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"Beta" Framework Details Criteria, Indicators, and Shared Metrics for High-Quality Career Pathway Systems

Today’s education and workforce development systems were designed for different times. They reflect an era when postsecondary credentials were not required by nearly two-thirds of the workforce and lifelong learning was more avocational than a key ingredient to sustained individual economic security and global competitiveness. That’s why these systems were not designed to provide all workers with a seamless path to earning credentials and, despite all good intentions, have shortcomings and disconnects that can block the road to educational and economic success.

Career pathways is an emerging approach that connects progressive levels of basic skills and postsecondary education, training, and supportive services in specific sectors or cross-sector occupations in a way that optimizes the progress and success of individuals— including those with limited education, English, skills, and/or work experience—in securing marketable credentials, family-supporting employment, and further education and employment opportunities. Career pathways help employers meet their workforce needs and help states and communities strengthen their workforces and economies. This approach reorients existing education and workforce services from a myriad of disconnected programs into a structure that focuses on the workforce needs of employers and on the education and training needs of individuals as they pursue their career paths.

States and local regions have experimented with career pathways for about a decade, and many models and definitions have emerged. Without a common and specific definition of career pathways, the variation can be confusing and there is no shared understanding among and between practitioners, policymakers, funders, and employers as to what constitutes high-quality career pathways and systems. To address this challenge, last summer CLASP launched The Alliance for Quality Career Pathways, a two-year (2012-2014), state-driven, CLASP-led initiative funded by the Joyce Foundation and James Irvine Foundation. The purpose of the Alliance is to develop 1) a framework of criteria and indicators that define high-quality career pathway systems and 2) a set of shared performance metrics for measuring and managing the success of these systems. The Alliance includes ten states that are leading the nation in experience with developing and taking to scale career pathways and that have volunteered to work together to develop the Alliance framework.  These states are Arkansas, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The Alliance framework is intended to provide a common understanding of high-quality career pathway systems and programs. State and local/regional partnerships adopting the career pathway approach—within and beyond the ten Alliance states—can use the Alliance framework to build and strengthen their career pathway systems. This will enable them to provide seamless career paths that transcend the system disconnects and provide essential supports for youth and adults  to build their skills, earn credentials of value, and obtain jobs and careers that support themselves and their families.

Today, CLASP and the Alliance are releasing a draft version of the framework, which we are calling the “Beta” Framework because it is intended only for review and field-testing of the criteria, indicators, and shared metrics. CLASP and the Alliances states drafted the framework, drawing upon a review of existing research and literature on career pathways and extensive feedback from partners in the Alliance states as well as the Alliance’s National Advisory Group. This beta framework builds upon the U.S. Department of Labor’s Six Key Elements and adds key new components including a conceptual model of career pathway systems and a shared set of career pathway “beta” performance metrics.

The Alliance partners will review and field-test the “Beta” Framework from July through December 2013. In winter 2014, CLASP and the Alliance partners will edit the framework (including definitions, visuals, criteria, indicators, and metrics) based on the feedback and what we learn in the review and field-testing phase. CLASP and the Alliance partners will draft and publish in the spring of 2014 a final Version 1.0 of the framework and a complementary self-assessment tool for use by career pathway partnerships.

CLASP and the Alliance welcome feedback from others in the career pathways field outside the Alliance states. You may register here to download a copy of the “Beta” Framework and send feedback to CLASP at careerpathways@clasp.org.

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