College and Workplace Readiness Criteria Omit Key Competencies for Healthy Development Among Youth

National attention regarding the lack of preparedness of high school graduates for college and the workplace has motivated researchers, educators, and policymakers to define the skills and competencies students need in order to be successful.

A new Child Trends report, A Developmental Perspective on College and Workplace Readiness, finds that there are many opportunities for high schools to widen the road to success by focusing on the competencies necessary for the development of the whole young person. 

The report complements prior research on college readiness, workplace readiness, and youth development, identifying areas of consensus as well as gaps.  It also focuses on successful strategies for groups of students that face greater challenges in preparing for college, the workplace and the transition to adulthood.

A Developmental Perspective identifies several critical gaps in the criteria used by colleges and employers to determine the competence of young applicants, among them:

  • College readiness criteria could be expanded to include healthy behaviors, avoiding risky behaviors, positive mental health, resilience, a strong work ethic and moral character, social competence, and creativity.
  • Workplace readiness criteria could be expanded to include positive mental health and resilience, as well as social support and having a sense of purpose to enable youth to be prepared for the fluctuations in the labor market and in their place of work.

The report also identifies strengths valued by colleges and employers, but largely overlooked in the youth development research literature, for example:

  • Youth development strengths could be expanded to include specific communication skills needed by employers, in addition to the ability to reason.

The report includes a chart of key competencies identified in the research that youth need to negotiate the road to college, work, and adulthood, and indicates the strength of the research behind each competency.

About Child Trends
Child Trends is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center that studies children at every stage of development.  Its mission is to improve outcomes for children by providing research, data, and analysis to the people and institutions whose decisions and actions affect children.