From the Executive Director's Desk: 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.

The new version of the Toolkit is more comprehensive and will provide guidance and resources for all service provider organizations that participate in any way and/or related activities. The “Champions” team worked in small groups to review the draft Toolkit and provided a number of suggestions for improvement and increased usability for the wide audience that the Toolkit would have. The small working Champion teams also unanimously encouraged alignment of metrics among the various workforce agencies and educational institutions.  The impact of the new career pathway system will be difficult to determine unless some common metrics are defined. This message was made crystal clear to the leadership of the Departments of Labor and Education, who joined the meeting virtually for the last two hour session of the workshop. Implementing this suggestion implies significant challenges in data infrastructures, but offers the hope of simplifying both work required of agencies and processes of the users of the systems. In the long term, data and metric alignment will be able to provide solid and strong evidence of successful implementation.

Stay tuned for the fully downloadable 2015 Career Pathway Toolkit this summer on DOL’s ETA website. The work
is organized under these Six Key Elements of Career Pathways, which are strategies to guide local and regional implementation. Many of you will recognize some of these strategies to:
  • Build cross-agency partnerships and clarify roles
  • Identify industry sectors and engage employers
  • Design education and training programs
  • Identify funding needs and sources
  • Align policies and programs
  • Measure systems change and performance



In developing our Florida Engineering Technology Career Pathway aligned with the A.S. Engineering Technology degree, FLATE and its partners have used all of the strategies listed above. We have built a comprehensive framework that allows someone to enter and exit at a number of places along the pathway to the A.S. degree, and ultimately earn a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology. There are opportunities to articulate from secondary and post-secondary education as well as workforce training. It’s aligned to industry credentials which also provides for accelerated completion. We look forward to the opportunities that WIOA will offer to increase usage of our ET pathways in Florida to even better support our manufacturers. For more information visit https://learnwork.workforce3one.org  

…And now I invite you to read the rest of the stories in this edition of the FLATE Focus. Spring is dotted with many webinars so be sure to stock up your professional development toolkit! Manufacturing Day 2015 may appear distant, but it is already in our planning horizon. In keeping with our ongoing efforts to promote this national event, we have several stories one outlining some valuable comments and feedback we received from last year’s event. FLATE and its statewide partners, you will note, have been highly successful in engaging and implementing a statewide strategy that has left a national footprint, and we invite each of you to participate in whatever capacity you can for MFG Day 2015. In this edition we also bring you a story about our partnership with the Florida Energy Systems Consortium and our role in the Smart Grid Technician Education program. Our ongoing outreach effort to educate students about STEM continues, so does our attempt to highlight and remain connected with past FLATE awardees. We also have a new sTEm puzzle that is sure to challenge your. Do post your answers on www.fl-ate.org, or jot it down below the blog post itself. If your schedule permits mark your calendar to attend the  2015 HI-TECH conference in Portland later this summer.