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In Focus

Nov 6, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

In the Spotlight: CLASP’s Career Pathway Framework Highlighted in New Brief

By Manuela Ekowo

Last month, the College and Career Readiness and Success (CCRS) Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR) released a new brief, Career Pathways Initiatives. A career pathway system is the cohesive combination of partnerships, resources and funding, policies, data, and shared performance measures that support the development, quality, scaling, and “dynamic sustainability” of career pathways and programs. Career pathways reorient existing education and workforce services from myriad disconnected programs into a structure that syncs employers' workforce needs with individuals' education and training needs.

CCRS’s brief highlights major national and regional career pathways initiatives and offers ideas for states on designing and implementing career pathways. CLASP’s Alliance for Quality Career Pathways (AQCP) framework, designed for community colleges and their partners, is among the frameworks highlighted. 

The AQCP work began in 2012 when CLASP invited ten career pathway states—Arkansas, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin—and their local/regional partners to develop a framework of criteria and indicators for what constitutes quality career pathway systems and a set of shared participant metrics for measuring and managing their success. CLASP and the AQCP partners jointly created and provided consensus support for Shared Vision, Strong Systems: The Alliance for Quality Career Pathways Framework Version 1.0, establishing a common understanding of quality career pathways and systems.

The CCRS brief acknowledges that career pathways are growing—with 29 states participating in national or regional initiatives. CLASP continues to inform the national conversation on career pathways and provide leadership in building a shared vision and knowledge base, especially as it relates to implementing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) and its requirement that states and local communities create career pathways that serve adults and youth, and especially individuals with barriers to employment seeking the education and training necessary to secure a good job.

We’re delighted that CLASP’s contribution to the field has been lifted up in this new brief, which adds to the urgency of developing strong career pathway systems that serve today’s and tomorrow’s learners.

Nov 2, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

Department of Education Clarifies Financial Aid Provision that Helps Low-Income Students

By Lauren Walizer

On October 22, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) responded to concerns and recommendations from institutions and advocates, including CLASP, about implementing the Ability to Benefit (ATB) provision.  ATB, partially restored last year after being cut in 2011, provides an important entry point into higher education for low-skilled adults. It allows federal financial aid for students who lack a high school diploma or equivalent but can prove their ability to benefit from college by successfully completing six credits or passing an exam while enrolled in a career pathway program. However, many higher education institutions have progressed slowly in making this promise a reality for the students who need it.

ED issued a questions and answers document covering the most common questions from institutions, including several that address the initial obstacles colleges will face as they use the revised 2014 ATB provision to offer financial aid to students in an eligible career pathway program. (This document expands on guidance provided by ED on May 22.)

An eligible career pathway program must meet all the requirements listed in section 484(d)(2) of the Higher Education Act, as well as be “developed and implemented in collaboration with partners in business, workforce development, and economic development” and aligned with the needs of the local area. Institutions must document how the program meets each of these requirements.

Additionally, an eligible career pathway must offer two concurrent components—one in adult education and another in title IV-eligible postsecondary education. These components must also be contextually aligned. A student must remain enrolled in both components while in the career pathway in order to be eligible for federal title IV financial aid under ATB. However, ED explains that it’s permissible for a student to be enrolled in only one component in a payment period; for instance, if no adult education courses were offered in the summer term, the student would not lose eligibility by only enrolling in the title IV-eligible component at that time.

The program does not need to be approved by ED, the state, or an accrediting agency; however, institutions must follow any state laws or regulations around career pathways. ED does not have, and will not be developing, an approval process for career pathway programs. Significantly, the guidance notes that if ED performs a program review or audit of the career pathway program, they “will consider whether the institution made a good faith effort to comply” with these provisions.

The ED question-and-answer document also addresses more technical questions around requirements of the adult education component, remedial coursework, calculating cost of attendance, and when a student becomes eligible for the full Pell (instead of the ATB-required reduced Pell) award.

CLASP appreciates the effort by ED to respond to our call for additional resources, and we urge institutions to use this information to take immediate action in making ATB available to eligible students. This release from ED has been added to our ATB Resource page. Consider bookmarking this page, as it is periodically updated with all the latest developments and examples of action that institutions and states have taken to provide this resource to students.

To continue the discussion on how institutions can implement ATB, please consider attending our November 9 webinar with Jobs for the Future.

Oct 14, 2015  |  PERMALINK »

CLASP Highlights Career Pathways in New Book on Workforce, Education Strategies

By Manuela Ekowo

A new book from the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta and Kansas City and Rutgers University’s John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development examines the state of today’s labor market as well as strategies to improve workforce development and education. Transforming U.S. Workforce Development Policies for the 21st Century, produced in collaboration with CLASP and other workforce experts, highlights transformative workforce and education policies that improve employment opportunities for students and workers, with a special focus on those experiencing the greatest barriers. This includes the long-term unemployed, those with limited formal education, older and youth workers, minorities, and individuals with disabilities.

Divided into four parts, the book presents leading scholars’ and practitioners’ recommendations for reforming policies and programs to address major workforce challenges. Part 1, “Transforming the U.S. Workforce Development System,” examines the strengths and limitations of U.S. workforce policies. Part 2, “Redesigning Workforce Development Strategies,” offers ideas to help educators and workforce programs better serve employers and job seekers. Authors cover such topics as improving labor market and career information, restructuring postsecondary financial aid programs, delivering online training and education courses, improving credentialing, and involving employers in the development and delivery of training.

CLASP’s chapter, A New Way of Doing Business: The Career Pathway Approach in Minnesota and Beyond, explores career pathways for low-income, lower-skilled adults. It describes the efforts of the Alliance for Quality Career Pathways, a collaboration between CLASP and ten career pathway states, to develop a shared understanding of quality career pathway systems. The chapter also features a case study of Minnesota’s FastTRAC (Training, Resources, and Credentialing) program, an adult achievement initiative to help educationally underprepared adults achieve success in high-demand careers that pay family-sustaining wages. The case study describes two programs within Minnesota’s FastTRAC’s suite of career pathways and explains how state partners are making it possible to integrate basic skills with career and technical education along a continuum from foundational skills preparation to postsecondary credentials.

Part 3 of the book, “Building Evidence-Based Policy and Practice,” includes chapters and case studies examining how systematic data collection and analysis, as well as evaluations, are being used to improve state and local workforce programs. Part 4, “Targeted Strategies,” includes chapters and case studies on effective policies and programs that are meeting the needs of American workers and employers. Authors highlight evidence-based practices from states and communities and describe why these approaches can help both job seekers and employers. The authors consider how these practices could become more widely available throughout the U.S.

Transforming U.S. Workforce Development Policies for the 21st Century is an excellent resource for workforce development providers, postsecondary educators, federal, state, and local policymakers, community-based organizations, researchers, business, the philanthropic community, and students. Click here to read an electronic version.

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