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Depts. of Education, Labor and HHS Promote Career Pathways


April 20, 2012

Depts. of Education, Labor and HHS Promote Career Pathways

By: Alisha

In early April, representatives of the Departments of Education, Labor, and Health and Human Services (HHS) signed a “Dear Colleague” letter highlighting their joint commitment “to promote the use of career pathways approaches as a promising strategy to help adults acquire marketable skills and industry-recognized credentials through better alignment of education, training and employment, and human and social services among public agencies and with employers.”

The letter, distributed to stakeholders of each department, encourages states to align resources “to support integrated service delivery across Federal and state funding streams and to ensure that interested partners and agencies—whether focused on education, workforce development or human and social services—are aware of this joint commitment for improved collaboration and coordination across programs and funding sources.”

It also recognizes that there are varying definitions of career pathways in use, and generally uses the term to apply to “a series of connected education and training strategies and support services that enables individuals to secure industry-relevant certification and obtain employment within an occupational area, as well as to advance to higher levels of future education and employment within that area.” The following essential components are emphasized:

  • alignment of secondary and postsecondary education with workforce development systems and human services
  • rigorous, sequential, connected, and efficient curricula, that “bridges” courses to connect basic education and skills training and integrate education and training
  • multiple entry and exit points
  • comprehensive support services, including career counseling, child care and transportation
  • financial supports or flexibility to accommodate the demands of the labor market in order to allow individuals to meet their ongoing financial needs and obligations
  • specific focus on local workforce needs, aligned with the skill needs of targeted industry sectors important to local, regional or state economies, and reflective of the active engagement of employers
  • curriculum and instructional strategies appropriate for adults that make work a central context for learning and work readiness skills
  • credit for prior learning and other strategies that accelerate the educational and career advancement of the participant
  • organized services to meet the particular needs of adults, including accommodating work schedules with flexible and non-semester-based scheduling, alternative class times and locations, and the innovative use of technology
  • services that have among their goals a focus on secondary and postsecondary industry recognized credentials, sector specific employment, and advancement over time in education and employment within a sector
  • is founded upon and managed through a collaborative partnership among workforce, education, human service agencies, business, and other community stakeholders

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