Alliance for Quality Career Pathways Releases Shared Vision, Strong Systems

WASHINGTON, D.C .—Today, the Alliance for Quality Career Pathways (AQCP/the Alliance), a partnership of ten states together with CLASP, released its groundbreaking Shared Vision, Strong Systems: The Alliance for Quality Career Pathways Framework 1.0, which establishes a common understanding of strong and effective career pathway systems.

In today’s economy, postsecondary credentials are essential to securing good jobs that pay a family-sustaining wage.  But because our education and workforce systems are fragmented and not designed for today’s needs, tens of millions of adults and youth lack the skills they need to succeed in school and employment. They are simply not prepared to fill today’s jobs.

To address this, many states have adopted a “career pathways” approach in recent years.  Career pathways connect progressive levels of education, training, supportive services, and marketable credentials for specific occupations in a way that optimizes participants’ progress and success and prepares them for higher-skilled jobs. They also deeply engage employers and help communities strengthen their workforces. This approach can benefit many types of participants, and it is especially beneficial for more vulnerable populations, such as low-income youth and adults who are underprepared for postsecondary credential programs.

But despite the increasing prevalence of career pathways, little research has been available on what constitutes a quality career pathway or system.  That’s why the Alliance Framework released today is so significant.

“Every career pathway partnership has good intentions, but quality can vary,” said Alliance Director Vickie Choitz.  “When we began Phase I of AQCP with our state partners—Arkansas, California, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin—and their local/regional colleagues, we set out to identify the indicators and metrics that tell us if a career pathway or system is effective, operates at scale, and is sustainable. Shared Vision, Strong Systems is the first national attempt at a comprehensive, field-driven, voluntary framework, and we are so pleased with the product our partners shaped.”

Career pathways rely on state agencies, postsecondary institutions, community-based organizations, and business leaders working together to identify required skills in a given industry sector and develop seamless pathways to help participants obtain them. The Framework defines the three essential features and four functions of career pathways and what should be included in a state or local system of partnerships, policies, funding, and so forth to support these innovative models. It shows how to use participant metrics to measure progress and success along each pathway.

A quality career pathway system is one that performs well as measured by how many targeted participants achieve expected outcomes, intentionally operates like a system, provides services and achieves outcomes at scale, and is sustainable over time. The Alliance partners determined a set of six criteria (each with a handful of indicators) and a set of participant metrics that can be used to assess quality.  These include:

  1. COMMIT TO A SHARED VISION AND STRATEGY for industry sector-based career pathways for youth and adults and for building, scaling, and dynamically sustaining career pathway systems.
  2. ENGAGE EMPLOYERS AND INTEGRATE SECTOR STRATEGY PRINCIPLES to ensure multiple employers, business associations, and labor unions are partners in creating demand-driven career pathways.
  3. COLLABORATE TO MAKE RESOURCES AVAILABLE by identifying, prioritizing, and leveraging resources for career pathway systems, partnerships, and programs.
  4. IMPLEMENT SUPPORTIVE POLICIES for career pathway systems, pathways, and programs.
  5. USE DATA AND SHARED MEASURES to measure, demonstrate, and improve participant outcomes.

“Minnesota’s career pathway programs have helped over a thousand individuals from diverse backgrounds find the skills they need to begin building lifelong careers,” said Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Katie Clark Sieben. “While we’ve had great success with this innovative approach, the AQCP framework will provide key performance indicators for system partners and a roadmap for continuous improvement efforts.”

Phase I of the Alliance was undertaken with support from the Joyce Foundation, James Irvine Foundation, and Greater Twin Cities United Way. The Alliance will now continue into Phase II through 2015, with anchor funding from the Joyce Foundation. During this period, state and local/regional partners will implement the framework—using the criteria to self-assess their systems and the participant metrics to measure success. CLASP will share lessons with the field through presentations and a series of upcoming policy briefs.

“The career pathway movement is growing and showing promise,” added Whitney Smith, employment program director at the Joyce Foundation.  “And with this new framework, we can rally funders and state and local partners around a shared vision for changing lives and promoting economic growth.”

To read the Executive Summary, click here.

To read the full Framework, click here.

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The Alliance for Quality Career Pathways (AQCP) is a partner-driven, CLASP-led initiative funded by the Joyce Foundation, James Irvine Foundation, and Greater Twin Cities United Way, to identify criteria and indicators that define high-quality career pathway systems and a set of shared performance metrics for measuring and managing their success.  To learn more, visit  To join the conversation on Twitter, use #AQCPathways.

CLASP develops and advocates for policies at the federal, state, and local levels that improve the lives of low-income people. We focus on policies that strengthen families and create pathways to education and work. Through careful research and analysis and effective advocacy, we develop and promote new ideas, mobilize others, and directly assist governments and advocates to put in place successful strategies that deliver results that matter to people across America. For more information, visit and follow @CLASP_DC.