Adult Career Pathways from Coast-to-Coast


The Designing Instruction for Career Pathways project is providing free customized professional development and training to adult education practitioners through several mediums, one of which is regional workshops. The workshops are tailored to meet the specific requests of practitioner groups from across the country. How do you make a request? Just visit the Adult Career Pathways Support Center website ( and click on the "ACP Training" box in the left-hand menu navigation. Then, select "Training Request." An interactive online form will appear asking you for details about the type of workshop you envision. It’s that easy!

Training topics include:

  • Building strategic partnerships
  • Designing contextualized instruction
  • Integrating career planning and counseling
  • Developing effective bridge programs
  • Engaging business in supporting the education pipeline
  • Sustaining career pathways: funding, leadership, policy
  • Using data for continuous improvement
  • Integrating education and training


Technical Work Group Member Spotlight on:

Jeff Grove Jeff Gove
State ABLE Director
Ohio Board of Regents

Q: Tell us about the state of Ohio's commitment to career pathways for adult learners.

A: The Ohio Board of Regents has created the University System of Ohio (USO), comprised of Adult Basic and Literacy Education (ABLE) programs, Adult Workforce Education (AWE) centers, community colleges, and four year colleges, to better align services, resources, and policies that support adults gaining the academic and technical skills needed to enter, persist, and successfully complete adult career pathways leading to credentials/degrees tied to labor market needs. We have been fortunate to benefit from national initiatives that support career pathway work, including but not limited to Shifting Gears, the Developmental Education Initiative, Department of Labor Career Pathways Design grant, National Career Awareness Project, WIA Incentive funds as well as an administration that sees the value of a skilled workforce meeting the 21st Century needs of Ohio’s businesses.

We are working within an Adult Learner Strategy plan that sets two goals for Ohio’s adults: 1. Increase the number of adults earning credentials with labor market value within the USO; and, 2. Increase the number of adults successfully transitioning through the system to earn additional credentials and degrees.

Q: From your vantage point as state ABLE director, what are some of the more promising strategies being employed in the design/development of adult career pathways programs?

A: They include: building bridges between and within USO partner organizations; leveraging resources/braiding funding; aligning policy; strengthening the credit pipeline for students; and fostering shared accountability. Other promising strategies include joint planning and delivery of contextualized curriculum, comprehensive assessment and advising, provision of support services to reduce student barriers to success, inter- and intra-system professional development, incentivizing outcomes, flexible scheduling, co-enrollment, and so on.

Q: From a personal standpoint why do the goals of a career pathways program resonate with you?

A: Having been involved in welfare reform and adult education at the local program and state level for over thirty years now, career pathway programs make sense for our students, can be understood and bought into by the business community, and clearly are needed if we are to elevate the skills of our adults, particularly those most marginalized, so that they can participate more fully as workers, family members, and citizens. I believe that this transcends administrations and political parties and is the right thing to do at the right time in our history. It also elevates the status and relevance of adult education as a part of the solution to this significant national challenge.



The Designing Instruction for Career Pathways online collection of instructional resources is growing, but we need your help to expand further. Special emphasis is being placed on identifying high-quality bridge courses that teach basic skills content through contextualized instruction. If you have a course that fits these criteria, let us know! To submit a course for consideration, log in to the Adult Career Pathways Support Center website ( with your user account. (If you don’t yet have an account, now is the time to create one!) Once logged in, click on the Resource Center box and then the “Submit a Resource” heading. The online instructions will guide you through the submission process. You can choose to submit an actual file of the course or just provide a link to its online location. We are looking forward to hearing from you soon!



2012 Connecticut Association for Adult and Continuing Education Conference

Groton, CT
March 29-30, 2012

Designing Instruction for Career Pathways (DICP) session:
Friday, March 30
9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Commission on Adult Basic Education Conference

Norfolk, VA
April 10-13, 2012

Designing Instruction for Career Pathways (DICP) session:
Wednesday, April 11
10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Mountain Plains Adult Education Association Conference

Helena, MT
April 11-14, 2012

Designing Instruction for Career Pathways (DICP) session:
Thursday, April 12
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Kansas Career Pathways Institute

Wichita, KS
April 17-18, 2012

American Association of Community Colleges Annual Convention

Orlando, FL
April 21-24, 2012

Michigan Adult Education and Training Conference

Acme, MI
April 24-27, 2012

This is an archived newsletter from ACP-SC and is available for archival purposes only. Hyperlinks on this page may be broken or may no longer link to the content specified from within the original posting date.

Community Colleges Demonstrate Nimble Response to Industry and Community Needs

In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama commended employers who partnered with their local community college to create education programs that retrain unemployed or underemployed citizens for jobs in high-demand sectors. He called on Congress to appropriate more resources for two-year colleges so that they can become "community career centers" capable of equipping adults with the skills businesses require. The following article series examines how three communities have created the types of partnerships the President described. Each of the following communities provide short-term training that blends adult education and career-technical program content to support local workforce needs.

Automotive Partnership a Win-Win for Dealerships in Seattle Area

Shoreline Community College, just north of Seattle, Washington, has enjoyed strong ties to major automotive manufacturers for more than 25 years. The college’s Professional Automotive Training Center (PATC) operates company-sponsored programs for Chrysler, General Motors, Honda, and Toyota. The program provides local dealers not only new technicians who’ve trained on manufacturer-specific equipment, but also a local resource for upgrading the skills of incumbent workers. A U.S. Department of Labor study predicted the need for automotive technicians will continue to grow, "even through downturns in the economy," and has designated the automotive industry one of high growth.

In an effort to meet their automotive partners continued employment needs and to expand the pipeline of program graduates, Shoreline created a three quarter training program for lower-skilled adults interested in introductory-level automotive training. The General Services Technician (GST) program uses the Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) model to support students who need assistance with basic skills and English, while offering them a bridge to employment in the automotive industry. An ESL/ABE instructor is in the classroom approximately 50 percent of the time to ensure students learn ABE math and English relevant to automotive technology. Students spend three quarters in the program for a total of 45 credit hours, aligning well to the state of Washington’s Opportunity Grant that helps low-income adults train for high-wage, high-demand careers. While the first two quarters of the program are taught at the PATC, providing both classroom and hands-on experience, students spend their third quarter in a cooperative education position at a local dealership. Upon completion of the program, graduates receive a Certificate of Proficiency that gives them both a pathway to an entry-level position in basic automotive diagnostics and repair, and a pathway into other automotive programs at the college.

Recent data shows that 61 percent of GST graduates are enrolling in one of the college’s two-year degree programs. "The students feel such a sense of accomplishment – many never dreaming that they could earn a degree – something they wouldn’t have experienced without the GST program," says Bob Biesiedzinski, Interim Program Director. One of the key factors in the program’s success has been the engagement of career navigators who support students by facilitating enrollment and registration, coordinating financial aid from multiple sources, connecting students to community services to support multiple needs, and providing career guidance. The navigator’s role was deemed significant enough that the Aspen Institute selected Shoreline to participate in Courses to Employment, a demonstration program designed to learn how partnerships between community colleges and non-profit organizations can help low-income adults achieve greater success in postsecondary education and the workforce. Shoreline partnered with the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County, which funded the career navigator position through a grant from the Mott Foundation. Key findings from the study demonstrated the importance of the navigator’s role to student success. GST students who worked with the navigator were more likely to be employed, working in auto-related jobs, and working full-time, compared to program peers who did not take advantage of navigator services. You can read the complete findings at

Shoreline’s Dean of Science, Mathematics, and Manufacturing, Dr. Susan Hoyne says dealers were initially hesitant about hiring GST students for their co-op because of the program’s ESL component. She says some employers were concerned students who were still mastering the English language could have difficulty working one-on-one with customers to diagnose problems. However, dealers were pleasantly surprised to discover that by diversifying their staff culture, they in turn diversified their customer base. Dr. Hoyne also noted that Shoreline was recently awarded a new state grant that will assist lower-skilled students who may need even more help than a standard I-BEST model can provide. In these instances, an extra quarter will be added to the beginning of the GST program to offer students intensive instruction in English and mathematics.

Instituto’s Carreras en Salud Meets Chicago-Area Demand for Latino Healthcare Professionals

Designing Instruction for Career PathwaysIn the greater Chicago region, there exists a growing demand for bilingual healthcare professionals. While many Latinos work as Certified Nurse Assistants, very few complete the training necessary to become Licensed Practical or Registered Nurses (LPN and RN), largely due to limited language and math skills. Latinos represent a quarter of the region’s population but they account for less than two percent of all LPNs. To address this workforce shortage, the nonprofit organization Instituto del Progreso Latino launched Carreras en Salud (CeS) or "Careers in Health." The program is available to Spanish-speaking healthcare workers and other job seekers. The goal of the program is to narrow the gap between the demand for bilingual healthcare professionals and the number of Latinos who are sufficiently trained for these positions. Building on its existing model for linking high school and adult education providers with a community college, Instituto reached out to Wilbur Wright College, one of the City Colleges of Chicago. Together, representatives from Instituto, Wright College, and industry partners mapped out the primary career paths in the healthcare industry and identified the roles each member of the partnership would play in program implementation. Now in its sixth year of operation, the CeS bridge program offers English classes and a 16-week preparation course in language and math for the healthcare field to prepare students for admission to Wright College’s rigorous LPN and RN programs.

Graduating class of the Carerras en Salud ProgramThe program’s instructional materials are framed in terms students can relate to, taking examples from everyday life so that they can grasp concepts more easily despite language barriers. To address the needs of working adults, CeS offers evening courses. Throughout the program, students are improving their language and math skills while learning medical terminology and participating in projects on topics such as cardiovascular health and cancer. As students advance through the pathway they earn certificates and credentials that enable them to work in entry-level healthcare positions until they earn the LPN or RN certification.

With a waiting list of over 500 students, admission into the LPN program at Wright College is extremely competitive. The college reserves 35 spaces for Carreras students, offering additional mentoring as well as financial aid. Because the typical CeS student advances at least two levels of English and math every term, they can matriculate directly into college-level classes, avoiding the need for remediation. Dr. Ricardo Estrada, Instituto’s Vice President for Education and Programs, attributes much of the success of the program to a teaching methodology that places great emphasis on "contextualization," in addition to academic and non-academic support provided to students. Instituto’s model of contextualization takes into consideration students’ varying levels of basic skills before identifying the level of content to be included in the curriculum, the type of teaching strategies employed, and the assessment tools used.

Instituto’s student profile calls for a range of support services that increase the likelihood students will complete the program. A support team comprised of a case manager, an academic advisor, a financial coach, a family counselor, and an employment specialist is available to every student in the pathway. Instituto also provides a basic skills tutor to students at any level of the program as well as a nursing tutor who assists students with both college classes and state licensing exams.

In its first year, 29 bilingual Latino students completed the program and earned their LPN licenses. Since its implementation, over 350 students have completed the program and attained their LPN, and over 400 other students have completed CNA training. For additional program details and outcomes, visit:

Blackhawk Technical College Demonstrates Resilience, Flexibility in Support of Dislocated Workers

In 2008, the city of Janesville, Wisconsin received news no community wants to hear – a major employer was closing its doors. In the case of Janesville, the GM production facility closure resulted in the loss of 5,000 local jobs between the plant and its suppliers. Many displaced workers headed straight to Blackhawk Technical College (BTC), eager to enroll in programs that would help them retrain for a new career. The college is experienced in providing workforce development programs to support local employers and had a strong working relationship with their public workforce agency. However, their staff and infrastructure had never been tested to this degree by this many new students, most of whom hadn’t set foot in a classroom for more than twenty years.

  • Providing one-on-one tutoring in computer skills to dislocated workers. Staff ranging from college vice presidents to secretaries explained basic operations such as turning on a computer, writing an e-mail, using a mouse, and explaining what it means to "scroll down" on a page;
  • Turning "green space" into 98 new parking spaces, practically overnight;
  • Hiring 21 limited term instructors for two years, with the blessing of the faculty union.
  • Having financial aid employees from other Wisconsin technical colleges loaned to BTC to help with financial aid processing; and
  • Receiving expedited approval from the Wisconsin Technical College system to start a new Clinical Laboratory program within six months, providing students another career option in healthcare, an industry of growth in the region. As a result, 86 percent of students in the inaugural graduating class were placed in jobs immediately.

The characteristics of the displaced workers in Janesville mirror those of many dislocated and unemployed individuals across the country. Most were not prepared for the rigors of postsecondary education because they lacked basic computer, math, reading, and communication skills as well as the study habits needed to be successful in college. BTC’s own retention studies had indicated stronger program completion rates and greater student success after adequate learning preparation had been provided. Armed with this knowledge, the BTC team developed the College Readiness Bridge program to meet the unique needs of individuals who have been away from formal education for an extended period.

BTC Nursing Assistant program students practice drawing blood.Before starting the program, prospective students are given the TABE to determine their skill levels in math, reading, and communication. Those with scores between 6.0 and 8.9 (NRS levels 4 and 5) are targeted as a cohort group that would benefit most from the new bridge program. The program spans two semesters, the first devoted to basic skills development courses (math, reading, and communication), a one credit Student Success course, a Basic Computer Concepts course, and a series of one credit computer courses such as Windows XP, Microsoft Word, and keyboarding. At the end of semester, students take a post-test with TABE to determine improvement in skill development.

The second semester of the program provides integrated credit-based, short-term, certificate training opportunities modeled after Washington State’s I-BEST program. Courses combine technical coursework with adult basic skills education, pairing a technical program instructor and basic skills instructor to team-teach the courses. Each certificate is designed and coordinated through the corresponding program division of the college, and is completed during an 8-10 week session. Three certificate options are offered: Business (8 credits), Welding (7 credits) and Nursing Assistant (5 credits).

All three certificates allow students to pursue one of BTC’s many technical and associate degree programs. For example, the eight credits awarded within the Business certificate are the same courses taught in several Business programs, including the two-year Business Management program. The seven credits of the Welding certificate are required courses for BTC’s one-year Technical Diploma in Welding. The Nursing Assistant Certificate is a requirement for many BTC Healthcare programs. Upon successful completion of a certificate, program graduates can choose to begin a job search or further their education optimistic of their chances for future success.

Contributed by:

Dr. Susan Hoyne, Dean of Science, Mathematics and Manufacturing, Shoreline Community College;
Dr. Ricardo Estrada, Vice President for Education and Programs, Instituto del Progreso Latino; and Dr. Sharon Kennedy, Vice President of Learning, Blackhawk Technical College.


Implementation Phase Underway for Accelerating Opportunity Initiative

Accelerating OpportunityThe Accelerating Opportunity initiative aims to drive economic recovery for individuals and communities by substantially increasing the number of adults who earn the credentials and skills needed to obtain and succeed in family-sustaining jobs. Four states (KY, NC, KS, and IL) received grants in late 2011 to participate in the three-year implementation phase of the initiative. An update on the efforts underway in two of the four states, Kentucky and North Carolina, follows.

Kentucky Update

Kentucky is one of four states participating in Jobs for the Future’s demonstration project Accelerating Opportunity:

A Breaking Through Initiative. The initiative seeks to reform how education is delivered to lower-skilled adults by integrating basic skills education with technical training, while providing wrap- around services that include instructional and career supports for adult learners. The initiative is informed by I-BEST, an accelerated, integrated instructional model in which adult basic education and professional technical instructors work together in the classroom. This innovative approach to education will help adults in Kentucky earn the credentials and skills they need to succeed in high-skilled, high-wage jobs, to not only help break the cycle of poverty in Kentucky’s communities, but also assure the Commonwealth remains globally competitive.

Kentucky’s vision for Accelerating Opportunity is to implement a collaborative career pathways model that prepares students to be college and career ready. The core partners for Kentucky’s initiative are Kentucky Adult Education, the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS), and the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training.

Accelerating Opportunity was launched at eight of Kentucky’s 16 community and technical colleges in January 2012. Kentucky’s goal is to expand the initiative across the state by the end of the three-year initiative. Currently, most colleges are offering one career pathway, but by the end of the year, at least two pathways will be offered at all of the participating colleges. Career pathways were selected based on local labor market data and input from business and industry to ensure students have job opportunities in high-wage, high-demand careers.

Students participating in Accelerating Opportunity are working in a contextualized environment where basic skills are integrated into technical coursework through an I-BEST (50 percent team teaching overlap with a technical and an adult education instructor) or an I-BEST-like model (with 35 percent team teaching overlap). Students receive supplemental instruction from an adult education instructor outside the classroom to fully develop their college readiness skills and ensure that they have the skills needed to master the technical content in their pathway. Reports from the field indicate that this program model has experienced some early success. At two colleges, students enrolled in the nursing pathway are doing better in class than their counterparts who are not participating in Accelerating Opportunity.

Accelerating Opportunity participants receive additional support from a success coach and a career coach. The success coach helps participants navigate the college, provides support, develops plans for students to meet their goals, tracks participants’ progress, and makes referrals as needed. The career coach conducts a skills assessment and assists with resume writing, job search activities, training services, career counseling, and job referrals.

Upon completion of Accelerating Opportunity, participants will have earned at least one credential that will help them secure a job in their career field of interest. Participants can also choose to continue in their educational pathway through regular courses offered at KCTCS and earn additional certificates which will make them eligible for even better paying jobs. Since the certificates offered through Accelerating Opportunity are stackable, participants can return to their educational pathway any time they choose and work toward associate degrees in their chosen field of study.

North Carolina Update

Dr. Scott Ralls, President of the North Carolina Community College System, has made Accelerating Opportunity—including North Carolina’s own integrated pathway program, Basic Skills Plus—a top priority for the coming year.

North Carolina’s scale-up strategy for Accelerating Opportunity involves all 58 community colleges in the state. The system office started the year with teleconferences among all of the Accelerating Opportunity implementation colleges in January and February. Presentations on Accelerating Opportunity have taken place at regional meetings of local college Basic Skills Plus Program directors, and an update on Accelerating Opportunity was given at the Basic Skills Plus Advisory Board meeting in February. To further spread the word, a presentation was given to the state workforce organization’s board of directors on Accelerating Opportunity in January.

A critical part of the scale-up strategy has been the approval of the initiative’s Memorandum of Understanding by the community college system office. Staff in the office’s business and finance departments reviewed the document and sent it to the legal department for comments. While final wording is being determined, the office is preparing to have the grant approved by the State Board of Community Colleges at its March meeting. In the meantime, the system office and the colleges have been developing their budgets and implementation plans. Students began enrolling in Accelerating Opportunity pathways in January, even as the colleges continued working together to refine and standardize entrance requirements to the Career Pathways programs.

Training is another crucial part of successful implementation of Accelerating Opportunity. The system office staff have been working with implementation colleges to ensure that instructors and administrators take advantage of the professional development opportunities available to them through the initiative.

North Carolina has been collaborating with Jobs for the Future (JFF), and their evaluation team, to finalize the data elements that will be collected as part of Accelerating Opportunity. The state is also preparing for a site visit as part of the support provided by JFF. North Carolina has assembled a data team at the system office made up of grant administrators, researchers, and IT people to refine the data-collection strategy and processes. Welcome news was that North Carolina-based SAS, a recognized leader in business analytics software and services, is working with the community college system to improve its tools and processes for analyzing data.

The final component is policy. North Carolina plans to complete its first policy lever by April 2012 with an important policy change that will align the rules for Basic Skills Plus with those of Accelerating Opportunity. Thirty-four community colleges are already approved for Basic Skills Plus, and all 58 are expected to be approved by 2014. This policy change will ensure that all North Carolina colleges will fully support the aims and objectives of Accelerating Opportunity. Work on the second policy lever, aligning noncredit courses and programs to credit courses and programs, is underway. Preliminary discussion is beginning with a local funder that may support the state’s third policy lever, extending the support services available to Accelerating Opportunity students.

Accelerating Opportunity is managed by Jobs for the Future, in partnership with the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges, the National Council for Workforce Education, and the National College Transition Network. The initiative is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Kresge Foundation and the Open Society Foundation.

Contributed by:

KY: Jay Box, Chancellor; Donna Davis, Director, Workforce Solutions, Kentucky Community and Technical College System
NC: Clark Dimond, III, Director of Foundational Skills and Workforce Readiness, North Carolina Community College System

Phone: 703-688-ACP7 (2277)
Kratos Learning, ACP-SC Project
2920 South Glebe Road
Arlington, VA 22206

Disclaimer: The Adult Career Pathways (ACP) News is a publication of the Designing Instruction for Career Pathways (DICP) initiative and was produced by Kratos Learning, in partnership with the Center for Occupational Research and Development, with funding from the U.S. Department of Education (ED), Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE), under Contract No. ED-CFO-10-A-0072/0001. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the positions or policies of the U.S. Department of Education, and no official endorsement by the U.S. Department of Education should be inferred. This document is in the public domain and may be reproduced without permission.