Wisconsin RISE Career Pathway Bridge Programs Prepare Students for Good Jobs

Sep 15, 2011

To highlight the importance of adult education programs, CLASP and other national organizations are participating in the third annual National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. Throughout the week, we will feature programs that help low-skilled adults prepare for postsecondary education, career advancement, and employment in a family-sustaining career.

By Marcie Foster

At least 90 million Americans have low basic skills that make it hard for them to support themselves or their families. Other factors-such as being low-income and having work and family responsibilities-also make it harder for these adults to upgrade their skills and get a better job to support their families. State initiatives to improve access to education that meet these students' needs are important to creating a healthy and successful workforce.  

In Wisconsin, over 40 colleges, as part of the Wisconsin RISE initiative, have developed "career pathway bridge" programs that provide basic skills or English language services jointly with occupational skills training to lower-skilled students. These career pathway bridges enable students to enter and succeed in their chosen career more quickly than if they had to complete each course separately. Early results are promising: many of these bridge programs have completion rates over 80 percent and result in students earning college credit that they can use toward a higher-level degree.

Testimonials from RISE students demonstrate the program's popularity and success.

Coralie Benson, Northcentral Technical College
Since coming to the U.S., Coralie worked in several low-wage caregiving jobs and found it difficult to break into higher-paying healthcare occupations because of her limited English. Yet she knew that obtaining a certificate as a nursing assistant would be the ticket to a better-paying job and the opportunity for career advancement. At the suggestion of her co-workers and supervisors, Coralie applied to Northcentral Technical College's ESL bridge course designed to help students improve their English skills while training to become a certified nursing assistant. Upon completion of the program, Coralie was able to land a job making three times her former salary and hopes to one day study to be a pharmacist. Read Coralie's testimonial >>

Josie Stetson, Moraine Park Technical College
Unsatisfied by his low-wage job at a local fast food chain, Josie sought out a new career in welding-a high-demand field in Wisconsin. He enrolled in an accelerated career pathway bridge course at Moraine Park Technical College that offered a team-teaching approach consisting of a basic skills instructor and a technical skills instructor. Josie's teacher, Jeff Beach, describes this approach as being critical to student learning. "We were able to take some of the vocabulary we use in our industry and break those things down into more digestible bits," explained Jeff. "That made sure that [the students] understood what we were throwing at them before we started incorporating those terms into more complex, situational activities." Josie completed the bridge and went on to enroll in an associate degree program in welding. Read Josie's testimonial >>

Read more student testimonials from Wisconsin and other states in the Shifting Gears initiative >>

For more information on career pathway bridges, read Farther Faster: Six Promising Programs Show How Career Pathway Bridges Help Basic Skills Students Earn Credentials That Matter.


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