In this interview, REL West Senior Research Associate Mary Rauner discusses the Arizona Partnership for Education and Career Success (APECS), which seeks to build a strong education-to-career pipeline through statewide cross-sector partnerships. The interview first appeared in the June 2018 REL West Newsletter.

Mary, can you tell us what the primary goals of this partnership are?

The primary goal is to provide support and technical assistance for using data in cross-sector partnerships focused on improving education and career outcomes. For instance, we support Arizona’s Education and Career Action Plan (ECAP) initiative, which requires all grade 9–12 students to maintain portfolios of coursework plans, career aspirations, and extended learning opportunities. Maintaining those portfolios enhances students’ abilities to identify their interests, skills, and strengths and apply that information to their own action plan. The initiative aims to provide students with a more seamless transition into postsecondary institutions and work places.

Why is the cross-sector approach so important in this work?

Our Arizona Partnership for Education and Career Success includes representatives from multiple sectors — including staff from the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) and other education, government, business, industry, and community organizations.

Although the ECAP initiative currently targets students in high school, ADE would like to see ECAP use expand to middle schools and postsecondary institutions. This would encourage students to think about their education and career plans at younger ages and to continue intentionally planning their education and career trajectory until they complete their final certificate or degree. Successful ECAP expansion would require a cross-sector approach — collaborating across education institutions, as well as engaging businesses, nonprofits, and local government through mentoring, tutoring, FAFSA and college application support, and job shadowing and internships.

What are some features of effective cross-sector partnerships?

The literature suggests that cross-sector collaboration can be a key strategy for strengthening education and career efforts, especially for students who are underrepresented in higher education. In a scan of research on cross-sector collaborations that support education and career development, we identified some key characteristics of productive and sustaining partnerships. These include establishing formal and informal partnership agreements; identifying shared goals and outcome measures; having strong and sustained commitment and communication; using data to guide decisionmaking; and maintaining flexibility and adaptability.

The focus during the early months of this partnership has been on building a shared understanding about effective education and career planning and what sort of relevant data are currently available in Arizona – what have you found so far and how do you hope to build on this early work?

Early in our alliance work, we learned that our partners had a strong desire to use data to inform their education and career efforts but didn’t know what data sources were publicly available to them and what was included in each one. We developed an inventory of education and career data sources that catalogues selected Arizona organizations and initiatives that support student education and career success. The inventory describes the service areas in which they operate and the specific data sources they are using. Both the data inventory and the literature compilation will inform the ongoing work of the alliance.

Learn more about the Arizona Partnership for Education and Career Success.

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