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Research Shows Need for Career Literacy

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Research Before and Since Pandemic Finds Gap Exists Between Youth Career Expectations and Career Readiness 

Kansas City, MO —  A recent research study of 700 youth and 300 adults, commissioned by The DeBruce Foundation, indicates there is a tremendous opportunity to impact youth who have yet to decide on a career path or don’t know where to start. 

Among other things, the research found 90% of youth are confident they will achieve their career goals, yet only 63% reported knowing what things to do to prepare for a career, and only 35% of youth know what career they want. In addition, 67% of youth have considered 2 or fewer careers, despite national trends that show they will hold an average of 12 different jobs throughout their working life. 

Over two-thirds (68%) of young people in the survey said the pandemic changed their approach to their job or career at least a little bit. One in five say it changed their approach completely. 

The data underscores the need for career literacy and calls on the wider community to help equip young people for success in an ever-changing workforce. The DeBruce Foundation’s online tools housed at, including the Agile Work Profiler, are designed to meet this need. 

“We also know youth who have the most to gain tend to have the least access to tools like the Agile Work Profiler,” said Dr. Leigh Anne Taylor Knight, Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of The DeBruce Foundation. “That’s where partnerships enter. Our career literacy tools are free for high schools, higher education institutions, community and workforce development organizations to use.”

Aside from earning a steady income to cover bills and basic necessities, the study showed young people value work for a number of reasons—giving them a purpose in life, finding a sense of fulfillment in helping people, enjoying interacting with people, and contributing to society and something greater than themselves.

To help them on their career journey, youth ranked the following as important resources to them: “Exploring other careers,” “Learning what careers are in demand locally,” “Learning how to talk about myself to recruiters,” and “Direction on which skills to build next.”

Parents weighed in on these tools, “It does not limit [youth]. It gives them more options.”

This is the second research project of this type commissioned by The DeBruce Foundation; the first in 2019, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite COVID-19, people remain optimistic about their ability to find the right career path. However, they are less optimistic about that path leading to greater financial success than their parents.

In addition, youth and parents are still fairly optimistic about finding the right career path but are slightly less engaged than they were two years ago. Youth report considering a fewer number of careers and are a bit less certain about what they need to do to prepare for a career these days. They also report taking fewer steps toward their potential career, and half express concerns about the job market and how COVID will impact their career in the long run.

In both focus groups and in the survey, young people and their parents are primarily focused on happiness and doing something they enjoy when deciding on a career. Things like salary, work-life balance, and job security round out the top tier for youth.


GQR conducted an online survey of 700 young people aged 16-24 and 300 parents of children aged 16-24 in the Des Moines, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Louisville, Minneapolis, Nashville, St. Louis, and Wichita metro areas from September 23 – October 5, 2021. This survey followed a set of online video-based focus group discussions on August 24 and 25, 2021, among 2 groups of young people ages 18-24 and 1 group of parents of children ages 16-24 in the Kansas City area.

The research toplines can be found here and here

About The DeBruce Foundation

The DeBruce Foundation is a national foundation whose mission is to expand pathways to economic growth and opportunity. The Foundation is committed to helping individuals unlock their potential and find career pathways. By developing solutions such as the Agile Work Profiler, we change how people pursue careers. By partnering strategically, we increase experiences and exposure to widen career opportunities, starting with youth and working across the lifespan. Learn more at


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