell if they are ready to do so.
    • Charleita Richardson’s (Partnership for the Future; Glen Allen, VA) “Managing Your Work” laid out processes programs can use to ensure students, staff, and business partners are aligned and working in the same direction.
    • Vanessa Barbic (Students Rising Above; San Francisco, CA) presented “Preparing Your Advisors” for career success and focused on the topics advisors need to know, how to educate advisors on those topics, and concerns about mission creep.
    • Teanna Dorsey (Genesys Works; Houston, TX) described the critical activity of “Partnering with Business” to provide meaningful work-based opportunities for students.
  • Connecting College and Career Success: Lessons on Advising, Data, and Partnerships is a white paper from NCAN with lessons learned from our 2017 Spring Training series. It focuses on the lessons learned from this series and suggests resources members can use to further their understanding of this area. From programs just embarking on this work to those that have been committed to it for years, our hope is that herein are lessons contained for everyone. This paper is divided into sections on integrating career success into advising, identifying relevant career and workforce data, and the importance of partnerships for career success.
  • Career Readiness: A Business-Led Approach for Supporting K-12 Schools from the U.S. Chamber Foundation offers a definition of career readiness and provides recommendations for how the business community can be instrumental in addressing challenges of implementing them.
  • The Economic Value of College Majors from Georgetown’s CEW uses Census Data to analyze the wages/earning potential/economic benefit of specific college majors.
  • Launch My Career is a series of websites developed jointly by College Measures, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and Gallup. Currently available for Colorado, Tennessee, and Texas, the interactive site provides information about the return on investment from a certificate or degree from public postsecondary institutions.
  • Published in 2014, the Overview: State Definitions of College and Career Readiness from the CCRS Center analyzes state level definitions of college and career readiness.
  • The CED report Building Supports for Successful Transitions Into the Workforce: Community Conversations with Business Leaders & Parents explores the remarkable similarities expressed by business leaders and parents want for their employees/children -- and an enormous gap between those aspirations and what high schools are delivering. The report also suggests strategies for improving career readiness, including improving communication among stakeholders, hosting career fairs to inform students, parents, and educators about available careers within the region, providing a full range of work-based learning opportunities to students, improving counseling and mentoring focused on career readiness, and  modeling and reinforcing soft skills and dispositions for students.
  • NCAN is maintaining a list of state-level career success resources that we will continue to update and expand.

NCAN Blog Posts and Newsletter Stories

NCAN Webinars

  • Introduction to Career Success Webinar (12/14/16): This webinar provided an overview of the project funded by USA Funds and solicited input from members on what they’d like to learn on this topic. Powerpoint slides
  • Partnership for the Future Webinar (1/19/17): This webinar provided an overview of the work of NCAN member Partnership for the Future that operates aprivately-funded workforce development-college preparatory program in Virginia. PFF’s President and CEO, Charleita M. Richardson discussed how her program connects students with community business partners to provide them with meaningful internships that ease the transition from high school to college to the workplace. Powerpoint slides
  • Genesys Works Houston Webinar (1/24/17): This webinar provided an overview of the work of NCAN member Genesys Works Houston, a nonprofit career coaching and college access program operating in five cities across the country. The webinar discussed how the program Genesys empowers high school students from challenged backgrounds to achieve college and career success through skills training and meaningful work experiences. Powerpoint slides
  • On Point for College Webinar (2/8/17): This webinar provided an overview of the work of NCAN member On Point for College, a nonprofit, that serves traditional and non-traditional, 17- to 29-year-old students by breaking down barriers through access to training, college, and careers for success in life. This webinar discussed how their program develops and cultivates the relationships to change the lives of traditional and non-traditional students and how they built their career success programming. Powerpoint slides
  • Students Rising Above Webinar (3/22/17): Students Rising Above provides scholarships, comprehensive advising, and wrap-around support for low-income students from high school, to and through college. When SRA saw too many of its graduates returning to their communities to work in occupations that did not require a college degree, they realized that college alone was not enough. In 2010, SRA began incorporating career development services, which now see 85% of SRA students securing career-ladder jobs within 9 months of college graduation. This webinar highlights how SRA developed its career success program with limited staff and resources and outlines specific actionable steps to help students gain professional skills and experience.
  • Career Success Spotlight: Be a Leader Foundation (6/20/17): The Be A Leader Foundation designs programs that provide a positive learning environment and a college-focused mentality for each participant to develop their high school and college educational plan (4 plus 4 plan). The work directly with middle school and high school students in primarily inner-city schools to engage them into active development of their self-esteem, leadership skills and long term preparation of their 4 plus 4 plan. Ultimate success is achieved through our long-term relationship and stewardship of their educational evolution from middle school into high school, culminating with active participation at the university level and ultimately a college degree. Join this webinar to learn about the ins and outs of BALF internship program along with how they build the corporate partnerships to make them possible.
  • The Opportunity Network Webinar (6/28/17): This webinar will introduce you to The Opportunity Network's Career Fluency® HQ, a free online resource with the highest quality, ready-to-teach college success and career readiness instructional content for your front-line staff. In addition to a robust and dynamic set of curriculum, the platform offers an easy-to-use student outcomes tracking tool to help you identify students' knowledge gains. This webinar is most useful to program staff ready to start integrating more intentional and targeted career readiness programming into your core model. These resources will add the most value for organizations that are at the early stages of evolving your program services to align with the moving finish line from college success to career readiness.
  • Connecting College and Career Success: Roadtrip Nation and Career Exploration (7/12/17): This webinar will provide an online demonstration of Roadtrip Nation which is a project-based curriculum that exposes students to different career possibilities as they navigate an interview archive with thousands of professionals across diverse industries. Students learn to work collaboratively as they research, plan, and contact professionals to interview in their own community to find out what it takes to achieve their career goals. The program includes creative career-exploration activities to help students build self-efficacy, soft skills, and their knowledge of what is possible for their future. Attendees of the webinar will experience the curriculum first-hand and hear from a teacher who is "AVID" about using this curriculum with her students! Review Slides
  • Using College Measures Data for Career Success (7/19/17): College and career success are intertwined, but to most effectively combine them students and families need good data on labor markets and outcomes. Dr. Mark Schneider, vice president and institute fellow at the American Institutes for Research and president of College Measures and Cameron Smither, research associate at the American Institutes for Research discuss College Measures, which “works with state governments to help identify higher education credentials with high return on investment [and] focuses on the hot jobs that present the best opportunities for students to launch exciting careers and on the hot skills that students need to get those jobs.” Dr. Schneider was a presenter at NCAN’s Connecting College and Career Success Spring Training series, and his work was recently featured in Connecting College and Career Success: Lessons on Advising, Data, and Partnerships, a white paper documenting that series. He dives into the concepts of return on investment, hot jobs, and hot skills. Mr. Smither demos the College Measures website. Review Slides
  • Connecting College and Career Spotlight: W+P=X: Helping Students Solve the Equation (8/9/17): Marc Andreessen used to say that software is eating the world. Now, automation is going to eat the world." - Mark Cuban. Our labor market is increasingly reliant on technology, automation, innovation, and obtaining a postsecondary degree. So how should college and career advisors motivate and inspire their students? How can we prepare youth to be the next innovators? How can we work with low-income, first-generation youth – those who often encounter significant barriers to postsecondary access but have a deep desire to impact their world -- and prepare them to be leaders in the labor market of tomorrow? During this interactive webinar, learn about how Marcus Foster Education Initiative is employing advising strategies that are systems-focused and connect youth to resources, people/ideas and power. They are testing a new approach to college and career advising: W+P=X. Learn how this initiative links tech, youth empowerment, and systems change to fuel college and career success.
  • Career Success Spotlight: College Track and Genesys Works (10/4/17): This webinar focused on measuring and reporting career outcomes of students served by college access and success programs. Pre-reading: College Track’s Findings on Outcomes After College; Genesys Works’ 2016 Alumni Survey | Review Webinar Slides
  • Career Success Spotlight: Supporting Adult Learners to and through College (10/25/17): We know that college completion has lasting impacts on economic returns for the individual and community, improves the educational attainment of future generations, and gives students a sense of personal fulfillment. Anyone who advises first time and returning adult college students has to understand their needs and challenges and be equipped to support them on the path to and through college.
  • Career Success Spotlight: iMentor (11/1/2017): iMentor, an NCAN member, currently operates a college access and success program in New York City, Chicago, and the Bay Area that “harnesses the power of long-term, personal relationships to help students succeed.” Their mentors are volunteers recruited to pair with high school student for at least three years. IMentor matches every student in its partner schools with a college-educated mentor that helps to deliver a “best-in-class college curriculum.” Ultimately, iMentor-served students are 25 percent more likely to go to college than their peers in similar schools. This webinar, part of NCAN’s Career Success Spotlight series on connecting college and career success, focuses on using volunteers to help advise and/or provide career readiness services to students. Review Webinar Slides