August 22, 2016

Connected to Careers: Expanding Employer Leadership in Career Development


Young adults face important decisions every day that are likely to impact future outcomes. This includes navigating potential career opportunities that can lead to job satisfaction and economic self-sufficiency. Career development practices in K-12 schools are designed to equip participants with the necessary knowledge, tools, and supports to make informed decisions about future occupations. Yet, students in this country remain largely uninformed of potential career pathways and the relevance of academics to the workplace. They are at risk not only of dropping out of school, but also unemployment, underemployment, or a large sum of education debt and no direction.

Recent federal legislation, such as the Every Student Succeeds Act, has brought national attention to improving both college and career readiness. Career development is a critical component, but there is widespread dissatisfaction with the quality of today’s services.

A recent survey of high school juniors and seniors revealed that 54% do not believe school support services help them match their interests to potential occupations. Approximately the same proportion is not adequately advised on the necessary steps to secure their desired career. Today’s millennials may be the best-educated generation in history, but they feel lost when translating academic pursuits into career opportunities.

Employers also feel the consequences of poor career development. There are nearly 6 million open positions as companies struggle to find the right people with the right skills. More so, approximately 40% of employers report that workforce shortages reduce their ability to innovate or start new strategic initiatives. It is undoubtedly critical to the business community that students acquire the competencies and credentials needed to make the school-to-work connection.

States and districts are committed to taking action. Some are actively increasing the number of career development professionals within schools, creating a separate job function dedicated to delivering career advising, leveraging technology to create personalized career plans, or aligning career development programs to workforce needs.

These best practices are well-positioned to better inform and prepare students for the world of work; however, there is one notable limitation—they are not designed to foster employer leadership. As companies look to create a pipeline of talent to compete on a global stage, how can the business community secure and maintain the supports it needs to play an expanded role in career development?

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) offers a new approach to answer that very question. It requires employers to manage relationships with K-12 schools much differently than in the past.

The new framework positions employers as customers of career development activities who are then responsible for locating the right partners to deliver high-quality employer account management—customer service practices that ensure the needs of the business community are being met. These relationships are at their core designed to provide students access to a network of employers as well as support businesses in need of talent.

To set up this new framework, this report begins with salient challenges employers face when engaging career development programs in K-12 schools. It then discusses current best practices in the field as well as the limitations of each approach. From there it introduces a new approach that helps employers prioritize career development and encourages business associations to drive solutions.