In Focus

Oct 22, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

A Coming of Age Story for Career Pathways

By Judy Mortrude and Manuela Ekowo

At the recent National Dialogue on Career Pathways, many federal officials observed that the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act (WIOA) uses the term “career pathways” more than twenty times, signaling a coming of age for this powerful workforce development strategy.

The career pathway approach connects progressive levels of education, training, support services, and credentials for specific occupations in a way that optimizes the progress and success of individuals with varying levels of abilities and needs. This approach can benefit well-prepared students, but it’s especially beneficial for more vulnerable populations.

WIOA provides a comprehensive definition of a career pathway program and signals the move toward career pathway system building. While WIOA heavily features career pathway language, new and existing partnerships may still wonder what exactly is meant by “career pathways.” Moreover, programs and partnerships may need a better understanding of the nuances of career pathways before they’re ready to receive help building systems.

To guide the work ahead, Career Pathways Explained, is brought to you by CLASP and the Alliance for Quality Career Pathways, a partner-driven initiative with 10 leading states that successfully developed a framework identifying criteria and indicators to define quality career pathway systems and metrics to measure and manage success. This visually engaging, web-based tool explains how the career pathway approach helps individuals with limited skills access education and training that leads to employment in occupations and industries that are in high demand. It also provides concrete examples of success in Alliance states. The tool is designed to explain career pathways to people in the field who appreciate this approach but are not steeped in it.

Be sure to check out Career Pathways Explained. We think you’ll find it very useful, and we encourage you to share it with your colleagues.

Oct 2, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

OCTAE Provides a “One-Stop” Shop for Career Pathways Resources

By Manuela Ekowo

The career pathways movement continues to gain steam, thanks to the enactment of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and several other efforts highlighted in the U.S Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services’ recent National Dialogue on Career Pathways. States are looking for ways to best implement the new law, strengthen career pathways, and build career pathway systems to meet the needs of their communities and local economies.

As the career pathway approach starts to become codified in federal law, it is important to have a common understanding of quality career pathways and systems, such as the shared vision proposed by the Alliance for Quality Career Pathways (AQCP). In addition, practitioners, policymakers, administrators, funders, and others can benefit from the numerous valuable resources that have been created to help them develop career pathways. The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) in the U.S. Department of Education launched a new initiative earlier this year to do just that.

OCTAE’s Moving Pathways Forward: Supporting Career Pathways Integration will assist states in advancing career pathways systems to transition low-skilled adults to postsecondary education and employment. In October, this initiative will launch the Career Pathways Exchange, which will consolidate and distribute career pathways-related tools, events, and information from federal and state agencies and partner organizations. CLASP will contribute to the Career Pathways Exchange by sharing our relevant resources with new audiences through the Exchange’s network.

Members of the Exchange can select to receive updates on topics of interest which include: building cross-agency partnerships; identifying industry sectors and engaging employers; designing education and training programs; identifying funding needs and sources; aligning policies and programs; and measuring system change and performance. We encourage those working to strengthen and improve career pathways and systems and looking for a central hub of resources for this work to join the Exchange.          

The Alliance framework, Shared Vision, Strong Systems, jointly developed by CLASP and ten leading career pathway states and their local/regional partners, is one of many resources featured in the Exchange. The framework provides a clear set of criteria and indicators for what constitutes a quality state and local/regional career pathway system as well as metrics to assess participant progress and success, all of which mirror the Exchange’s key interest topics listed above. Phase II of the Alliance, which launched this Fall, will focus on implementing the framework and sharing lessons with the field.

We believe the Exchange will be a useful tool for states and local programs as it will streamline information across multiple outlets, providing members with ongoing updates on available resources and upcoming events to facilitate a deeper national dialogue on career pathways systems development and implementation. In addition, resources and information distributed through the Exchange are vetted and released based on their relevance to members, ensuring the offerings are tailored to the task at hand: to provide relevant education and training to disadvantaged populations, youth and adults alike, that will enable them to be successful in today’s economy.

For more information about CLASP’s participation in this nationwide federal initiative, please contact CLASP’s AQCP staff and sign up for updates on the Alliance. In addition, we encourage you to follow the Exchange on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to stay current on career pathways events and resources, as well as adult education and WIOA updates.

Sep 2, 2014  |  PERMALINK »

SNAP Employment and Training Pilots an Opportunity for Innovative Strategies

By Helly Lee

Last week, the United States Department of Agriculture’s(USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) posted their Request for Application (RFA) for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Employment and Training (SNAP E&T) Pilots. Passed earlier this year, the 2014 Farm Bill reauthorization includes $200 million for the creation and evaluation of three-year pilot projects testing innovative SNAP E&T strategies in up to 10 states. Approximately $165 million will be awarded to the pilot projects, with grants ranging between $5 million and $25 million.

The RFA solicits applications from any of the 53 State agencies (including the District of Columbia, Guam, and the Virgin Islands) that administer SNAP and are interested in competing for funding. State agencies may apply on behalf of one or more county-administered SNAP agencies; they may also submit multiple applications that propose different project ideas.

The pilots are intended to build upon and enhance existing SNAP E&T activities. States must commit to at least the same level of funding for their SNAP E&T program as they did in Fiscal Year 2013 for each year of the pilot. States must also commit to cooperating with an evaluation, which will be conducted by a contractor selected through a separate request for proposals.  As CLASP has strongly advocated, the RFA also requires that states collaborate with workforce and other job training programs in the state and local area.

State SNAP agencies have until September 26, 2014 to submit a letter of intent to apply for the pilots. The final application must be submitted by November 24, 2014. FNS will announce grantees by February 23, 2015, and the winners will be expected to have programs operational by October 2015

These pilots will allow states to develop and highlight innovative SNAP E&T models that help SNAP participants secure good jobs that reduce their need for benefits. Since the Farm Bill’s passage, CLASP has been encouraging interested states and advocates to consider promising strategies they may want to pilot and lay the groundwork for potential partnerships among state workforce agencies, community colleges, and local community-based organizations. We have also highlighted innovative strategies that are already being implemented in Washington and Minnesota.

To learn more, read CLASP’s updated brief. We will continue to engage stakeholders to support innovative partnerships between SNAP and workforce programs.  We must make the most of this unique opportunity to help eligible SNAP participants get jobs and increase their earnings.

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