EVALUATION OF PROGRAMS
Pathways to Careers
A Guide to Building Partnerships for Workforce Education and Training

Introduction

This guide shares important lessons learned by community leaders working to strengthen their local and regional economies through the development and expansion of career pathways. Career pathways are designed to align education and training from one level to the next, and the education and training system as a whole with the workforce needs of employers. Student success and economic development come together within such initiatives, which reflect the missions of both the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Labor.

In 2006 and 2007, the two federal agencies jointly conducted the Strategic Partnerships for a Competitive Workforce (SPCW) initiative (see Overview of SPCW Initiative in Appendices), which provided technical assistance to 32 community teams in forming and sustaining successful partnerships for career pathways in high-growth industries. Teams consisted of representatives from the community college, K-12, adult basic education, workforce development, business/industry, and others. Key representatives of each team attended one of several institutes to receive intensive technical assistance and share information (see Overview of Institutes and Participating Teams in Appendices). This guide is based on their experiences.

The transition to higher education or employment can be difficult for students and adult workers. Successful career pathways programs ensure that students at each level of education and training are prepared with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in postsecondary education or in high-skill, high-demand jobs. They also promote close cooperation among all levels of education and employers. Because community colleges are often at the crossroads between employers and other levels of education and training, many pathways programs are initiated by community colleges. The partnerships in this guide were begun primarily by community colleges, but other community organizations also can take the lead in bringing together the necessary partners.

Although this guide is based on the experiences of the SPCW teams, community leaders do not need to attend an institute with consultants before they begin their work. However, the common elements of planning, teambuilding, using data, and other steps outlined in this guide are necessary to create a partnership that is an effective agent of change. By developing a partnership that enables each member to cooperate to enhance the success of all, a lasting dynamic can be launched that promotes both national and international competitiveness and the success of students, workers, and employers.

Pathway to Careers is organized into sections according to seven key topics described in the table of contents below. Each of these sections ends with a list of related resources that were developed for the SPCW initiative or recommended by participating teams and project consultants. A comprehensive list of all resources referenced constitutes the last section of this guide. There is also a section of appendices, which includes background information on the SPCW initiative, an overview of the institutes and participating teams, and project consultants biographies.

Contents

Introduction

Team Building

This section includes stories and resources related to the following lessons learned:

  • Get the Right People at the Table
  • Define Roles and Responsibilities
  • Establish a Team Identity
  • Make Room for Growth

Using Data to Drive Partnership Activities and Meet Objectives

This section includes stories and resources related to the following lessons learned:

  • Conduct an Economic and Skills Gap Analysis
  • Base Strategic Planning on the Right Facts
  • Use Data to Develop and Improve Career Pathways
  • Engage State Legislators Using Local Data
  • Package Data for Communications and Outreach

Developing a Mission Statement and Strategic Plan

This section includes stories and resources related to the following lessons learned:

  • Include All Partners in Developing a Mission Statement
  • Develop a Strategic Plan

Engaging Employers

This section includes stories and resources related to the following lessons learned:

  • Assess Employers' Workforce Needs
  • Form Strategic Partnerships With Employers
  • Harness the Collective Power of Employer Organizations
  • Avoid Common Mistakes When Engaging Employers
  • Keep Employers Involved by Generating Results and Benefits

Connecting With the Broader Education Community

This section includes stories and resources related to the following lessons learned:

  • Develop and Expand Career Pathways
  • Create Secondary-to-Postsecondary Connections
  • Create Pathways for Low-Wage, Low-Skill Adults and Out-of-School Youths
  • Provide Student Support Services

Message and Outreach

This section includes stories and resources related to the following lessons learned:

  • Brand the Partnership
  • Create a Communication Strategy
  • Create Maps to Illustrate Career Pathways
  • Use Data to Support the Message
  • Develop or Adapt Promotional Materials

Navigating the Policy Environment

This section includes stories and resources related to the following lessons learned:

  • Target Legislative Leaders: Capture Their Attention and Appeal to Their Interests
  • Keep State Agency Representatives Informed
  • Connect With Regional and Statewide Initiatives
  • Work With Local Government

Appendices

  • Overview of the Strategic Partnerships for a Competitive Workforce Initiative
  • Overview of Institutes and Participating Teams
  • Project Consultant Biographies

Comprehensive Resource List

Pathways to Careers was written by Michelle Tolbert, Laura Rasmussen, and Sharon Anderson, edited by Donna Fowler, and designed by Barbara Kridl, Natesh Daniel, and John Vavricka of MPR Associates, Inc., with funding from the U.S. Department of Education. Julian Alssid and Melissa Goldberg of Workforce Strategy Center reviewed the document.

Department of Education logo

This represents a major section of Pathways to Careers: A Guide to Building Partnerships for Workforce Education and Training, a document that reports on activities connected with an initiative jointly sponsored by the U.S. departments of Education and Labor (the Strategic Partnerships for a Competitive Workforce initiative). It was produced under U.S. Department of Education Contract No. ED-04-CO-0121/0001 with MPR Associates. Jessica Reed served as the contracting officer's representative. The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the departments of Education or Labor. No official endorsement by the departments of Education or Labor of any product, commodity, service or enterprise mentioned in this publication is intended or should be inferred. Further, the inclusion of URLs is a convenience to the reader; it does not imply endorsement by the departments of Education and Labor of either the information presented on these Web sites or of the organizations that sponsor them. All URLs were last accessed on June 16, 2008.


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Last Modified: 05/11/2009