In April 2014, the Departments of Education (ED), Health and Human Services (HHS), and Labor (DOL) issued a Request for Information (RFI) about career pathway systems. They sought information and recommendations from the public and private sectors. The RFI requested descriptions of current career pathways systems, the roles and responsibilities of career pathways partners, how the career pathway systems work within economic development strategies, funding, measurements, and staying current with labor market trends. It tackled issues of reaching diverse populations, offering industry-recognized credentials, and facilitating implementation of career pathways. It sought recommendations for how the government can support the public and private sectors’ efforts in developing career pathways systems. They received a total of 141 responses.
Respondents’ recommended the ED, HHS, and DOL address the following challenges (in order of frequency in responses):
- Serve diverse populations – career pathways must reach hard-to-serve populations
- Increase funding – grants, pilot funding, rewards for communities and employers, joint funding programs from federal agencies
- Provide technical assistance
- Provide greater flexibility
- Support additional research – provide/support research on effectiveness, return on investment, and best practices; develop benchmarks
- Improve performance and outcome measures – develop performance metrics, especially for difficult-to-quantify outcomes of career pathways, such as soft skills
The respondents offered tactics and policy reforms. This consensus report and suggestions by respondents could be a cost-effective way for state agencies, K-12, universities, etc. to explore ways to improve their career pathway systems.
Upon deeper exploration of the responses and comments-at-large, we found an agreement that career pathways must start in middle school. Respondents wanted programs that promote Career and Technical Education (CTE), such as linked learning in California and HB5 in Texas, to be available to middle school students. Commenter Gabriele Duffy, a vocational teacher/administrator for over 40 years in a K-12 district, wrote:
“I, therefore, urge consideration of the following factors in policy revision… Establish middle school clubs aligned to the 16 pathways to permit experimentation and informed choice for students for related high school pathways…” (Source)
Sound familiar? Recommendations such as this encourage the establishment of Career & College Clubs in more middle schools.