Career Exploration

Career Readiness for Gen Z (and Beyond): Expanding Opportunities and Removing Stigmas

Contributions by Julie Lammers

If the last couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that the “rule book” as we know it needs some serious revisions. While we’ve been presented with numerous challenges and disruptions to the ways we live and work, there is also substantial opportunity to grow and adapt our approaches—particularly when it comes to young people who are weighing their future plans and trying to navigate where they fit in the world.

Take recent trends in college enrollment, for example. Reports show that college enrollment numbers are on the decline. This is not only for recent high school graduates who may be enrolling for the first time, but for current college students who have decided for one reason or another that college is no longer for them. This trend underscores why all students need to be aware of a multitude of viable pathways to success beyond the college degree.

It’s past time to foster widespread understanding and acceptance of the full range of viable education-to-career opportunities, and remove the stigmas associated with non-college options, in order to ensure two things: that the next generation is equipped to make informed decisions, and that our workforce is brimming with top-tier talent from a variety of backgrounds.

That’s why ASA has teamed up with Jobs for the Future (JFF) to build a coalition of support for expanded education-to-career opportunities. We believe that continued research into the efficacy of non-degree options is essential to ensuring that young people, parents, educators, and employers understand the value of these diverse options.

To that end, we’ve released two reports that demonstrate the growing momentum of education pathways beyond the traditional college degree: 

  1. Non-degree Pathways: A DC Insider’s Perspective demonstrates policy insiders’ appetite to leverage federal policy to expand access to non-degree pathways. 
  2. A Universe of Possibilities: Education to Career Pathways for the Future of Work compiles data on hundreds of education-to-career initiatives to identify innovative programs across the US working to solve some of the most pressing challenges facing students and employers today.

We’ve also launched, a new digital hub that houses insights, research, and resources on education-to-career pathways, including Degrees of Risk, a study of Gen Z and employer attitudes released earlier this year.

I hope you’ll join ASA and JFF in our efforts to create a society in which there is widespread acceptance of postsecondary pathways that are as diverse as the workers who make up our workforce, giving all Americans equitable opportunities for economic mobility, good-paying jobs, and financial stability.

For even more on the future of career readiness learning, subscribe to ASA’s newsletter, PivotED