The promise of a career pathway approach at the regional level depends on decisions and investments made at the program level. Yet programs vary widely in how they implement best practices like a sector focus, support services for participants, career-focused instruction, work-based learning, evidence-based practices, and progression to a recognized post-secondary credential with regional economic value.{{Education Systems Center of Northern Illinois University, “Landscape Scan of Progressive Pathways in the Chicago Region, Phase 1 — Executive Summary,” 2017, https://public.3.basecamp.com/p/MAESNGpbd1vgbRiYpTZtGvhH.}} For many programs, these steps begin with identifying reliable and flexible funding that supports long-term planning and scaling effective models — a particular challenge to find in today’s environment of limited public resources.{{Illinois Community College Board, “Expanding Career Pathway Opportunities in Adult Education: Strategic Directions for Illinois,” 2018, https://www.iccb.org/iccb/wp-content/pdfs/adulted/strategic_plan/ICCB_Adult_Education_Strategic_Plan_2018-2023.pdf.}} While additional funding may be necessary, many administrative actions and supportive policies can contribute to improving programs’ capacity, accessibility, quality, and relevance. A core goal should be scaling models that integrate foundational learning with sector-specific workforce preparation and training in occupations that provide opportunities for growth and career advancement. Likewise, efforts should focus on adapting and expanding program models to meet the unique needs of target populations like people with disabilities, returning citizens, and opportunity youth. Private sector leadership and investment will be critical to keeping the content and delivery of programs at the forefront of future industry shifts.

Action 1

Develop sector-specific instructional models that reflect evidence-based research, local and regional goals, and skills demand in the labor market.

Implementers

Education and training providers, in partnership with employers

Action 2

Market and build awareness about career pathways to equip our educators, career counselors, college advisors, and students themselves in strategizing for career and life choices.

Implementers

Education and training providers, in partnership with workforce funders

Action 3

Develop funding mechanisms that encourage ongoing development, implementation, and improvement of career pathway programs.

Implementers

Federal and state policy makers

Action 4

Expand funding models to include greater flexibility for improvements in the quality and delivery of instruction, as well as additional support services that ensure successful program completions and transitions.

Implementers

Federal and state policy makers

Action 5

Facilitate the integration of planning processes and funding streams in support of career pathway programs.

Implementers

Federal and state policy makers

Action 6

Establish integrated data systems that capture comprehensive information on career pathway programs and enable analysis of participant outcomes.

Implementers

State and local policy makers, in partnership with workforce funders