Guidance Gap: The Biggest Challenge We Face and How to Close It

By Tom Vander Ark – April 4, 2019

The innovation economy job market is changing fast. New jobs are being created, old jobs are being augmented by smart technology, and jobs based on repetitive rule application are going away. Faster and cheaper alternatives to traditional higher education are gaining traction. A few high schools are propelling graduates into lucrative technical careers. There are more learning options than ever.

With more career pathways and more learning options, guidance is more important than ever. Young people that have access to informed guidance and an opportunity to test out a variety of career pathways through work-based learning have a big leg up. In fact, the guidance gap may be a bigger barrier to more young people achieving success in life than the achievement gap.

Sustained advisory relationships are the key to closing the guidance gap. While the human touch will be key for the foreseeable future, artificial intelligence (AI) is playing an increasing role in supporting advisory relationships.

Advisors and AI-powered algorithms come together in advisory systems that monitor academic and social development and provides career advice. They should be the spine of any secondary and postsecondary school design. These distributed counseling models ensure that every learner feels known, respected, supported, and informed.

There are seven advisory functions that are or soon will be augmented services:

  1. Progress monitoring: Weekly monitoring of academic and social development, goal setting and making decisions about next steps. Chatbots are already “listening” to college students and making institutions more responsive.
  2. Supports: Connections to youth and family services for academic and life support.
  3. Careers: Support for career awareness and work-based learning experiences that support deeper exploration.
  4. College: Support postsecondary education awareness, application, preparation and project managing the whole experience.
  5. Health: Promote health and wellness, track progress, recommend growth experiences– that could range from a health nudge (like “get up and move”) to a badged fitness experience to a health-focused degree pathway.
  6. Life skills: Learning financial literacy, digital citizenship, study skills and project management.
  7. Profiles: Learners will develop comprehensive profiles and portfolios with examples of work available for autoscoring engines that will recommend next steps or unlock opportunities.

In all seven of these functions, learners and advisors will be informed by background monitoring and smart recommendations.

There are seven advisory functions that (for the next few years) will be important human services:

  1. Culture: Discussion of shared values and support for student-led initiatives that develop and grow a positive school culture.
  2. SEL: Support social and emotional development with learning experiences and feedback.
  3. Mindset: Support the development of innovation mindsets, including growth, team and maker elements through open-ended challenges.
  4. Peer mentoring: Foster peer learning and team building experiences. (Like Acton Academy, this could include high school students supporting goal setting for middle school students.)
  5. Integration: Facilitate cross-curricular project-based learning (recommendation engines will soon help).
  6. Exhibitions: Prepare for student-led conferences and community exhibitions that encourage quality work and student agency.
  7. Place: Involve community partners as guest speakers and project mentors. Facilitate place-based learning experiences.

The dynamic employment market and expanding array of high school and postsecondary learning options make advisory services mission critical.

There is a global market opportunity for products and services that support advisory services (in and out of school) that offer early warning systems, smart recommendations, links to career exploration and career-ready skill development. Advisory will soon be the best and most important example of AI-augmented services in education.