Creating College & Career Pathways

The Commonwealth has launched a College and Career Pathways initiative that will aim to expand student access to high-quality career pathways. In addition to Vocational Programs, there are two new types of pathways for this effort: Innovation Pathways and Early College.

Table of Contents

Innovation Pathways

Innovation Pathways provide high school students with a coherent course of study focused on a particular field, while also offering them access to college-level courses and internship opportunities to gain work experience in a specific high-demand industry, such as information technology, engineering, healthcare, life sciences and advanced manufacturing. Students gain insight about whether the field is something they would like to pursue in college or as a career after high school.

As of July 1, 2022 59 high schools have achieved program designation by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. 13 of the high schools are in Gateway Cities. The schools are offering a total of 148 pathways. 15 MassHire Boards are partnering with the high schools. In School year 22-23 the 4000 of students are projected to be served by the Innovation Pathway programs.

Early College

Early college programs combine traditional high school courses with an opportunity to earn college credit at a college or university. 

As of July 1, 2022, 51 high schools have achieved program designation by the Early College Joint Committee. 16 of the high schools are in Gateway Cities. 24 colleges or Universities are partnering with the high schools. In School Year 22-23, 7,500 students are projected to be served by designated Early College programs and are scheduled to enroll in approximately 50,000 college credits.


 Design Principles

Under the Early College Designation put forth by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) and Board of Elementary & Secondary Education (BESE), approved designated early college programs in Massachusetts will align with the following design principles:

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1. Equitable Access

targeting students underrepresented in higher education
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4. Connections to Career

through workplace and experiential learning experiences
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2. Academic Pathways

that are well integrated and aligned with college and career
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5. High-Quality & Deep Partnerships

between high schools and colleges
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3. Robust Student Support

in both academics and advising

STEM Tech Career Academies

STEM Tech Career Academies are new six-year programs that enable high school students to earn both a high school diploma and a post-secondary credential at a community college, at no cost to the students.

As of October 2022, $6.5 million in multi-year grants was committed to cover the costs of planning, implementation, and launch for STEM Tech Career Academies. High schools, community colleges and employers will work together to plan and launch four to six different STEM Tech Career Academies across the Commonwealth.

STEM Tech Career Academies combine and extend key elements of the highly successful Early College and early career Innovation Pathways programs that were launched several years ago, including technical curriculum, work-based learning experiences, post-secondary courses, and college and career coaching. The administration anticipates that by fall of 2023, more than 75 high schools will have students enrolled in Innovation Pathway programs and 65 high schools will have Early College programs, which can serve as starting points for STEM Tech Career Academies.

The initiative is modeled after P-Tech, a grades 9-14 school model where students earn a high school diploma, an industry-recognized associate degree and gain relevant work experience in a growing field. Students completing a P-Tech program are typically provided with hiring preferences by participating employers.

STEM Internships

There's a new internship program is in its first year, providing an additional 2,300 high school students with opportunities for paid work experiences in STEM fields and making it easier for companies to hire students by paying their salaries through local MassHire Career Centers and Workforce Boards. More than 10,000 students annually are participating in state-sponsored internships when combined with the Connecting Activities program. Connecting Activities is a joint initiative of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development that supports college and career readiness for high school students by partnering with local MassHire Workforce Boards to connect schools with businesses. Each year, approximately 7,700 high school students participate in Connecting Activities internships. 

Career Technical Education

A Career Technical Education (CTE) provides students with a specific occupational focus, where students at a vocational school or a program within a comprehensive high school take an organized sequence of courses designed to educate and prepare them for both employment and continuing academic opportunities. These programs teach technical, academic and employability skills within 44 frameworks in 11 career clusters, based on occupations in demand in Massachusetts.

As of July 1, 2022, 92 districts have some form of Chapter 74 program designation by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Across the state, 54,300 students participated in Chapter 74 programs; this includes 14, 977 students served in Chapter 74 programs in Gateway Cities and 353 students served in After Dark programs. In School year 22-23 it is expected that 20% of MA public high school students are projected to be served by Chapter 74 programs.  

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