Explains how states can increase and use interactive pathway evaluator tools to understand which career pathways lead to the best labor market outcomes for different population groups; and uses examples from the Integrated-Basic Education and Skills Training program in Washington and the Workforce Data Quality Initiative in Texas, as career pathway strategies that rely on people’s ability to access multiple services.

“Career pathways are a key strategy for helping students, jobseekers and workers…prepare for middle-skill jobs....This report explains how states can create and use ‘pathway evaluator’ tools to better understand what pathways achieve the best labor market outcomes for which groups of people.

Pathway evaluator tools answer questions policymakers have about how their state’s array of skills programs help a diversity of students and workers earn credentials and get jobs. These questions include: Do people with different needs have sufficient access to appropriate programs? What pathways achieve the best employment and earnings outcomes for which groups of people? With this information in hand, policymakers can create career pathway strategies that align the state’s mix of education, training, and support service programs to prepare individuals with different needs for middle-skill jobs” (p.2).

“Pathway evaluators show different ‘pathways’ or patterns of participation across programs and the credential and labor market outcomes associated with them. They can show these pathways and outcomes for a particular population of interest so that policymakers can determine which combination of services works best for that group. With answers to these questions, policymakers can ensure that skills programs work together to equitably and efficiently prepare students and workers with different needs for employment or advancement into middle-skill jobs.

This paper discusses the basic pieces of information necessary to create pathway evaluators, including: choosing populations of interest; defining cross-program participation; and identifying shared outcomes. It also describes the data systems required to create pathway evaluators and the policy issues that must be addressed to support such data systems. It explains how pathway evaluators can be used to inform career pathway policies and practices, providing examples from Washington State and Texas. While pathway evaluator findings thus far have mostly been presented in a static, report format, this paper describes the next generation of pathway evaluator tools that are web-based and interactive. This paper concludes with a list of considerations for policymakers and analysts who want to create pathway evaluator tools” (p.3).

(Abstractor: Author)

Major Findings & Recommendations

Findings “Pathway evaluators help policymakers understand which pathways achieve the best employment and earnings outcomes for people with different needs. In order to create pathway evaluators and use them to inform policy, states should consider the following issues: 1. States should decide how they will use pathway evaluator tools to develop or improve career pathway strategies. As a starting point, states should identify the career pathway strategy that policymakers are interested in addressing. Policymakers may be interested in using a pathway evaluator to improve a career pathways strategy for a particular population….States should also identify programs that contribute to the career pathways they are investigating so they can include them in their analysis of cross-program participation. Finally, states should identify the shared outcomes they seek from career pathways….States should consider using [Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act] common metrics to measure shared outcomes in each of these areas…. 2. States should determine the data system…they will use to create pathway evaluator tools” (p.11). States can use data linked by batch mode or longitudinally-linked data (p.11) such as Washington’s [Integrated-Basic Education and Skills Training] I-BEST program (p.7) and the [Workforce Data Quality Initiative] WDQI in Texas (p.9). “Since longitudinally-linked data are easier to use, more efficient, and allow for broader analysis, states should press for increased support for [State Longitudinal Data System] and WDQI efforts and related investments. States should also identify any policies that need to be adopted to promote data linking, including [memoranda of understanding], [data-sharing agreements], and legislation” (p.11). “3. States should assess their capacity for creating interactive, web-based pathway evaluator tools. Only a few states have created pathway evaluators, and those that have mostly presented their findings in a static, report format. Interactive, web-based pathway evaluator tools are just coming online, and the programming to create them requires an additional level of technical sophistication….By using pathway evaluator tools to devise and shape more effective career pathway strategies in their states, policymakers can align education, training, and support services to equitably and efficiently prepare workers with different needs for middle-skill jobs” (p.11). (Abstractor: Author and Website Staff)