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Adult Career Pathway Programs: Preparing Low-Skilled Adults for Self-Sustaining Careers

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The work reported herein was supported under the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education Program, PR/Award No. VO51A990006 administered by the Office of Vocational and Adult Education, U.S. Department of Education. However, the contents do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of OVAE or ED, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.


Adult Career Pathway


Preparing Low-Skilled

Adults for Self-Sustaining



Marisa Castellano

Debra D. Bragg

Christine D. Bremer

Catherine Kirby

Ann Mavis

today s presentation focus
Today’s Presentation Focus
  • 1. Program Organization
  • 2. Partnerships
  • 3. Curriculum and Instruction
  • The report also discusses:
    • Program evaluation and outcomes
    • Implementation barriers
    • Success factors
    • Scalability, sustainability and transferability
purpose of study
Purpose of Study
  • Descriptive design including case studies to answer the research question:
  • What programs, policies, and practices are currently being implemented to support the transition of low-skilled adults into and through career pathways that align with postsecondary CTE?
    • Curricular
    • Institutional
    • Support strategies
  • Initiate a baseline of information on career pathways for adults for future practice and research
multi phased methods
Multi-Phased Methods
  • Review of literature
  • Convened national panel to advise on framework and potential sites
  • Over 100 sites contacted; 27 interviewed in depth by phone
  • 3 sites selected for case study
    • Scaleable, sustainable, transferable
    • Various program areas and community types
data collection and analysis
Data Collection and Analysis
  • Three day site visits
    • Stakeholder interviews
    • Classroom observations
    • Collected outcomes data as available
  • Data content analyzed for patterns and themes
  • Case studies verified by stakeholders
  • Cross-case analysis of commonalities and differences across sites
case study sites
Case Study Sites
  • Carreras en Salud–Instituto del Progreso Latino (IPL), Chicago IL
  • General Service Technician (GST)–Shoreline Community College, Shoreline WA
  • Career Pathways Initiative (CPI)–Ouachita Technical College, Ouachita AR
program organization
Program Organization
  • Partners: CC, CBO, government agencies, and industry
  • Model #1: program housed at CBO, bridging to existing CC programs
  • Model #2: program housed at CC, expanding opportunity to enter CC programs
  • Model #3: program housed at CC, providing preparatory skills to enter various CC programs
  • Community colleges offering occupational programs
    • Usually AA programs, in health, automotive, and others
  • CBOs to provide support services
    • case management, transportation and child care assistance, mental health services, addiction counseling, and in at least one site, support for students with disabilities
  • Other support service providers (e.g., WIA)
    • financial aid, academic and career guidance, counseling services, and job placement
  • Industry and employers
    • Advisory councils, internships, jobs
curriculum and instruction
Curriculum and Instruction
  • Classes accommodate schedules/learning needs of adults
  • ESL ranged from peripheral to centrally located in a career pathway
  • In some places, ABE is a central part of the pathway; in others GED instruction is the focus
  • All three cases provided “stop-out” points along the way for working adults
    • Many included certificates at those points
instituto del progreso latino ipl
Instituto del Progreso Latino- IPL
  • IPL is a CBO in Chicago since 1977, working for the economic advancement of Latinos
  • IPL created “bridge” courses to help ESL and incumbent Latino healthcare workers enter existing allied health programs at community colleges
curriculum carreras en salud
Curriculum – Carreras En Salud
  • Called a bridge program because students require certain courses to “bridge” their current skill levels to the level required to enter the existing healthcare programs at community colleges
  • 16-week health topics-based ESL course to prepare for CNA credential
  • 16-week pre-LPN course for higher-level students who already have the CNA
curriculum allied health
Curriculum – Allied Health
  • Healthcare sector was identified as a growth industry
  • Allied health programs trying to respond to worker shortage
  • CBO creates a pipeline of students into their allied health programs
  • Students can “stop out,” earning a certificates and getting a higher-paying job as they continue along the pathway to a nursing position
general service technician gst automotive
General Service Technician - GST (automotive)
  • GST is a new NATEF-sanctioned program
  • ABE and ESL curriculum content are integrated into the GST program at Shoreline CC
  • Program completion puts students into existing career ladder/lattice structure
    • Designed to be gateway certificate with many options available in the auto sales & service industry
gst misc features
GST Misc. Features
  • Shoreline CC aggressively seeks funding
    • They monitor and apply for state and federal grant opportunities
    • Positive state environment for workforce development
  • Shoreline CC houses the regional auto dealers association
    • Readymade, longtime industry partner
curriculum abe and esl
Curriculum – ABE and ESL
  • Syllabus as contract, portfolios, journals, homework, online assignments, internet research and presentations
  • Problem-solving scenarios and hands-on activities always included writing work orders or problem solutions
  • Used new vocabulary often, esp. with ESL students
curriculum career pathways
Curriculum – Career Pathways
  • Basic automotive diagnosis and repair written by and for industry
  • ESL and ABE teachers each adapted the GST curriculum for their students
  • They also embedded employability (SCANS) skills
    • Speaking and listening skills emphasized
other instructional strategies
Other Instructional Strategies
  • All classes team taught by ABE or ESL teacher and automotive teacher
  • Accelerated Learning
    • Mastering basic skills while being prepared for work
  • Last quarter of program = paid internship
career pathways initiative cpi
Career Pathways Initiative- CPI
  • Ouachita is a growing 2-year college in rural Arkansas
    • Local unemployment rate = 6.2%
  • Skilled worker shortages in manufacturing, health care, and corrections
  • Goal of CPI is to improve access, credential completion, and employment success for TANF-eligible individuals
cpi misc features
CPI Misc. Features
  • State-level initiative implemented at 11 colleges
  • Funded with federal TANF money
  • Not tied to particular areas of study, certificates, or degrees
  • Stackable short-term credentials
  • Strong “wrap-around” support services
delegation of education tasks
Delegation of Education Tasks
  • The Workforce Center
    • Develops job training and employability programs
    • Provides adult education services (ABE, GED)
    • Tests and places students in proper level classes
    • Determines eligibility for CPI
  • The College
    • Provides adult education services (ABE, GED)
    • Administers ESL programs at community and workplace sites
    • Offers traditional developmental ed courses
curriculum abe
Curriculum - ABE
  • ABE and GED curriculum available at both college and Workforce Center
  • Developmental ed programs are CAI-- I Can Learn Math (web-based) and PACE Learning Systems
  • Labs are open when the college is open and personal onsite help from a math instructor is always available
curriculum career pathways1
Curriculum – Career Pathways
  • First-year students participate in a learning community:
    • Take the same classes
    • Meet regularly as a study and support group
  • After all the preparatory curricula, participants then move into one of a number of occupational programs:
    • Truck driver, CNA, LPN, office administration, and industrial maintenance
    • The majority are enrolled in healthcare-related programs
cross case similarities
Cross-case Similarities
  • Strong case management and support services considered essential
  • Partnerships based on respective strengths
  • Good relations among partners
  • Recognition of academic and employability skills as well as technical skills
  • Pathways are created to fill local labor market needs
for full report
For Full Report:
  • Keep checking at:
  • Report now available at:
  • Contact me: