Preparing All Youth for Education & Career Decision Making: The Promise of Individualized Learning Plans

Several students holding their books are shown together on a campus.Are the middle and high school age youth that you know prepared to make sound decisions about their education and career pathways? In other words,

  • Are they able to identify their own career interests, skills, and work values?
  • Are they knowledgeable about various career options that match up with their interests, skills and values?
  • Are they aware of what high school courses, postsecondary education, and employability skills are required to pursue the careers that interest them?
  • Are they learning what it might be like to work in careers of interest by participating in paid or unpaid work experiences and other career exploration activities either in or out of school (e.g. job shadowing, workplace tours, employer presentations, career-focused mentors)?

If you answered YES to most or all of these questions, that’s great news! All young people need career preparation and work-based learning opportunities (Area 2 of the Guideposts for Success) like those described above, so the youth you know are becoming equipped for a successful transition to adulthood. Unfortunately, many young people are not receiving these critical opportunities, and as a result, they are ill-prepared to make informed choices and navigate the transition from high school into and through postsecondary education and employment.

Thanks to the increasing use of individualized learning plans (ILPs) in states and school districts across the U.S., it is becoming more common for middle and high schools students to receive at least some career development opportunities at school. An individualized learning plan (ILP) is both a document and a process that students use – with support from school counselors, teachers, and parents – to define their career goals and postsecondary plans in order to inform the students’ decisions about their courses and activities throughout high school. (Read the ILP Fact Sheet for a fuller description.)

Because of their potential to increase career development opportunities for all students, including students with disabilities, NCWD/Youth has been studying the characteristics and use of ILPs across states. In a new policy brief titled, “Using Individualized Learning Plans to Produce College and Career Ready High School Graduates,” we share our key research findings and recommendations for various stakeholders.

Last month, the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) sponsored a Capitol Hill Policy Forum about NCWD/Youth’s research on how states are using ILPs. The Forum included a presentation by Dr. Terry Holliday, Kentucky Commissioner of Education, on Kentucky’s experience implementing ILPs for all students statewide. The summary of this policy forum and the presentation slides are available on AYPF’s website.

One of NCWD/Youth’s key research findings has to do with defining a quality individualized learning plan. Based on our review of states’ ILP policies and practices and studies of how they are being used and affecting student outcomes, NCWD/Youth defines a quality ILP as:

  • A document consisting of: (a) course taking and post-secondary plans aligned to career goals; and (b) documentation of the range of college and career readiness skills that the student has developed.
  • A process that enhances the relevance of school and out-of-school learning opportunities, and provides the student access to career development opportunities that incorporate self-exploration, career exploration, and career planning and management skill building activities.

To learn more about ILPs and our research findings and recommendations, read the policy brief and join us on March 26, 11 am to 12 pm EDT for a Twitter Chat when we will talk with Dr. Scott Solberg (@vsolberg), Associate Dean of Research at Boston University’s School of Education and NCWD/Youth’s principal investigator. To join the discussion, follow NCWD/Youth on Twitter, @ncwdyouth_iel, and use the #ILPchat hashtag to share your own questions and comments on the topic.

Related Resources:

By Mindy Larson, Senior Program Associate, with the National Collaborative on Workforce & Disability for Youth at the Institute for Educational Leadership’s Center for Workforce Development.

Photo courtesy of: photostock /

This entry was posted in Assessment, Career Exploration, Career Preparation, Education, Guideposts for Success, Individualized Learning Plan, Policy, Tools and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Preparing All Youth for Education & Career Decision Making: The Promise of Individualized Learning Plans

  1. Pingback: Preparing All Youth for Education & Career Decision Making: The Promise of Individualized Learning Plans | Career & College Clubs

Leave a Reply