Career Pathway Models for Community Colleges: Closing the Gap on Opportunity and Success
Broadly speaking, current federal workforce policy aims to bridge the needs of employers and jobseekers through training and other support measures. Is this happening and how successful is it? At a time when close to 65% of our country’s open positions require some form of higher education or post-secondary credential, it is crucial for education and workforce development partners to work together to meet the needs of employers and jobseekers.
As much as possible, course offerings at local community colleges should reflect the workforce needs of the surrounding area. Community colleges that align their programs and initiatives with in-demand jobs have the ability to serve as a pipeline for their community’s employers. What is the most important thing needed to allow this to happen? COLLABORATION!
Before we talk about collaboration and what makes an effective partnership, let’s go into more detail about career pathways.
What are career pathways and how can they help?
Career pathways offer jobseekers a clear sequence, or pathway, of education coursework and/or training credentials that are aligned with employer-validated work readiness standards and competencies.
By developing career pathways materials that are aligned with local industry needs, college students and jobseekers are informed about industry opportunities, companies can more easily find workers, and in turn, the local economy benefits.
To best align programs and courses with local workforce needs, community colleges can utilize career pathways info sheets. To get you started, we’ve created templates in several industries including: transportation & warehousing, manufacturing, healthcare, and information technology. If these industries are not prominent in your region, it is possible to develop customized career pathway materials for industries that are more relevant to your region. These insightful documents are a great way to help a student or jobseeker follow a path and fulfill the requirements leading to a meaningful and attainable career.
Each customized career pathways info sheet includes:
- Wage and benefits information
- Number of job openings per field
- Daily job tasks
- Local job demand
- Opportunities for advancement
- Industry required credentials
- Education and training requirements
What other benefits are there to using career pathways info sheets?
These documents are also a great way to communicate and share information between employers, American Job Centers, and educational institutions, ensuring that employer needs and community college offerings are aligned. They can also be useful in generating interest in industry sectors and high-demand occupations, which focus on in-demand occupations in each industry sector and include job duties, needed education, expected growth and wage trends.
Another benefit to having career pathways defined is being able to share them with high school students to help them identify career opportunities, availability of jobs, skills and education needed, length and duration of training programs, relevant credentials, and probable wages. With this information, educators, parents, and students can make confident, informed choices.
Collaboration is at the center of career pathway development.
Here is an example of effective career pathways collaboration:
In 2019 the Collegiate Consortium, a partnership of the community colleges in and around the Philadelphia region, collaborated with Philadelphia Works and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA) to provide an intensive eight-week course for people interested in working in the transit authority’s various maintenance departments. The pre-employment training provided focused on several industry career paths that are critical to maintaining safe and reliable service for the transit agency and lead to well-paying career opportunities for the jobseeker.
Philadelphia Works, the Collegiate Consortium, and SEPTA utilized career pathway materials for the public transit industry to develop their program. Jobseekers used the pathways to learn about current and future opportunities in the industry – from entry-level to senior-level jobs. The community college used the pathways to inform the curriculum development process and to better understand the potential path jobseekers could follow as they build their careers. A successful collaboration all around!
Gather: By compiling regional occupational data and employment trends are researched through reputable sources such as the Bureau for Labor Statistics.
Engage: By bringing together employers and educators to identify skill needs and resources to create educational and career opportunities.
Analyze: By studying employment trends and regional workforce needs to develop solutions to future training and employment demands.
Publish: By sharing career pathways data and materials with whomever might benefit from this information.
Studies show that skilled labor shortages will continue to limit business success if not addressed. By forming newly evolving public and private partnerships such as those with community colleges, we can help shape the workplace of the future and increase individual and organizational economic opportunity and long-term success.