Defining, Strengthening, and Measuring Quality Career Pathways and Systems: The Alliance for Quality Career Pathways Releases Framework

By Manuela Ekowo and Vickie Choitz

A growing number of states and communities are exploring and adopting career pathways, and foundations and the federal government are making significant investments in this approach. However as state and local/regional partners embrace career pathways, lack of cross-system consensus on what constitutes a quality system and lack of shared metrics to assess career pathway participant success hampers the work.

In 2012, CLASP recognized this challenge and invited ten leading career pathway states—Arkansas, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin—and their local/regional partners to join Phase I of the Alliance (2012-2014). The purpose of Phase I was 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 Alliance partners jointly created and provided consensus support for Shared Vision, Strong Systems: The Alliance for Quality Career Pathways Framework Version 1.0, which establishes a common understanding of quality career pathways and systems.

The need for quality career pathways and systems could not be greater. Almost two-thirds of all jobs in the near future will require postsecondary credentials, which are becoming essential for low-income workers to access middle class employment. However, tens of millions of U.S. adults have skill levels too low to succeed in earning these credentials or landing and holding on to family-supporting jobs. We cannot afford to overlook the importance of providing education and training for youth and adults who need it, and for providing employers with the skilled workers they need. The career pathway approach offers individuals, educators, workforce practitioners, human service providers, and employers the opportunity to make a real difference in our economy and people’s lives.

In addition to releasing the Alliance 1.0 Framework, we are thrilled to launch Phase II of the Alliance, which will run through the end of 2015. In this phase, Alliance partners will implement the framework and share lessons with the field. Phase II will also provide the opportunity of joining the Alliance to new state and local/regional partnerships that are prepared to work collaboratively across agencies, organizations, and employers to define, strengthen, and measure their career pathways and systems.

AQCP is funded by the Joyce Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation, and the Greater Twin Cities United Way. To learn more about the Alliance and to stay informed, visit the Alliance webpage here. We are looking forward to working with committed partners to strengthen their career pathway systems and to informing and enhancing this growing movement.