Career pathways are an integrated collection of programs and services intended to develop students’ core academic, technical and employability skills; provide them with continuous education and training; and place them in high-demand, high-opportunity jobs.
A career pathways initiative consists of a partnership among community colleges, primary and secondary schools, workforce and economic development agencies, employers, labor groups and social service providers.
Career pathways have been adopted at the federal, state and local levels.
The US Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration had advocated for career pathways to fill the need for more highly trained and skilled workers.
The US Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education has also supported career pathways initiatives to provide students with postsecondary education and training to improve their skills to advance in the workplace. and recently selected five sites as recipients of grants to strengthen their career pathways efforts.
In addition, the Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), the nation’s largest not-for-profit education association dedicated to the advancement of education that prepares youth and adults for successful careers, representing approximately 30,000 educators, administrators and others involved in CTE, supports career pathways and Career Clusters. ACTE has resources on career pathways in its online Research Clearinghouse ().
Another organization dedicated to workforce development and construction education is the National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER). NCCER is a not-for-profit 501 (c)(3) education foundation created in 1996 to develop standardized construction, maintenance, and pipeline curricula with portable credentials and help address the critical skilled workforce shortage. NCCER's training process of accreditation, instructor certification, standardized curriculum, national registry, assessment, and certification is a key component in the construction industry's workforce development efforts. NCCER is headquartered in Gainesville, Fla., and is affiliated with the University of Florida's M.E. Rinker, Sr., School of Building Construction.
Career Pathways has spread quickly throughout states and cities as students and adults have benefited from their use and as communities have begun to see the rewards of the pathways. States including Arkansas, California, Kentucky, Ohio, Oregon and Washington have statewide career pathways initiatives in place. Cities like New York, Madison, St. Louis, and San Diego have also begun to develop career pathway initiatives for their specific needs. More information on states’ approaches to career pathways is available in ACTE’s State CTE Profiles ().
The state of Oregon defines career pathways as a “series of articulated educational and training programs and services that enables students, often while they are working, to advance over time to successively higher levels of education and employment in a given industry or occupational sector. Each step on a career pathway is designed explicitly to prepare students to progress to the next level of employment and education.”
Career pathways initiatives are also in place on the local level including programs at Madison Area Technical College , Portland Community College , Rhodes State College , Santa Fe Community College , and South Seattle Community College (Auto , Business Info Tech , Welding , & Hospitality ).