Defining On-Ramps to Adult Career Pathways

This report synthesizes survey and interview data with a limited literature review to identify key service model delivery components, system components and barriers to implementing service way program models.

Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
Center for Law and Social Policy
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On-ramps are career pathway programs designed to serve individuals with significant barriers to educational and economic success. The Minneapolis-St. Paul Workforce Innovation Network (MSPW) sponsored a study to define the services and partnerships involved in career pathway ‘on-ramps’ for adults. Synthesizing survey and interview data with a literature, the authors identified key service model delivery components, system components, and barriers to implementing service.

Service Delivery Model Components

Three service model components—in a variety of flexible, customizable forms—appear key to successful on-ramps:

  1. Stabilization and support services to diminish crises for individuals and connect them with resources and opportunities.
  2. Integrated education and training is “a service approach that provides adult education and literacy activities concurrently and contextually with workforce preparation activities and workforce training for a specific occupation.
  3. Employment, retention and re-engagement that help students gain work experience, remain connected to work and re-engage in further education and training.

System Components

The four key system components are:

  1. Partners at the state and local levels that contribute resources and are responsible for outcomes.
  2. Sustained funding from a diversity of sources and that ensures programs have the time necessary to show impacts.
  3. Data that is used for continuous improvement and performance evaluation.
  4. No disincentives for working with people with the highest need.

Barriers to Implementing Service Model and System Requirements.

Stakeholders identified organizational and structural barriers that hinder the implementation of on-ramps. Barriers should be addressed systematically. The top cited barriers were:

  1. Funding restrictions – 62%
  2. Organizational capacity – 40%
  3. Lack of support services (transportation, children, etc.) – 36%
  4. Financial stability – 35%
  5. Lack of “ready” participants – 35%

The Hotel Housekeeping Training and Employment Program is an example of an on-ramp program that serves high barrier populations with comprehensive services, quick attachment to quality employment, and continued engagement for educational and career advancement is the

Appendices include interview protocol (Appendix A), survey results (Appendix B) and endnotes that identify resources reviewed.

What the experts say

Defining On-Ramps to Adult Career Pathways is the most thorough and useful resource on transitioning adult learners into post-secondary employment and education published in the last decade. It is an admirable and accurate synthesis of how to design and implement an adult career pathway program, which type of adults can benefit most from it, and the components of a successful delivery model contains. The College and Career Readiness Standards are highlighted along with (a) communication skills and contextualized English Language Learning and (b) priorities for adult learners to gain real and lasting skills that impact their ability to gain sustainable wages and long-lasting employment. The endnotes are substantial and useful for all of the stakeholders involved in a Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) partnership between state and federal governments, workforce centers, business and industry, and adult education.

This paper is a reminder about the need to evaluate and fortify service gaps to ensure adults in need can overcome barriers to success. It accentuates the need for moving from a “program” to a “service” model; requiring intentional, meaningful collaboration. The authors have thought through potential barriers for the most in need population and focused on the most critical support services so that practitioners can avoid the pitfalls that too often lead to a lack of sustainable programs. State adult education agency and regional adult education centers already partnering with its local workforce center and/or with WIOA as a regional provider, can use this paper as a blueprint for moving forward with a new or improved career pathways program. The Minnesota model is used to illustrate how a state can move its low-income, less-educated adults into education, training and the workforce.

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