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Movement Building | Thought Leadership | Workforce Development |

An Evolving CareerWise Network Learning Agenda

By Mandana Nakhai | Development & Research Manager, CareerWise

At CareerWise, we believe we can learn more about how to grow youth apprenticeship and increase its impact by learning from communities doing the work across unique geographies and contexts than would be possible by focusing on a single program. To maximize the learning potential of our growing national network, practitioners gather monthly for a Community of Practice (CoP) convening. During these sessions, we learn about what each community is trying, where they are seeing obstacles and opportunities, and gain a birds’ eye view of the network’s evolution. 

As CareerWise communities grow their programs, we are exploring where we can conduct evaluation activities across the network and where site-specific data collection and analysis will yield the most useful insights. We started by anchoring ourselves in each site’s current evaluation strategy and assessing differences and similarities in the learning questions that drive them. Through the recent CoP, we created a landscape of priority learning questions, informing the start of a network-wide learning agenda.

The CareerWise network sets itself apart because we are all implementers of youth apprenticeship. We are learning from our own successes and challenges. Building evidence around implementation questions is essential to learning what does and does not work and to adapting current models. Without some understanding of how and why the model works, outcomes, positive or negative, are difficult to attribute to the apprenticeship. Our priority questions as a network include:

  • What are the characteristics of a student who is likely to complete the apprenticeship and for whom the opportunity will be most impactful? 
  • Why don’t apprentices complete? What interventions and program designs most effectively encourage completion?
  • Do employers view youth apprenticeship as philanthropy/CSR or a strategic investment – or both? How do employers define a positive return on their investment into youth apprenticeship? 
  • How do apprentices and their parents view the apprenticeship path in relation to college? What does successful participation look like for them?
  • What and when are apprentices learning? How do we know? How do learning outcomes relate to program completion and time in apprenticeship? Sites are also interested in when apprentices are attaining competencies, what contributes to competency attainment and how apprentices themselves understand competency attainment. 

A key tenet of our evolving learning agenda is its utility and practitioner focus. Our questions are not merely curiosities. Any meaningful evidence we can build around these questions (most recently including the Harvard Project on Workforce report The Options Multiplier on CareerWise), understanding that we seek progressive understanding rather than black/white answers, will directly inform programmatic decisions and improvements. As we continue to construct the building blocks of our network evaluation practice, we will use these questions as our guidepost.