4: Cities throughout the US – Career Academies

Career Academies in the US aim to prepare young people to make successful transitions into post secondary education or employment.69 The Academies have three core components: small learning communities, academic and technical curricula combined around a career theme, and employer partnerships to provide work-based learning opportunities.

An evaluation70 found the programme resulted in significant long-run wage impacts: young men who attended one of the Career Academies earned nearly $30,000 more over the eight year period. While the Academies were found to have no impact on educational attainment, investment in career-related experiences were found to result in substantial and sustained improvements in labour market prospects. It is also one of only a few youth-focused interventions in the US that have been found to improve the labour market prospects of young men.

The researchers emphasise that it is difficult to attribute the impacts to a particular feature of Career Academies but preliminary findings suggests that “substantial increases in students’ exposure to career awareness and development activities were associated with more substantial labour market impacts”. Career awareness and development activities included: job shadowing, work-based learning activities, career fairs, guest speakers and career-related guidance. The study demonstrates that it is possible to accomplish “the goals of school-to-career and career-technical education without compromising academic goals”.


  • 69 Kemple, J. (2008) Career Academies: Long-term impacts on labour market outcomes, educational attainment, and transitions to adulthood, MDRC
  • 70 MDRC used a longitudinal random assignment evaluation assessing outcomes from nine schools across the US. The results are based on the experiences of more than 1,400 young people.