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Unlocking Career Success is an interagency initiative that reimagines how our nation’s high schools prepare all students to thrive in their future careers. The initiative blurs the lines between high school, college, and career, providing students with accelerated and innovative opportunities to earn college credits and gain real-world career experiences. This joint effort across the U.S. Departments of Education, Labor, and Commerce will support public and private sector leaders, government agencies, and other community-based organizations to help students earn postsecondary degrees and industry credentials that our employers need, and our economy demands. Together, we can create multiple pathways to success and fulfill the promise of education as a bridge for people to create the lives that they want and help our students to reach their endless potential.

The Problem

Today, most good jobs—or those that provide a living wage—require some form of career-connected postsecondary education and training. This demand will only continue to grow, with 70% of jobs requiring education or training beyond high school by 2027. As such, the United States needs to dramatically increase the population that possesses a postsecondary credential. We need to connect our education and workforce systems to unlock pathways into the middle class, providing lifelong social and economic mobility.

The Solution

We must redesign our education and workforce systems to become on-ramps for young people to enter rewarding careers. We can spur this action by using American Rescue Plan funds and other braided federal dollars to grow career pathway systems that equip students with the keys that they need to drive their future: dual enrollment, work-based learning, workforce credentials, and career advising and navigation. Our collective investment will help our students to find their passion and purpose. It will provide them with career-connected learning experiences that sharpen their skills, build their networks, and help them define their future selves. Together, let’s position our youth to pursue great jobs in their hometown and to be globally competitive in our increasingly complex and international labor market. Through the Unlocking Career Success initiative, students will gain hands-on experiences in emerging, innovative industries that our nation needs to build and lead for our future—in areas such as biotechnology, cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing, and more.

Our Vision

  • Received personalized career guidance and Career Advising and Navigation that is informed by labor market data, plans for next steps, and empowers students and their families to make real choices about their futures;
  • Engaged in paid work-based learning in which they solve real world problems, hone their skills, build networks of social capital, and gain experience in the workplace;
  • Received their first industry credential(s) that demonstrates that they have the competencies and skills that employers are seeking; and
  • Earned at least 12 college credits, including academic-content and career connected courses through dual enrollment opportunities.


The Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Appropriations legislation includes $1.47 billion for Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. This includes an increase of $50 million for CTE state grants that will expand access to career-connected programs for more students, and $25 million for the Biden-Harris Administration’s Career Connected High Schools program. This program will support a competitive grant to build system capacity to support alignment and integration between the secondary, postsecondary, and career ecosystems. These partnerships will encourage earning college credit while in high school through dual enrollment in core content and career and technical coursework, paid work-based learning opportunities, industry-sought credentials, and Career Advising and Navigation supports.


Our Pillars

Strategies to prepare students for their futures.

Dual Enrollment

Earn college credit during high school

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Work-based Learning

Gain early exposure to real world experience

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Workforce Credentials

Develop a competitive edge for your career

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Career Advising and Navigation

Make informed decisions about life after high school

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