Designing Career Pathways within WIOA Guidelines

Terri Kaufman - Workforce Development Specialist ·

WIOA requires states and local Workforce Development Boards to work with adult education, post-secondary education and other community-based organizations to develop career pathways that will make it easier for all Americans to attain the skills and credentials needed for jobs.

What are career pathways? The US Department of Labor defines career pathways as a new way of doing business which operates at both a systems and an individual level. At the systems level, a career pathway is a broad approach for serving populations that may experience significant barriers to employment. The career pathway can substantively alter the way the workforce system delivers its services and the system’s relationship with partner organizations and stakeholders to better prepare the worker.

Career pathway programs should offer a sequence of education courses and training credentials which are aligned with work-ready standards and competencies which are validated by employers. Career pathways can also provide greater customer service at all levels by engaging employers, adult basic education, training providers, community organizations and service providers to design services that meet the needs of employers and job seekers.

At the individual level, career pathway programs should make it easier for individuals to earn industry- recognized credentials and should be designed to serve youth, dislocated workers, adults, veterans and individuals with disabilities and barriers to employment.

  • By working together to design career pathways, local areas can design and provide education and training services that will:
  • Meet the skill needs of employers
  • Prepare individuals to be successful in secondary and post-secondary education, and apprenticeship opportunities
  • Provide career counseling support to individuals to develop educational and career goals
  • Help organize education, training and other service offerings to meet the particular needs of an individual in a manner that accelerates his/her educational and career advancement
  • Help enable individuals to attain a secondary school diploma or recognized equivalent, and at least one recognized post-secondary credential
  • Help individuals enter or advance within a specific occupation or occupations cluster

Local Workforce Development must be prepared to support the strategies developed by their state board.

Local Workforce Development Boards must be ready to lead the efforts to engage employers and education and training providers to design, develop and implement career pathways that will provide a sequence of steps so an individual can progress, increasing self-sufficiency, while meeting employer needs.

Is your local WDB ready to work with employers, education providers and training partners in starting the dialog and designing career pathways? How are you going to engage these partners and determine whether training is meeting the needs of in-demand occupations and sectors? What steps are you taking to ensure that the services are meeting the requirements of WIOA? We are here to help you.

If you are interested in gaining more information regarding WIOA and Career Pathways, please contact me at or visit our website at