Funding Career Pathways and Career Pathway Bridges: A Federal Policy Toolkit for States


The latest edition includes program profiles reflecting WIOA legislative and administrative changes to key federal programs.


Postsecondary education—broadly defined as a credential beyond a high school diploma—continues to be one of the major gateways to family-sustaining jobs. Workers with higher levels of education and skills tend to have greater earnings than workers with lower levels. In 2013, associate’s degree holders earned about 19 percent more than high school graduates with no college and 65 percent more than workers with less than a high school diploma. Having a postsecondary education also offers protection in a weak economy because workers with higher levels of education are less likely to become unemployed.

While demand is increasing, our adult education, workforce development, and postsecondary education systems have barriers to progress for individuals with low education and skill levels. Too often, adult education and English language programs are not connected to job training or other postsecondary education programs. Many colleges have no connections between their developmental education programs and their occupational and academic programs. Noncredit occupational education is disconnected from for-credit certificate and degree programs. And too few programs at any level are attuned to employer and industry needs.

The career pathway approach fixes fragmented and leaky educational pipelines. Career pathways are linked education and training services that enable students to advance over time to successively higher levels of education and employment in a given industry or occupational sector. Each step on a career pathway is designed to prepare students to progress to the next level of education and employment. The career pathways framework weaves together adult education, training, and postsecondary programs and connects those services to employers’ workforce needs. Career pathways include multiple entry and exit points, learner-centered instruction and delivery, assessment of skills and needs, support services, and quality work experiences.

Earlier editions of this funding toolkit were widely cited and used at the federal, state, and local levels. This new edition includes revised program profiles reflecting the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act legislative and administrative changes to key federal programs. Of all the elements of career pathways, support services are among the most important to student success; they are also the most difficult to fund. An updated appendix identifies 10 federal funding sources that can be used to provide a wide range of support services for participants in career pathways.

Using the Toolkit

CLASP developed the Funding Career Pathways toolkit to help interagency state teams identify and use federal resources to support these models. The toolkit has four sections:

Federal Program Summaries

Use the federal program summaries  to identify resources that may support your state’s career pathways initiative. Each summary includes basic information, such as type of program, eligibility requirements, type of services/support provided, and an analysis of how the program can support career pathways, including a list of specific opportunities and limitations.

Use the appendix, Federal Funding for Support Services, to identify federal programs that can be used for a range of support services that help students persist in and complete career pathways.

Download the powerpoint presentation which outlines how to use the toolkit and examples from three states in CLASP’s Alliance for Quality Career Pathways.