Explores how Alternative Pathways Programs can improve education and employment outcomes for low-income adults in California and describes six pillars of program design, drawing on broad-based scan of notable practices and interviews with education providers, employers, and stakeholders across the country.

“In the latter half of 2016, [the authors] conducted national research…regarding innovative education-to-employment opportunities for low-income adults. The goal of this initiative was to better understand the emerging ecosystem of Alternative Pathways Programs, which are generally non-accredited, employment-oriented education and training initiatives that promise a pathway into the workforce for opportunity youth and adults. In particular, [the authors] sought to explore how these models could support low-income adults and other underserved populations to enhance their readiness and access to sustainable employment opportunities and longer-term career pathways.

For the purposes of this initiative, ‘low-income adults’ are defined as those earning less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Line, may be unemployed or if employed face limited opportunities for career advancement, and have no or limited exposure to postsecondary education activities” (p.3).

Using “qualitative analysis of hundreds of companies and organizations delivering education, training, and related services to adult learners” (p.39) and interviews with stakeholders, the authors “explore how an expanding segment of non-traditional programs are both helping low-income adults improve their skills and connecting them to meaningful entry-level jobs and new career pathways” (p.3).

This resource, “[t]he first publication in this series[,] introduces and defines Alternative Pathways Programs and their appeal as a catalyst for augmenting California’s existing infrastructure of institutions and programs serving low-income adults with education-to-employment pathways. [The authors] identify six Program Pillars that represent critical design considerations for providers seeking to achieve outcomes with low-income adult participants.

The second publication [(a separate resource) takes] a closer look at how a dynamic cohort of Alternative Pathway program organizations, located in California and beyond, are driving success for participants through well-designed enrollment, support, and workforce alignment models, among other Program Pillars” (p.3).

Full publication title: Path to Employment: Maximizing the Impact of Alternative Pathways Programs Part 1: Establishing Effective Program Pillars

(Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)

Major Findings & Recommendations

“In response to a number of factors, a growing collection of companies and organizations are launching programs tightly aligned with individuals’ desire to secure robust employment opportunities and employers’ needs to identify and recruit scarce and/or specialized talent; [the authors] refer to these initiatives as ‘Alternative Pathways Programs.’ While drawing on elements of more traditional education-to employment programs, Alternative Pathways Programs…explicitly prepare participants for validated, in-demand workforce opportunities. These programs often provide a host of wrap-around services and support that generally far exceeds what is what found in traditional channels, with high-levels of customization and post- ‘graduation’ engagement for participants. Alternative Pathways Programs represent [a] potential solution to the employment barriers faced by low-income adults; they are scaffolding education and training offerings and driving successful outcomes both in terms of program completion and job placement in a time- and cost-efficient manner. To best serve low-income adults effectively, [the authors] identified six ‘program pillars’ that [Alternative Pathways Programs] need to optimize. The six pillars reflect: • Enrollment Policies • Participant Support • Labor Market Alignment • Connections • Training Mix • Financial Model A range of models exist within [each] pillar, and [the authors] have identified an optimal one in each area for those providers—both for-profit and non-profit—targeting (or seeking to serve) low-income adults. By focusing on the six identified pillars, companies and organizations can build strong(er) models that have a greater ability to deliver outcomes and drive scaled participation. This may include enhancing or building ‘pillars’ at existing Alternative Pathways Programs; helping organizations re-orient programs toward low-income adult populations; and/or establishing completely new programs. Replicating these efforts can achieve important goals for both individuals and society. The first is to dramatically enhance the employment prospects and mobility of low-income adults within a state or region. The second is to expand the number of low-income adults who are able to access effective education and training aligned to a state’s workforce needs and employer priorities. In both scenarios, all the stakeholders win” (p.4-5). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)