What are the Key Distinguishers?

The Key Distinguishers embrace a core set of practices that help all stakeholders involved in youth talent development—including young people, schools, community-based organizations, and employers—to come together and ensure they are meeting shared expectations for a high-quality, impactful system that works well for ALL students, employers, and the economy. The Key Distinguishers, developed by and for practitioners, provide guidance and examples of how to achieve the goals of the CareerReadyNYC framework.   

In our work to date, we have identified eight Key Distinguishers that are the principles core to braiding learning from work into academic pathways:

  1. Collaborative design
  2. Partnerships
  3. Staffing and infrastructure
  4. Data and accountability
  5. Student career success
  6. Credit for learning from work
  7. Social capital
  8. Competencies for family-sustaining careers

Building an inclusive economy, one that cultivates the success of ALL young people, demands we reinvent our youth talent development strategy with a unified vision for high-quality experiences.

To create a new youth talent development strategy—one that places work-based learning at its center—we must act now to build out a shared criteria across the industries, groups, and people invested in youth talent development. Only when we have a unified understanding of what high-quality experiences look like—and the components necessary to achieve them—can we move toward our shared vision of a city in which all young people can contribute to and benefit from a thriving economy.  

Implementing the Key Distinguishers

This year, we’re working with our partners to roll out the Key Distinguishers, further testing, developing, and championing the essential features of integrated work-based learning as a framework for making best practice common practice and elevating student career success. We aim to release the Key Distinguishers 1.0 as a pragmatic and go-to tool for use by practitioners as well as other stakeholders eager to advance this work.

While we look ahead, we’re also encouraged by the positive impact the Key Distinguishers have had to date and continue to use past learnings to inform our evolving work. Read more to learn how the Key Distinguishers are already adding value.

Adding Value through the Key Distinguishers

All stakeholders can benefit from adopting a shared language, standards of practice, and understanding of what constitutes—and what it takes to implement—robust integrated work-based learning. Shared language and criteria facilitate more efficient and productive partnerships, a necessity for braiding learning from work with academics. A collective understanding of what it takes to implement high-quality work-based learning can help inform and guide policy, uncover and tackle barriers, build the case for advocacy, and increase resources, at both an institutional and systemic level.

Elevating Student Voice

HERE to HERE believes the talent of young people fuels our economy and our world. Yet New York City as a community is more vulnerable because we do not enable all young people to develop and contribute their talent. 

Core to the Key Distinguishers is our belief that work-based learning must, while promoting student career success, also uphold and champion student voice. As we build standards of practice for high-quality experiences, we must ensure that these developments don’t simply benefit young people, but are also informed by and co-created with young people.

Upholding Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Standards of practice must acknowledge pervasive inequities faced by young people, particularly people of color who come from underserved communities. We know that these inequities have long existed in New York City—along lines of geography, income level, race, and ethnicity—and that the Covid pandemic has only exacerbated these disparities. We believe work-based learning can be a tool for social equity, and by placing diversity, equity, and inclusion front-and-center, be a driving force in addressing these issues.