Q&A: Mark Brainard on Pathways to Prosperity

Mark Brainard, J.D. Pathways to Prosperity

Pathways to Prosperity is a partnership between public schools, higher education and the business community that guides high school students who aren’t headed into four-year colleges into careers with high growth potential. Mark Brainard, J.D., president of Delaware Technical Community College, describes its origins and how it works.

What is the basis for Pathways to Prosperity?

A: Some 25 years ago, Harvard Professor Bob Schwartz did a study called “The Forgotten Half,” which found that about 48 percent of high school graduates did not intend to go directly to college. Years later, he repeated the research and found that the numbers had not changed. Between 60 and 70 percent of the entry-level jobs available today require either some college training or a professional certification. We needed to do something to prepare our high school graduates for these jobs. The Delaware program is part of a national network directed by Schwartz at Harvard University.

How does Pathways work?

Students get their first exposure to career options in middle school. Then, in high school, they may choose from among the pathways their school offers. Pathways exposes middle school students to careers and provides work experiences for high school students, making them both college ready and career ready.
In the Advanced Manufacturing pathway, for example, students earn their high school diploma, get 200 hours of work-based learning experiences with a participating Delaware business, earn seven to 13 hours of college credit and receive national certification in an advanced manufacturing specialty. That means that students, when they graduate, can go directly to work, enroll in college or do both.

How many pathways are there?

Since introducing advanced manufacturing in 2015, the state has added 14 more pathways, in areas like biomedical science, computer networking, finance, health care, environmental science and culinary and hospitality management.

How do businesses participate?

Besides giving students on-the-job experience, businesses participate in developing the curriculum, to make sure schools are teaching the skills and competencies the students will need to succeed after they graduate. They also help us track anticipated growth in each field, so the pathways generate just about the right number of graduates that our businesses will need.


This article appeared in the premiere issue of Delaware Innovation Magazine, an overview of the state’s cutting edge industries and the people leading them. See the whole issue here.

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