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May 10, 2019

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The Drive for Purposeful Work: A New Way for Stark to Look at Career Pathways

...[A] focus on helping students find purpose in work is a powerful way of developing in students the kind of agency and adaptability they need to thrive in today's world.[1]

The world of work is evolving and it comes as no surprise that today's college graduate will need to be prepared to fill 10 or 15 different positions in their lifetimes, many of which have yet to exist. How then do we prepare students to adapt to an ever-evolving workforce? In a global marketplace, the answer will become critically important to economies at the national, state, and regional level such as Stark County.

Part of the answer may well lie in filling what is becoming known as the "Purpose Gap." A recent study by Gallup for Bates College found that four out of five college graduates now say finding purpose in their work (defined as a job that aligns with a person's interests, strengths and values) is very, or extremely important. Yet, less than half succeed in finding purposeful work.[2] For these graduates, purpose is as important as a paycheck. 

Gallup also found that four key undergraduate experiences closely aligned to graduates having high levels of purpose in their jobs. These were:
  • Having an applied internship or job
  • Having someone who encourages their goals and dreams
  • Being given realistic expectations for post-graduation employment
  • Participating in a class/program that helped them think about pursuing meaning in work [3]
All these experiences are consistent with the call of the landmark report on economic vibrancy Strengthening Stark that our "job preparation efforts should emphasize the value of career pathways that lead to prosperity, not just employment."[4] Employees who find purpose in their work increase the "bottom-line" of whatever industry they are in. They are more productive and will stay and grow with the companies that employ them while strengthening the communities in which they live. Stark County is on the verge of a transformation, and purposeful employment may be what is needed to grow and sustain a young workforce.

[1] Gallup and Bates College (2019) Forging Pathways to Purposeful Work | The Role of Higher Education
[2] Ibid, p. 5.
[3] Ibid, p. 5.
[4] See Strengthening Stark: A Call for Economic Transformation, p. 26.
About the Partnership Long Header
The Stark Education Partnership - a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in Stark County, Ohio -  is a catalyst, engaging and collaborating with education, business, civic and community stakeholders to drive sustainable improvement and innovation to provide all students with education and career success.  

Questions or comments? Email or call 330-452-0829. Visit our website at
Stark Education Partnership, 400 Market Avenue North - Suite B, Canton, OH 44702
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