Defining Career Pathways for the 21st Century Workforce
For the past several years, there has been increased emphasis on career pathways by the Federal Department of Labor,
including the Career Pathways Initiative, the Workforce Innovation Fund Grant, the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grants programs (TAACCCT), and most recently the 2014 Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The WIOA legislation promotes career pathways as the primary strategies for workforce development design and implementation for most of the agencies they oversee.
How are career pathways defined in this new 21st century environment? Built on a couple of decades of experience across the country, WIOA defines a career pathway as having these characteristics:
- Alignment with the skill needs of industries in the economy of the state or regional economy involved
- Prepares an individual to be successful in any of the full range of secondary or postsecondary education options, including apprenticeships
- Includes counseling to support an individual in achieving the individual’s education and career goals
- Includes, as appropriate, education offered concurrently with the and in the same context as workforce preparation activities and training for a specific occupation or occupational cluster
- Organizes education, training, and other services to meet the particular needs of an individual in a manner that accelerates the educational and career advancement of the individual to the extent practicable
- Enables an individual to attain a secondary school diploma or its recognized equivalent and at least 1 recognized post-secondary credential
- Helps an individual enter or advance within a specific occupation or occupational cluster
In early March, I was invited to participate in reviewing the draft of an update to the current 2011 version of the Career Pathway Toolkit. The “Career Pathway Champions” review team was a group of 20 professionals from various agencies around the country who are working closely with career pathways and anxious to learn the impact of WIOA on their work.