College Board and JFF Unite With a Mission to Foster Informed Career Exploration

There are no “right” steps after high school, but there are “responsible” steps.  

This post originally appeared on Jobs for the Future (JFF) Labs.

Students today are scouring the career landscape for efficient, affordable routes to high-demand careers—and they’re willing to take unconventional risks to find them. According to data uncovered by JFF, less than 25% of young people believe college is the only good path to a job, and more than 70% of high school students want to define their own postsecondary path. This makes sense—Gen Z and Gen Alpha have spent a majority of their life being “disrupted”—by new technology, climate change, and a global pandemic, just to name a few. The “traditional” path to a career doesn’t fit their vision of the future, nor should it.

More than half of students will finish high school with work experience in 2022, a trend that has risen steadily in recent years. This is good news. The wave of students willing to work—in any industry or role— suggests young people think about themselves as professionals, and the future careers available to them, early on.

The bad news is that robust and integrated career and education guidance is lacking. This is not due to our hardworking (and often overwhelmed) counselors and educators—it is a systemic challenge. Labor market information is hard to decipher; outcomes and employment data from postsecondary programs are fragmented and incomplete; and signals from employers are confusing—there is evidence they are open to hiring based on skills, but also admit that they aren’t sure how to identify credentials of value.

The solution for bridging this gap is complex, but increasing access to career information is the logical first step. College Board and JFF are working together to build out a platform that helps students visualize responsible “next steps” in their education and career. College Board’s BigFuture platform will integrate career insights into students’ experience on the platform so they can consider all possible pathways to a successful future. To support this goal, BigFuture will relate students’ SAT score reports to college admissions criteria and occupations they can reach through a variety of education and training options after high school.

More importantly, the platform aims to make learning about high-quality postsecondary options easier and more actionable. JFF will help College Board build a career navigation process where students can explore possible careers that align with their interests and goals.

A Platform To Help Students Answer “What’s Next?”

This fall, students will be able to connect their academic achievement from the SAT Suite of Assessments to personalize their career exploration. BigFuture will help students and families answer the following questions:

  1. Why is guided career exploration important? Career exploration is a key part of career development and creating a career identity. Students with developed career identities have a stronger sense of career direction, overall career efficacy, and increased confidence in their choices. We also want to ensure students make informed decisions about where they invest their time and resources. So, BigFuture integrates vital career insights, which includes localized real-time and traditional labor market information, into their offerings to help guide students even further.
  2. What should students pay attention to? Students learn a lot about careers by searching TikTok and Google as well as talking to peers and parents. Sure, a “Day-in-the-Life” video is incredibly important for gauging “fit” and understanding the world of work, but students must pair this information with local labor market stats that are vital to responsible decision-making. BigFuture can add key career criteria like education level, wage, demand, and growth to the platform so students can investigate postsecondary requirements for careers. JFF did this with its own platform, MyBestBets, and more recently, released a report with American Student Assistance (ASA) that compiles data on hundreds of education-to-career initiatives to identify the most innovative pathways currently creating opportunities for young people. JFF will work with the BigFuture team to incorporate these points of view into their design.

So, what’s next for students using BigFuture? Given the importance of education and career knowledge in postsecondary decision-making, BigFuture is combining both career and postsecondary information in a centralized, easy-to-use way. This tool isn’t just for SAT test takers, it is for all high schoolers. BigFuture is a decision-making tool and will work as a trusted complement to the adults, friends, and social media influence in a young person’s life.

JFF and College Board, with state partners and other national organizations, are collaborating for greater impact through more informed decision-making. Why? Because students deserve a better, more practical way to chart their own career courses after high school. Learn more about BigFuture’s commitment to fostering the next generation of leaders, and follow our JFF blog to stay updated on our progress.