Career Pathways: More Information Still Needed

The U.S. Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Labor (DOL) have released a summary report of last spring’s Career Pathway Request for Information (RFI). This is especially timely with the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) set to take effect in July.

The majority of the 171 RFI respondents were individuals and nonprofits, with just 4 percent of responses coming from local Workforce Investment Boards. However, WIOA offers an opportunity to expand the leadership of state and local workforce boards by requiring them to convene their education partners to develop and implement career pathways. With WIOA taking effect in July, the next several months are crucial for workforce boards that have not yet built career pathway partnerships; they must move quickly to begin aligning services.

Six recommendations were most frequent among the RFI responses:

  • Serve diverse populations;
  • Increase funding;
  • Provide technical assistance;
  • Provide greater flexibility;
  • Support additional research; and
  • Improve performance and outcome measures.

Not surprisingly, the responses revealed the need for more depth and breadth of partnerships in career pathways. For example:

  • Learning how to “braid” formula funds to support career pathway participants and practitioners across all four WIOA titles will require intentional co-enrollment and clear guidance on collecting, sharing, and reporting performance measures between partners.
  • It is essential to build the required partnerships between WIOA programs and Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs funded by the Carl Perkins Act , in order to efficiently move adults and out-of-school youth into and through postsecondary CTE pathways to employment while meeting Perkins performance measures.

We are encouraged by the federal interagency career pathway team’s continued efforts to drive critical conversations, and we encourage the agencies to use the upcoming WIOA regulations to explicitly define practices that serve the neediest populations with existing formula funds through aligned and leveraged services across the WIOA titles, Perkins funding, Pell Grants, SNAP E&T, TANF, and more. 

State and local leaders need explicit federal guidance on how to align these partnerships and their performance measures. The workforce development system should play an integral part in making the opportunity of career pathways a reality for those with the greatest needs.

CLASP’s Center for Economic and Postsecondary Success provides a number of tools to help build strong career pathway systems: