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Career Pathways

1. Definition
A Career Pathway is a coherent, articulated sequence of rigorous academic and career/technical courses, commencing in the ninth grade and leading to an associate degree, baccalaureate degree and beyond, an industry recognized certificate, and/or licensure. The Career Pathway is developed, implemented, and maintained in partnership among secondary and postsecondary education, business, and employers. Career Pathways are available to all students, including adult learners, and lead to rewarding careers.

The essential characteristics of an ideal Career Pathway include the following:

1.    The Secondary Pathway component:
     ·         Meets state academic standards and grade-level expectations.
     ·         Meets high school testing and exit requirements.
     ·         Meets postsecondary (college) entry/placement requirements.
     ·         Provides foundation knowledge and skills in a chosen career cluster.
     ·         Provides opportunities for students to earn college credit through
         dual/concurrent enrollment or articulation agreements.

2.    The Postsecondary Pathway component provides:
     ·         Opportunities for students to earn college credit through dual/concurrent
          enrollment or articulation agreements.
     ·         Alignment and articulation with baccalaureate programs, where appropriate.
     ·         Industry-recognized skills and knowledge in each cluster area.
     ·         Opportunities for placement in the chosen career clusters at multiple exit points.

3.    Pathway partners ensure that a culture of empirical evidence is maintained by:
     ·         Regularly collecting qualitative and quantitative data.
     ·         Using data for planning and decision-making for continuous pathway
          improvement.
     ·         Ongoing dialog among secondary, postsecondary, and business partners.

The above definition of Career Pathways was jointly developed by CORD and the College and Career Transitions Initiative (The League for Innovation in the Community College) and approved by the Office of Vocational and Adult Education (U.S. Department of Education).

2. Career Pathways Explained
The following information is an excerpt from "Focusing Students" by Charles Rouse, chapter six of Tech Prep: The Next Generation.

The promise of Tech Prep is to open minds and doors, not to close them. Career pathways are intended to help students (with help from their families) to develop career plans to which they can apply their academic and occupation education. The test of whether students are being tracked lies in the curriculum: If it allows students to explore and make career choices without losing options to change their minds or pursue higher education to the limit of their desires and abilities, the students are not being tracked.

Simply put, career pathways are a method of developing and organizing curricula across different strands of careers. The teaching, counseling, and assessment that support career pathways are also designed to focus students toward career goals beyond graduation, the end result being passports and a portfolios as evidence of work readiness. The objectives of career pathways are to help students:

Understand and consider career options

Discover workplaces and their relationship to curricula

Make choices about future education and training

Understand the expectations for achieving career goals

Maintain portfolios of progress and achievement

Become flexible but focused employees

Strategies for Success

Develop a schoolwide philosophy about preparing students for the world of work.

Identify the pathways that best suit your business community and region.

Start small - with one or two pathways - so that issues of curriculum design can be worked out and teachers can be brought along slowly.

Identify a teacher with leadership qualities to spearhead implementation of the career pathways process. Ensure that he or she has the confidence of other teachers.

Survey businesses extensively to determine the skills and competencies they need.

Follow up in person to validate curricula and develop channels of communication for a school-business partnership.

Give teachers the time and guidance (via professional development) they need to incorporate workplace skills into their curricula.

Design passport certificates that appropriately document courses completed and competencies attained. Ensure that these certificates make sense to businesses and that the assessments used validate the level of competence.

Select an interest/aptitude inventory that can be used to help students select career pathways. Choices should be made by students and their families, not the school.

Provide flexibility in the program and opportunities for students to exercise different pathway options if they become disenchanted with their first choices.

Require each student to develop a resume and provide training on how to do this and to interview for a job.

Design a process for developing student portfolios. Include teachers, counselors, and businesses in this process.

Recognize students at the completion of their career pathways with a ceremony that involves family.

Give all students a chance to experience the workplaces of their career paths.

Build awareness and support among the superintendent and board of trustees before introducing changes.

Use every available opportunity, in school and out, to promote the spirit and philosophy of the career pathway system.

3.  Adult Career Pathways
The following information is an excerpt from Adult Career Pathways: Providing a Second Chance in Public Education compiled and coauthored by Dan M. Hull and Richard "Dick" Hinckley

The community college finds itself at the center of an economic and educational crisis as:

  • demands for a technologically skilled workforce increase
  • financial and societal pressures on underemployed workers mount
  • remediation needs of the underprepared adult student population grow 

The experts behind Career Pathways issue a “call to action” on behalf of the millions of adult Americans who are searching for a second chance. Dan Hull and Dick Hinckley provide compelling research, insightful analysis, and detailed solutions to the complex and critical issues facing educators, students, and the nation as a whole. They call upon college presidents and chancellors to create dynamically involved partnerships with employers, community leaders, and policymakers – and they provide the framework and the vision necessary to achieve meaningful change.