Career Readiness

We are committed to improving postsecondary career and technical education (CTE) outcomes for students from underserved backgrounds.

In the United States, higher education is one of the most reliable pathways to a fulfilling career with financial stability and upward mobility. While a degree from a four-year institution can be the key to economic opportunity, there is a growing demand for workers with education beyond a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree.

Postsecondary career and technical education (CTE) provides the academic, technical, and professional skills needed to access these middle-skills jobs that offer family-sustaining wages and lifelong learning opportunities while providing employers with the qualified and diverse talent they need.

Nearly 4 in 10 undergraduate students are enrolled in postsecondary CTE programs, which are often under-resourced.

Nearly four in 10 undergraduate students are enrolled in postsecondary CTE programs. These students tend to be over the age of 25 or the first in their family to attend college and face competing demands for their time, including work and family responsibilities. At the same time, the community and technical colleges and community-based organizations that offer postsecondary CTE programs are often under-resourced, limiting their ability to create and sustain the environment necessary to meet the needs of a diverse student body and the demands of local industry.

The Career Readiness focus area supports innovative approaches and promising practices to improve the success of students from underserved backgrounds seeking academic credentials in postsecondary CTE programs. Career Readiness also funds projects with a particular focus on promoting the postsecondary success of single mothers and current or formerly incarcerated individuals, populations who have historically received less attention and support.

Career Readiness grants fund projects, programs and initiatives that aim to:

  • Enable institutions and organizations to implement innovative approaches to improving postsecondary CTE and generate learnings that will be beneficial to the field.
  • Utilize intermediaries to build the capacity of institutions and organizations to sustain and scale promising practices.
  • Support organizations to research, evaluate, and share efforts to improve practice and inform policy.

To improve outcomes, the Career Readiness team believes postsecondary CTE programs should incorporate learner-centered approaches, offer wraparound supports, integrate industry-informed pathways, facilitate cross-sector collaboration and develop postsecondary community and technical college leaders. Our theory of change is that learners who complete credit-bearing programs and earn academic credentials will be more successful navigating career pathways and experience improved socioeconomic mobility over time.

Our Career Readiness grantees

Special Initiatives

Career Readiness supports this nascent field through funding innovative approaches to improve outcomes for postsecondary CTE.

Single Mother Student Success

A $10 million effort over five years to boost the share of single mothers who attain an associate degree. Single mothers, who represent about 11% of all undergraduate students in the United States and are disproportionately women of color, have lower graduation rates than other students. Nine in ten single mother students have incomes at or near the poverty line and nearly half (44%) attend community colleges. Higher rates of college attainment among single mothers would substantially improve economic security and long-term outcomes for their families.

Improving Online CTE

A $2.5 million investment in innovative solutions to improve student outcomes and close equity gaps in online CTE. The goal of CTE CoLab, led by Urban Institute in partnership with five national organizations, is to work toward reducing completion gaps in online postsecondary CTE programs, especially for Black and Latinx students, and seed the innovative change that CTE needs to meet this moment and thrive in the future.

CTE Leadership Collaborative (LC)

A $20 million, 7-year initiative focused on bringing together diverse perspectives and equipping CTE leaders with the tools, resources and skills needed to advance postsecondary CTE. Rooted in the belief that prepared and diverse leadership leads to better outcomes, each LC grantee provides professional development opportunities for individuals dedicated to improving postsecondary CTE.

ECMC Education

An affiliate of ECMC Group and a nonprofit CTE provider. Funding from the Foundation supports the testing, adopting and sharing of new approaches to add new programs in high-demand industries, design quality curriculum, modernize program delivery with new technologies and build simulated learning environments to match real-world experience.


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Career Readiness Team

Big Bet

Improving Online CTE

To build upon previous investments and ensure online CTE programs incorporate learner-centered approaches, offer wraparound supports and integrate industry-informed pathways, ECMC Foundation has made a significant investment of $2.5 million to improve student outcomes and close equity gaps in online CTE.

Learn More