This brief discusses the implementation of career pathways under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), and considerations for state adult education staff in developing career pathways systems to support individuals in their pursuit of education and employment. Considerations are presented for assessing the implementation of career pathways, determining professional development to support career pathways, and the collection and use of data related to career pathways services.

This brief highlights activities in supporting career pathways as part of WIOA, Title II, the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act. Considerations are presented for assessing the implementation of career pathways, determining professional development to support career pathways, and the collection and use of data related to career pathways services.The report provides context for career pathways under the WIOA legislation, describing the act as strengthening the U.S. workforce development system by aligning employment, training, and education programs and improving their quality through innovative approaches that address the needs of adults and youth. Career pathways, consistently referenced in WIOA Titles I and II, is an approach that includes innovative policies and practices to facilitate individuals’ education and employment success.The brief also outlines the role of state career pathways partners in strengthening workforce development systems by aligning workforce, education, and economic development systems.

The document outlines considerations to workforce system partners in implementing a local career pathways system to support education outcomes. The role of education is pivotal in WIOA since many adults seeking WIOA-supported services will require education or training to access career paths that are in high demand in their communities. For low-skilled adults and/or those with barriers to employment, the availability of high-quality adult education services is essential. These services should enable adults to establish career goals and a potential path early in their participation in adult education. Services should provide options for skill development that are efficient and effective in moving them along a career path.

Major Findings & Recommendations

The brief notes the following:

  • States are encouraged to form career pathways interagency groups comprised of partners in workforce development, economic development, adult education, postsecondary education, career and technical education, vocational rehabilitation, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), employers, unions, industry associations, and other entities supporting individuals’ education and employment outcomes.
  • State staff plays an important role in encouraging local service providers to use a career pathways approach to deliver education, training, and employment services.
  • WIOA provides an opportunity for state adult education staff to lead the transformation of local adult education services into a well-coordinated system that is built upon strong interagency partnerships; serves a diverse group of adults; adopts a career pathways approach in program orientation, advising, instruction, and transition services; and leverages community resources to address the varied needs of adults entering these services. In order to strengthen adult education services, state staff will need to assess the extent to which career pathways are being implemented by local adult education providers and areas in which there are gaps in the use of a career pathways approach.

The brief references the ABE Provider Career Pathways Survey which was administered by states examining local adult education providers. The results revealed:

  • Providers who are high implementers of career pathways and can serve as a focus group for identifying promising career pathways strategies or in developing training for transferring career pathways practices;
  • Providers with low use of career pathways to determine the components of career pathways requiring targeted technical assistance from the state; and
  • The types of local partnerships that need to be developed and facilitated through state staff’s work with partners in promoting local collaboration between adult education and other partners.

The brief draws the conclusion that WIOA provides state adult education staff with an opportunity to collaborate with state interagency partners to support a system of career pathways services in local communities. These services should result in coordinated education and training services that facilitate individuals’ attainment of skills and credentials that advance their economic well-being.