Thriving in Challenging Times: Connecting Education to Economic Development through Career Pathways

This publication profiles 17 career pathway programs in the United States. 

National Career Pathways Network
Institute for a Competitive Workforce
Author(s) Organizational Affiliation
National Career Pathways Network
Institute for a Competitive Workforce, an affiliate of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Publication Year
Resource Type
Number of Pages

This publication profiles 17 career pathway programs in the United States. The article addresses the growing need for career pathways for students, employers, and our nation’s economy; however, it will be most useful for programs developing career pathways as it dissects each reviewed program into industry sector, partners, target population, eligibility, challenges, strategies, funding, results, business engagement, and lessons learned. The glossary on page 48 is helpful for developing a better overall knowledge of career pathways.

What the experts say

This excellent resource demonstrates how related businesses and industries can work together in partnerships with educational organizations (primarily community colleges and high schools). Even though these businesses may compete with each other for workers at the local level, they rise above self-interest to improve the education and training of students by collaboration. The most important lesson to be learned from this paper is that partnerships are critical to the success of any Career Pathways initiative.

The resource describes a set of principles for human capital development. These are then illustrated by collaborations in various industry clusters. For the aerospace industry, for example, the collaborating partners in one county are listed first followed by target population and eligibility, challenges, strategies, results, funding, business engagement, and lessons learned. Quotes and photos as well as contact information are also provided. The next industry cluster, however, is automotive manufacturing across nine states. Although the sections of the description are the same, the project is larger in scope.

Perhaps the examples that involve one city, such as Kenosha, WI, may be more helpful to the reader who wants to replicate these collaborative efforts. A community college appears to be the organizing force in bringing together various businesses, industries, public schools, and other organizations. Federal, state, and local funding appears to underwrite the initiative.

It is interesting to note that almost all of the industry cluster collaborations have benefited from some sort of federal funding, such as from the Department of Labor or the National Science Foundation. The resource is helpful, therefore, suggesting possible collaborations, types of innovative leadership, and external funding sources.

The Career Pathways Checklist (page 46) is a very interesting tool to bring together collaborators in discussing critical issues in a program as well as to evaluate the effectiveness of the various components. It can help a partnership keep on track with the goals of the program and suggest solutions to problems. A glossary provides a common understanding of terms so that educational jargon is not misunderstood among the other partners.

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