State and Regional Leaders from Across the Country Join New National College and Career Pathways Initiative – Launch: Equitable & Accelerated Pathways for All


State and Regional Leaders from Across the Country Join New National College and Career Pathways Initiative – Launch: Equitable & Accelerated Pathways for All

Advance CTE, Education Strategy Group, ExcelinEd, Jobs for the Future (JFF) and New America have joined efforts with support from national funders to advance economic and social mobility for all learners.

SILVER SPRING, MARYLAND – February 8, 2023 –  While many states and communities have taken great strides in expanding access and removing barriers to high-quality career pathways, gaps in access and outcomes for different learner groups remain persistent. As a result, too few learners, particularly Black and Latinx learners and learners experiencing poverty, are earning credentials of value, and many who enroll in postsecondary education do not finish and take on hard-to-pay debt, further perpetuating economic inequity.

To tackle this challenge head-on, five leading organizations – Advance CTE, Education Strategy Group, ExcelinEd, Jobs for the Future (JFF), and New America – with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Carnegie Corporation, Joyce Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation, proudly announce a new joint college and career pathways initiative – Launch: Equitable & Accelerated Pathways for All.

“Launch provides a unique opportunity to examine how we can best adapt our approach to workforce development so that it meets the needs of tomorrow’s economy.” said Paul Herdman, CEO of Rodel in Delaware, one of 11 states participating in the initiative. “Our system must shift to actively cultivating the needs, interests, and skills of our students to ensure they thrive in tomorrow’s global economy.”

Through collective investment and action, Launch simultaneously will strengthen existing efforts to provide high-quality, equitable pathways at scale and push the field to pilot innovative design and delivery models resulting in cutting-edge strategies and solutions. Launch will accomplish this by supporting two distinct Innovation and Impact cohorts of state and regional partners, representing leaders from across 11 states, including state education and workforce agencies, K-12 districts, postsecondary institutions, policymakers, and intermediary partners.

“All students benefit from career-connected education, yet not all students feel like they can take advantage of what’s available,” said Kristie VanAuken, Special Advisor to the State Superintendent of North Carolina, for Workforce Engagement, an Impact Site Lead. “Collaborating cross-sector and across the country to reduce friction and share best practices will help develop a robust future workforce while supporting students in their career journey.”

When done right, college and career pathways provide intentional, career-aligned courses that span secondary and postsecondary education, embed work-based learning experiences, are anchored in credentials of value and lead to better economic and social mobility for learners. While college and career pathways strategies have proven effective at improving outcomes for those involved, access and quality remain uneven, and too often historically marginalized learners do not have the same opportunities as their peers.

“Through Launch, we are reflecting on our policies and practices and asking core questions: Are the existing systems leading to equitable student success, particularly as students transition into and through college?” asks Jonathan Furr, Founder and Executive Director of the Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University, an Innovation Site Lead. “How can we reimagine and redesign these systems to help each young person – particularly those who have been traditionally underserved – reach their full potential? The results of this work will transform not only our systems but the lives of our next generation.”

Launch will challenge systemic inequities by building systems-level, next-generation solutions, providing timely and customized technical assistance, sharing out of lessons learned, and inspiring action and progress nationally. Through the Impact and Innovation Cohorts, Launch will harness the expertise of the national partners and participating state and local leaders to advance equitable and sustainable systems built to last.

Impact Cohort

The Impact Cohort consists of seven geographically diverse teams, each including a mix of state, regional, and local leaders who have come together to evaluate, strengthen, and scale their current college and career pathways. Site teams within the Impact Cohort will perform a three-month needs assessment, inclusive of an equity scan, to determine a baseline from which to assess progress in each state. Site teams will then participate in four content-specific academies to unpack and develop strategies that address systemic barriers to pathways access and completion. At the conclusion of this two-year initiative, the Impact Cohort site teams will develop a state-specific Sustainability Plan with clear next steps for improving and scaling equitable college and career pathways across their state.

“Career Connect Washington is excited to be part of the Launch: Equitable and Accelerated Pathways [Impact] cohort to increase the size and scale of our college and career pathways that originate in K-12 schools across the state. Through focusing on a few key regions in our state who have been early adopters or enthusiasts, we will learn what the incentives and barriers are for them to jump in and do more. We look to learn lessons that can be translated statewide to serve an ever-increasing number of diverse young people.” said Maud Daudon, Executive Leader at Career Connect Washington, an Impact Site partner.

Each site has been selected because of their foundational work in creating pathways and enabling conditions that have built connections between secondary and postsecondary institutions and employers. The sites are committed to ensuring every learner will earn the credentials needed to be fully employed and engaged in their community and will work towards this outcome by focusing on four key priority areas: alignment of high-quality pathways to credentials of value; seamless transitions across secondary, two- and four-year institutions; learner-centered supports and advising; and next-generation work-based learning experiences.

“Kentucky is honored and excited to be a part of the national Launch initiative. Alongside our outstanding partners, we will elevate our focus on high-quality, sustainable career pathways.” said Dr. Aaron Thompson, President of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, an Impact Site Lead. “This initiative will help accelerate many of the Commonwealth’s education, workforce and economic development goals and help us build an even stronger, more equitable career pathway for every Kentuckian.”

The seven participating states and their local partners that comprise the Impact Cohort are:

  • Colorado: Colorado Department of Education (CDE), Colorado Community College System, Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE), Colorado Education Initiative (CEI), Colorado Succeeds, Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC), The Attainment Network, Canon City High School, Durango School District 9-R, St. Vrain Valley School District, and Thompson School District
  • Indiana: Indiana Department of Education (IDOE), East Central Indiana Education Service Center, Eastern Indiana Works, EmployIndy, Governor’s Office of Equity, Inclusion,& Opportunity, Governor’s Workforce Cabinet, Indiana Chamber of Commerce, Indiana Department of Workforce Development, Ivy Tech Community College, Muncie Community Schools, New Castle Community School Corporation, Randolph Eastern County School Corporation, and Richmond Community Schools
  • Kentucky: Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), Commerce Lex (Local Workforce Investment Board – Fayette County), Kentuckiana Works (Local Workforce Investment Board – Jefferson and Shelby Counties), Kentucky Center for Statistics (KYSTATS), Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), Kentucky Department of Education (KYDE), Kentucky Education and Labor Cabinet, Fayette County Public Schools, Jefferson County Public Schools, and Shelby County School District
  • North Carolina: North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI), BEST NC (Business for Educational Success and Transformation), North Carolina Community College System, Office of the Governor, Asheboro County Schools District, Brunswick County Schools District, Columbus County Schools District, Wayne County Public Schools District, and Winston Salem/Forsyth County Schools District
  • Rhode Island: Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), Rhode Island Governor’s Workforce Board, Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, Cranston Public Schools, Providence School District, and Woonsocket Public Schools
  • Tennessee: Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE), Hamblen County Foundation for Educational Excellence and Achievement, Hyde Family Foundation, Niswonger Foundation, State Collaborative on Reforming Education (TN SCORE), Tennessee Board of Regents, Tennessee Business Roundtable, Tennessee Campaign for Achievement Now (TennesseeCAN), Tennessee Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Tennessee State Board of Education,  Tennessee State House, Anderson County School District, Bristol Tennessee City Schools, Milan School District, Trousdale County School District, and Williamson County School District
  • Washington: Washington STEM, Career Connect Washington, Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Office of Washington State Governor, Steward Leaders, Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC), Workforce Central (representing statewide local workforce boards), Elma School District, Renton Public Schools, Richland School District, and Tacoma Public Schools

Innovation Cohort

Over the course of two years, the Innovation Cohort, comprised of cross-sector state, regional and local teams from five states, will come together to engage in a full Design Thinking process to identify systems-level barriers to equitable access and outcomes and develop next-generation solutions for some of the most pressing challenges in college and career pathways. Site teams will perform a three-month empathy research and data collection process to gather local voices and experiences from learners and families in each state. The effort will conclude with the development of state-specific pilot projects that will be ready for testing and scaling within each state and eventually shared nationally.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for Ohio to work and learn with colleagues and experts from across the country who are as committed as we are to removing barriers, closing gaps, and driving equity in career pathways and life success.” said Cassandra Palsgrove, Director of K12 Education Policy at Ohio Excels an Innovation Site Lead. “We are honored to have been asked and are excited to continue our state and local work with these terrific partners.”

Each site has been selected because they are leaders within this space and have a strong history of seeding innovation within their college and career pathways systems. The five participating states and their partners in the Innovation Cohort are:

  • Colorado: Colorado Succeeds, Arapahoe Community College, Colorado Commission on Higher Education, Colorado Education Initiative (CEI), and Colorado Mountain College
  • Delaware: Rodel, Appoquinimink School District, Delaware Department of Education (DDOE), Delaware Technical Community College, and Delaware Workforce Development Board
  • Illinois: Education Systems Center at Northern Illinois University, Township High School District 214, Illinois Board of Higher Education, Illinois Community College Board, Illinois Student Assistance Commission, and Vandalia Community School District
  • Ohio: Ohio Excels, Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, Ohio Association of Community Colleges, Ohio Department of Education, Ohio Department of Higher Education, and The PAST Foundation
  • Texas: Educate Texas Student Success Council, Education Texas, Communities Foundation of Texas, Greater Houston Partnership, Texas Association of Community Colleges, and Texas Business Leadership Council

Through the work of the Impact Cohort, evaluating and improving existing efforts, and the Innovation Cohort, developing and piloting innovative new solutions, Launch will create a comprehensive approach to developing college and career pathways that drive the entire nation forward.

This work would not be possible without the support of a coalition of funders: the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Carnegie Corporation, Joyce Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation.

For more information please visit and register to attend Introducing Launch: A Conversation on the Future of College and Career Pathways webinar event, on March 15, 2023, 2-3:15 p.m. ET.  Register at


Statements of Support


“The Launch initiative is a major step toward ensuring that high-quality, equitable career pathways are more widely available to high school students across the country. Through this coalition of public and private partners, we have a unique opportunity to improve how education and employment systems at local, state and national levels can best serve youth and young adults – particularly those who struggle to complete high school – as they prepare for the rest of their lives.” – Patrice Cromwell, Vice President of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Center for Economic Opportunity

“We are proud to be a part of this critical effort to help scale and spread the innovative strategies we have seen working across the country over the past six years. We are also excited to continue collaborating with our fellow funders to maximize our impact in a field that only continues to grow in scale and importance.” – Jenny Sharfstein Kane, who leads post-secondary education work at Bloomberg Philanthropies

“We need to expand and strengthen college and career pathways so that all young people have access to postsecondary options that prepare them for thriving futures. We’ve seen pockets of innovation that can guide us towards that vision, but isolated progress is not enough, especially when it comes to historically marginalized students. Carnegie Corporation of New York is proud to support Launch because it aims higher, bringing education and community leaders together to collectively redesign and realign our education to employment systems as an engine of opportunity for all.” –  LaVerne Srinivasan, Vice President, National Program, and Program Director, Education, Carnegie Corporation of New York

“As we move forward from the pandemic, it’s critical to ensure that young people, especially those from historically marginalized communities, have what they need to thrive at school, the workplace, and in their communities. This requires collaboration, new ideas coupled with evidence-based approaches, and a commitment to provide students with equitable opportunities to develop skills that will help them transition smoothly into adulthood. Given the Joyce Foundation’s focus in the Great Lakes region, we are proud to support the Launch initiative in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.” – Chibuzo Ezeigbo, who leads the College and Career Readiness portfolio at the Joyce Foundation

“Gen Z wants high school to help them find their path and purpose,” said Romy Drucker, Director of the Walton Family Foundation Education Program. “We are thrilled to support visionary, cross-sector teams who have proven and novel ideas on how to build and scale equitable career pathways and social capital networks for students, particularly Black and Latino students and students experiencing poverty.”


“The pursuit of continuous improvement and innovation in career pathway design and delivery is vital to ensuring each learner can succeed in the career of their choice without limits. We are excited to partner with like-minded organizations through the Launch initiative to center state CTE systems as leaders in this important work and collectively confront systemic barriers that have long limited success for historically marginalized learners. In doing so, we can achieve scalable, 50-state impact and achieve college and career pathway systems that are responsive to industry and equitable for all learners.” – Kate Kreamer, Deputy Executive Director, Advance CTE

“To expand economic opportunity and mobility in this country, we need bold new approaches to education that accelerate learning and put all students on a path to postsecondary and career success. The pandemic set students back and made this work even more urgent. ESG is proud to partner with other leading national education organizations, states, and communities across the country to launch this ambitious effort to scale quality educational pathways and address head-on the challenges that have led to disparate outcomes for our students. Connecting every student with a clear pathway to a high-value career opportunity is of critical importance to our country’s future; we will only get there through shared commitment and bold, collective action.” – Matt Gandal, President & CEO, Education Strategy Group

“Too often students lack access to high-quality pathways that lead to success in postsecondary and higher-wage careers, while employers struggle to find skilled talent. Launch is a promising initiative that leverages the experience and expertise of national and local partners to tackle system, policy, and implementation challenges and generate scalable solutions that ensure every student – regardless of background – has a viable pathway to economic mobility.”- Patricia Levesque, Chief Executive Officer, ExcelinEd

“The nation is at an exciting tipping point in expanding and reimagining high-quality education to career pathways, but to get there we must put equity and transformational systems changes at the center of the work. JFF is proud to be partnering with other prominent field leaders and longtime partners in pursuit of these priorities at local, state, and national levels.” – Joel Vargas, Ed.D., JFF Vice President, Education

”Young adults need reliable pathways out of high school and into affordable postsecondary options that lead to good jobs that provide family-sustaining wages and opportunities for growth. New America is excited to join Launch to support state business, education, and workforce leaders in building stronger, more equitable pathways systems to expand opportunity and drive inclusive growth across the U.S.” – Taylor White, Director, Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship & Postsecondary Pathways for Youth, New America


“Colorado has been presented with a unique opportunity to rethink the transition between high school and college. The recent passing of Colorado Senate Bill 22-1215, which Colorado Succeeds and its partners strongly supported, created a task force to recommend comprehensive policies that encourage and empower high schools and postsecondary institutions to create and sustain secondary, postsecondary, and work-based learning integration programs in every region of the state. Colorado’s impact cohort, led by the Colorado Department of Education, will further explore how to develop single, nimble, agile education and training systems that can respond to Colorado’s workforce needs, while the innovation cohort that our team is leading will push beyond the traditional systems to identify cutting-edge solutions to meet the challenges of students, education leaders, and industry.” – Scott Laband, President, Colorado Succeeds

“As a comprehensive high school district offering robust career pathways to our students, we continually focus on improving and scaling existing systems. Through Launch, we have the space and support to investigate outcomes and transition points critical in designing an equity-focused education-to-career system that will propel students to a future defined by opportunity and mobility. We’re excited to pilot these big ideas in High School District 214 and serve as an exemplar for educators nationwide.” – Lazaro Lopez, Ed.D., Chairperson, Illinois Community College Board, Interim Superintendent, High School District 214, Innovation Site partner

“Indiana is focused on defining quality pathways that lead to credentials of currency and high quality work-based learning experiences for all students. To achieve our goals, Indiana must learn how to scale comprehensive systems that reach all communities.  We are both honored and excited to participate in the Launch initiative to identify challenges and solutions that will increase access to these pathways for all Indiana students.” Jason Callahan, Assistant Secretary of Student Pathways and Opportunities, Indiana Department of Education, Impact Site Lead.

“Rhode Island is grateful for the opportunity to participate in the Launch initiative as a state member of the Impact Cohort. Through this initiative, we are strengthening our statewide commitment to continue to expand high-skill and high-growth career pathways that graduate our kids ready to create their future. As a state, we have just adopted Readiness-Based Graduation Requirements, which take effect for the graduating Class of 2028. These new requirements set the expectation that every high school statewide will develop policies to value and recognize Work-Based Learning as a form of academic credit and that allow for increased schedule flexibility for students to explore their passions in full-time Career and Technical Education Programs. Rhode Island’s participation in the Launch Initiative will ensure that we as a state and the educators in our schools receive the necessary tools and support to deepen the impact of existing, and to support the creation of new high-skill, high-growth career and technical education learning opportunities that will benefit all of our kids.” – Angélica Infante-Green, Rhode Island Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, Impact Site partner.

“The Texas team is excited to participate in the launch of this important and timely initiative. For the work ahead in Texas, we look forward to engaging in the activities that will help us individually and collectively plan the work ahead to improve pathway outcomes across the state, which is further supported by previous state policy, as well as potential policy innovation taking place in the current general session. We also look forward to learning from peer states to identify new means to advance our goals for improving equity in our work. “ – Kenyatta Lovett, Ph.D., Managing Director for Higher Education & Workforce, Educate Texas, Innovation Cohort.

About the Partners

Advance CTE is the longest-standing national non-profit that represents State Directors and state leaders responsible for secondary, postsecondary and adult Career Technical Education (CTE) across all 50 states and U.S. territories. Established in 1920, Advance CTE supports state CTE leadership to advance high-quality and equitable CTE policies, programs and pathways that ensure career and college success without limits for each learner. Visit to learn more.

Education Strategy Group (ESG) works with America’s education, business, and civic leaders to expand economic opportunity and mobility by increasing educational attainment. We are driven by the conviction that a robust education system aligned with workforce demands leads to a stronger, more equitable society. ESG specializes in strengthening the transition points that have the highest stakes for youth and adults and the highest benefit for states, communities, and economies. We work across sectors to move the needle on issues that are critical to improving student success and advancing equity. Visit to learn more.

ExcelinEd supports state leaders in transforming education to unlock opportunity and lifelong success for each and every child. Focused on quality, innovation and opportunity- both within and outside the traditional system-ExcelinEd advances a broad range of student-centered policy solutions to increase student learning, eliminate inequities and ready all graduates for college and career. Visit to learn more.

Jobs for the Future (JFF) drives transformation of the American workforce and education systems to achieve equitable economic advancement for all. JFF focuses on five key areas where we can be a leading engine to drive equitable impact: Create worker and learner opportunity. Despite our best efforts, economic inequity continues to plague our society, with widening access, outcomes, and wealth gaps affecting millions of people. Reimagine education and career navigation. The vast world of education and training options is increasingly difficult for learners to understand and navigate. Ensure program quality and efficacy. With myriad new education and training providers emerging, people lack the objective information they need to assess which programs will help them meet their goals. Integrate work and learning. Prevailing models are disconnected and ill-equipped to prepare workers for our rapidly changing economy and meet employer needs. Build strong regional economies. Inadequate education and workforce systems, isolated from regional economic strategies and innovative national approaches, hamper regional growth and development. Visit to learn more.

New America is a new kind of think and action tank that develops policies, platforms, products, and new practices to advance equity and affect meaningful change in people’s lives across five broad “clusters”: technology and democracy; family economic security; people and planet-centered politics; education from birth to workforce; and political reform and civic cohesion. Our talented team is more than just policy specialists — we’re visionary researchers, changemakers, technologists, and storytellers who understand the challenges presented by dramatic social and technological change. We search for powerful ideas wherever they are—not just in D.C. but anywhere change happens in today’s world. We maintain specific commitments across all the clusters we work in – centering equity, creating narrative change and supporting storytelling, field and pipeline building, and local engagement and participation. Visit to learn more.

About the Funders

The Annie E. Casey Foundation is a private philanthropy that creates a brighter future for the nation’s children and youth by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is guided by the belief that every life has equal value and works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, Washington, the foundation is led by CEO Mark Suzman, under the direction of co-chairs Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates and the board of trustees.

Bloomberg Philanthropies invests in 700 cities and 150 countries around the world to ensure better, longer lives for the greatest number of people. The organization focuses on five key areas for creating lasting change: the Arts, Education, Environment, Government Innovation, and Public Health. Bloomberg Philanthropies encompasses all of Michael R.Bloomberg’s giving, including his foundation, corporate, and personal philanthropy as well as Bloomberg Associates, a pro bono consultancy that works in cities around the world. In 2022, Bloomberg Philanthropies distributed $1.7 billion. For more information, please visit or follow us on FacebookInstagramYouTubeTwitter, and LinkedIn.

Carnegie Corporation of New York is one of the nation’s oldest philanthropic foundations, established by Andrew Carnegie in 1911 to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding. In keeping with this mission, the Corporation’s grantmaking focuses on the issues that Carnegie considered of paramount importance: education, international peace, and a strong democracy.

The Joyce Foundation is a private, nonpartisan philanthropy that invests in public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region. The Foundation has six program areas: Culture, Democracy, Education & Economic Mobility, Environment, Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform, and Journalism. The Foundation focuses its grant making primarily in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin, while exploring promising evidence-informed policy solutions nationally and at the federal level.

Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. To learn more, visit and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.