In Illinois, college and career pathways were jump-started with the 2016 passage of the Postsecondary & Workforce Readiness (PWR) Act, which defines the required components of a College and Career Pathway Endorsement (CCPE) and recognizes public high school graduates who complete a specific package of curricular and workplace experiences. The state has also established a first-of-its-kind Illinois Career Pathways Dictionary, which includes definitions for work-based learning experiences across a continuum. These definitions help guide communities on the minimum expectations for a high-quality work-based learning experience. Still, they are meant to be broad and allow a variety of experiences to qualify as work-based learning within the continuum. While these expectations help communities design and implement work-based learning intentionally, they do not offer extensive detail on other factors to consider, such as preparation and reflection activities, diversity of representation in industry mentors, and connection to information on postsecondary programs related to the industry. EdSystems has already begun to explore these areas through the development of the Career Development Experience Toolkit. Still, similar efforts have not yet been developed for other key components along the work-based learning continuum.
With a robust definitional framework around the components of college and career pathways in Illinois now established, EdSystems is shifting its focus to ensuring implementation and scaling are done with an eye toward quality and equity and has identified a need in the field for additional guidance on CCPE and work-based learning. EdSystems seeks to develop quality criteria to inform CCPE and work-based learning implementation and evaluation and raise the awareness and profile of these efforts in Illinois and nationally.
EdSystems is conducting desk research into statewide and national best practices, synthesizing case studies from prior engagements with communities, and convening two parallel stakeholder committees to advise on developing and refining quality criteria for CCPE overall and work-based learning. EdSystems is centering student experience, high potential outcomes, and equitable access and implementation strategies. Equity considerations include racial equity and focusing on different geographical (urban, suburban, and rural) experiences and practices.
The work-based learning stakeholder group, which is being convened through the Illinois Work-Based Learning Innovation Network (I-WIN), will provide clearer guidance on expectations for the student experience and what ongoing support and engagement should look like to ensure equitable access to high-quality work-based learning. EdSystems is also capturing best practices, community models, and resources related to the quality criteria to build a robust toolkit that will ultimately provide the quality criteria and how they are being lived out in communities across Illinois and nationally.
The result will be resources that can elevate the profile of Illinois college and career pathways systems and, more importantly, guide community partners as they seek to implement robust systems that serve their students equitably and with quality opportunities aligned with jobs that are growing with living wages.