In April 2012, the U.S. Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor released a letter endorsing the concept of “Career Pathways” as a promising approach to address the country’s challenge of how to prepare workers of all skill levels to participate fully in the country’s economic future. This challenge lies at the intersection of each department’s domains of expertise, and no solution can become fully functional without engaging each department’s constituency.

What are Career Pathways?

The Departments defined Career Pathways as a series of connected education and training strategies and support services that enable individuals to secure industry relevant certification and obtain employment within an occupational area and to advance to higher levels of future education and employment in that area. In the Career Pathways initiatives sponsored by the departments to date, we have seen roles for each department’s stakeholders. The education community takes a lead on providing classroom-based learning, and then partners with business and workforce development professionals to create workplace-based learning opportunities. These connections help businesses meet short-term staffing needs and grow a next generation of skilled employees. At the same time, the human services field supports workers in balancing their educational, professional, and family responsibilities while they make this investment in their future. What makes these activities a true Career Pathways initiative is the commitment to cross-agency partnerships that identifies the strengths and needs of each partner and uses that expertise to build the pathway.

How does this Catalog help us build Career Pathways?

That commitment to partnership is demonstrated at the Federal level with the development of this Catalog. The toolkits here were selected from the many available resources because they exhibit a common focus on helping different Career Pathways initiative stakeholders learn to communicate with one another. Some, such as the “Advancing Adults Into Community Colleges: Data Tools from Breaking Through” toolkit from Jobs For The Future and the National Council for Workforce Education, allow stakeholders to communicate their goals with metrics and data. Others, such as the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration’s “Competency Model Clearinghouse,” provide them with a way to create a visual representation of their priorities. But each promises to give Career Pathways stakeholders a deeper level of insight into the needs of their partners and how to create systemic change.

A further criteria for inclusion in this catalog was that these materials all need to provide actionable instructions on how to turn a commitment to Career Pathways into reality. They break out the steps for readers to get started with a Career Pathways initiative, and how and when to engage partners. By the nature of Career Pathways, this might mean that the toolkits contain more questions than they do directives, but the questions serve to set stakeholders down the right path to identify meaningful activities and partners. The direction that these materials give is always informed by practice, often from the experience of the major Career Pathways demonstration initiatives funded to date by the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor.

In these toolkits, you will find guidance on:

  • developing a Career Pathways model and workplan
  • selecting partners and creating shared ownership
  • analyzing local labor force needs – now and in the future
  • building statewide support for a Career Pathways initiative
  • aligning training curricula with student and employer needs
  • estimating costs and tapping into available funding streams
  • using data to continuously improve projects

How will the Catalog be maintained?

The Administration for Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance (OFA) hopes you will find this Catalog useful for identifying resources to jumpstart a Career Pathways initiative. OFA is committed to keeping the Catalog up to date by soliciting materials annually from the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor, and also seeks readers’ suggestions of materials. If you would like to suggest a toolkit for inclusion, please use the Contact Us button on the home page to submit a resource.

Inclusion of toolkits in this Catalog does not imply endorsement.