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


Pathways to Careers is a guide that 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.

This guide is organized into sections according to the seven key topics on the left. 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.

About Pathways to Careers

In 2006 and 2007, the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Labor 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.

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.

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Pathways to Careers: A Guide to Building Partnerships for Workforce Education and Training 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