Gateway to Careers Act Links Education to In-Demand Jobs

By Judy Mortrude

‘Job Training’ isn’t the solution it was once cracked up to be. That’s why it’s time to start talking about career education and employment that’ll make lasting change for participants and their communities.  The Gateway to Careers Act of 2018 would do just that by building the partnerships and deploying the resources needed to support people with barriers to success by helping them earn an industry-valued postsecondary credential that strengthens their career. The bill is sponsored by Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH).

The Gateway to Careers Act builds on major education and workforce development legislation while also defining a partnership model that will strengthen this work in communities.  By bringing together a postsecondary institution eligible for financial aid, a workforce development partner, and a secondary education and adult education partner, a career pathway partnership creates a program that’s both valued by local employers and builds foundational and occupational skills and credentials.

To mitigate any barriers to employment, the Act calls for partnering entities to analyze the services they provide and their participants’ population characteristics.  This call for community partners to intentionally articulate their roles and responsibilities in an aligned career pathway delivery model will build efficiencies and effectiveness into what is often a jumble of local services.  This bill will provide funding for the direct support services—from child care and transportation to mental health and substance use disorder treatment—that people need to succeed in their education and employment goals.

Importantly, the Act also makes it easier for local partners to do their work together by aligning performance accountability measures and measuring participants’ interim progress toward their credential goals. Using the ‘measurable skill gains’—as defined in section 361.155(a)(1)(v) of title 34, Code of Federal Regulations—will focus education and employment partners on important participant milestones.  Additionally, aligning many of the Act’s employment and earnings measures with WIOA will help build local career pathway systems.

As Congress considers the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA), CLASP strongly supports the Gateway to Careers Act, legislation that promotes career pathways for people with barriers to quality jobs.  Along with this bill, CLASP urges members to pass HEA reforms that help low-income students, particularly adult learners, students of color, opportunity youth, immigrants, student parents, returning citizens and incarcerated adults, and Dreamers access and afford college, increase comprehensive financial and culturally competent supports for working students; and streamline the financial aid process. Low-income students who receive financial aid and income supports are more likely to complete college and lead healthy, prosperous lives.