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A Modern Economy Demands a Modern Workforce

September 13, 2022 — Scott Solberg, Professor, Boston University, Vice-President of Research, Coalition for Career Development Center

Frank Parsons, often regarded as the father of career development, was among the first to acknowledge the benefits of preparation before entering the workforce. Parsons believed that occupational decision-making is optimized when individuals have:

1. Thorough understanding of their individual talents,

2. Knowledge of opportunities and the job market, and;

3. Objective judgments of how their individual self can effectively contribute to the labor market.

Career readiness can optimize our workforce and catalyze growth in our economy. However, this cannot be achieved without improving the career readiness systems we already have in place.

In order to do this, the United States must identify and promote policies, regulations and funding that will make career exploration and development the central focus of the K-16 education and workforce development systems. Career readiness is a tool that should be available to ALL students and career-seeking individuals across the country. Even prior to the economic recession brought about by COVID-19, unemployment rates for Black and Latino youth and young adults have been at consistently much higher rates than White and Asian youth.[1] The National Governors Association reports that an increase in unemployment among individuals with disabilities increased at a much higher rate that individuals without disabilities.[2] To achieve a vision of a modern, optimized economy, the United States must increase representation among individuals of color and individuals with disabilities in key industry sectors.

Several studies conducted in the United States and internationally support the assertion that career readiness must become the number one education priority in the United States, including the “2022 Condition of Career Readiness Report,” published by the Coalition for Career Development (CCD) Center. Within the report, multiple areas of growth were identified. States must prioritize career planning, provide professional career advising, emphasize applied and work-based learning, provide high-quality career development technology, and ensure accountability once solutions are implemented.

As a country, we are failing to provide those entering the job market with adequate resources to succeed. Only three states place 70 percent or more of their high school graduates into either a two-year or four-year post-secondary training or education program. Only five states ensure that more than 90 percent of their young adults aged 20-to-24 are connected to education, training programs, or employment. [3] These gaps in career readiness on a state level are preventing our economy from maximizing its capabilities and limiting its growth.

Career development is the mechanism that will launch our workforce into the modern world. The future of a state’s economic competitiveness relies heavily on all youth entering adulthood with the academic skills, career navigation skills and occupational aspirations needed to support emerging labor market opportunities as well as access high paying occupations. To achieve economic liftoff into modernity, we must prioritize career readiness in our country.

[1] Anthony P. Carnevale, Artem Gulish, and Kathryn Peltier Campbell. Youth Policy: How Can We Smooth the Rocky Pathway to Adulthood?. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 2021.

[2] National Governors Association and State Exchange on Employment and Disability (2021). Governor’s Role in Promoting Disability Employment in COVID-19 Recovery Strategies. Available at

[3] Solberg, V. S. H., Donnelly, H. K., Kroyer-Kubicek, R., Basha, R., Curtis, G., Jaques, E., Schreiber, K. (2022). Condition of Career Readiness in the United States. Alexandria, VA: Coalition for Career Development Center and the BU Center for Future Readiness.

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