Career Readiness Standards: Essentials of Management

Career readiness bridges the gap between education and workforce preparation. Deploying career readiness standards can have a profound effect on student engagement, graduation rates, and career success.

Why Is Career Readiness So Important?

According to the US Department of Education, American students are falling behind on a global scale. Schools are not keeping pace with workforce needs. As many as half of US students going to college after high school need remedial education, and half never graduate.

These are just a few reasons that employers have become increasingly frustrated with student career preparation. There’s a huge gap in perception: many students consider themselves proficient in areas that employers say that they are not.

For example, a study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) showed that 89% of students rate themselves proficient in professionalism and work ethic compared to 42.5% of employers. About 70% of students rate themselves highly on leadership compared to only a third of employers.

Career readiness faces multiple challenges in today’s education system. Many schools and school districts lack access to the tools that they need to provide consistent career education. The National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research also states that a lack of career readiness standards often leads to program ebbs and flows based on funding and personnel.

One of the keys to better preparing students for their futures is the application of career readiness standards to overcome these challenges.

Career Readiness Standards

NACE has defined eight competencies that students need to achieve to be career-ready. These form the baseline for career readiness standards and a way for educators to measure their progress.

  1. Career and Self-Development
  2. Communication
  3. Critical Thinking
  4. Equity and Inclusion
  5. Leadership
  6. Professionalism
  7. Teamwork
  8. Technology

Career and Self-Development

Students need to be immersed in career exploration. This includes a self-assessment of their skills, interests, and exposure to diverse jobs. Students must have the ability to see how their education aligns with their career goals and model curricula to provide the skills needed to succeed.


Educators must communicate the connections between education, career readiness, and career success. Career readiness standards must account for various learning styles, communication capabilities, and cultural differences.

Critical Thinking

Situational context and logical analysis form the basis of critical thinking. Students must have the skills to gather and analyze data to make decisions and solve problems. Regardless of what career path a student chooses, critical thinking will be a foundational skill.

Equity and Inclusion

Educators need to practice equity and inclusion to avoid disenfranchising students. Teachers and counselors need to account for cultural differences and socio-economic limitations. So much of career readiness standards are focused on college prep, but educators need to provide an equitable presentation for students who opt for careers that do not require a four-year education.


Across any career, students will benefit from acquiring leadership skills. Educators also must demonstrate leadership when helping students prepare for careers. Discussions need to positively present options for students, and career readiness standards should be about inspiring and motivating students.


In the 1970s and 1980s, nearly 60% of teenagers held jobs while attending school. Today, it’s closer to a third. Therefore, students don’t have as many opportunities to develop workplace skills. Employers cite a lack of professionalism among new employees, especially those who have never held a job before. Career readiness standards should provide training on professionalism and workplace etiquette.


Teamwork and collaboration are crucial skills in the workplace. These include the ability to listen to others, understand conflicting viewpoints, and work with coworkers to achieve common goals. Career readiness standards should emphasize teamwork and collaboration.


Nearly every job requires the use of some level of technology. While students today are more technically proficient than previous generations, career readiness standards also need to ensure that students have the basic tech skills needed to function in the workplace.

Building an Effective Career Readiness Strategy

Building an effective career readiness strategy also requires a proactive plan. The Career Readiness Partner Council recommends high school teachers, leaders, and counselors:

  • Engage with business and industry to better understand and develop joint goals for college and career readiness.
  • Expand “college-bound” to “career-bound” to include diverse students and ensure equity and access.
  • Engage parents and students in developing long-term career goals and help chart a path for students that aligns with their interests and talents.

XAP Helps Prepare Students for Careers

XAP’s Choices360 helps students explore career choices and create curricula designed to provide them with the information that they will need to make an informed career and academic plan. It also provides schools and school districts with a cost-effective and easy-to-deploy solution to improve career planning and readiness for students.

Students can investigate careers using the self-assessment tools to determine interests, aptitudes, values, and skills. Once they define a career path, Choices360 helps create a curriculum that aligns with career readiness. Educators can customize the plans and help students craft their career journeys.

Here at XAP, we believe that exploration lays the foundation for planning. That’s why we help school and district counseling leaders implement equitable programs and strategies to ensure that students graduate high school not only with a diploma but also with a plan.

To see how we can help you better support your students and drive state, district, and school initiatives with greater ease, transparency, and data, feel free to contact our specialists today!

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