Adult Career Pathways from Coast-to-Coast

ACP Trailblazer

Kathryn Hund Kathryn Hund
Director of Workforce Education and Training, Kansas Department of Commerce/Board of Regents

Q: Tell us about the role employers have played in developing effective career pathways programs in Kansas for adult learners.

A: The Kansas Career Pathways initiative places employers front and center to drive the change. Why? Because employers have all the JOBS and the ultimate goal of students in Career Pathways is to secure sustainable employment – one with potential for career advancement and wages leading to economic security. We are in a better position to serve our learners, and help them achieve better results, if we start our process with business and industry leaders.

Kansas has made a conscientious commitment to connect our public workforce system with economic development and higher education. Each entity plays a critical role in supporting a robust Kansas economy for individuals and businesses. The Department of Commerce shares a full-time position with the Board of Regents, providing the structural capital to align postsecondary and adult education with the work requirements of Kansas companies. When asked if the needs of businesses or individuals are placed first, the answer is “both” and this consistent integration drives the system change.

Examples of employer leadership in Career Pathways in Kansas:

  • Industry-endorsed credentials are selected by business leaders.
  • Business leaders serve on the Postsecondary Technical Education Authority.
  • Employer-designed short course certificates prepare students for entry-level in-demand jobs.
  • Outcome metrics are defined by employers to measure the success of technical programs statewide.

Q: From your vantage point, what are some of the most promising initiatives underway in Kansas that are bringing about transformative, sustainable change through career pathways?

A: With the generous support and technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Labor, Jobs for the Future, National Governor’s Association and others, Kansas has focused our attention on several successful Career Pathways strategies:

  • Accelerating Opportunity provides simultaneous, integrated basic and technical instruction to adults with lower skills, resulting in industry-endorsed credentials.
  • A revised mission statement for Kansas adult education provides a clear focus for providing the first step in a career pathways system and strengthens connections to workforce preparation.
  • Title I / II integration uses common intake forms, common assessments, and shared case management to braid funding and provide better student results.
  • Inter-agency collaboration is improving comprehensive wrap-around support services for adults in Career Pathways.

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

A: In our society, work defines a large part of who we are, where we live, and who we associate with. My parents taught me many things – a strong work ethic, a sense of equity, the value of education, and generosity with others. While education was highly valued in our home, work was also highly esteemed and my dad stressed the importance of experience and learning on the job. It is my firm belief people want to do the best they can and are glad to have a pathway for advancement in life. With career pathways, we can provide a system where all Kansans have an opportunity to take a first step on the ladder and prepare for work they love while offering value to society.



National Career Pathways Network Conference

Richmond, Virginia
October 17–19, 2012


National Council for Workforce Education Conference

Long Beach, California
October 21-23, 2012


Council for Adult & Experiential Learning

Washington, District of Columbia
November 7-9, 2012


Effective Transitions in Adult Education Conference

National College Transitions Network
Providence, Rhode Island
November 7–9, 2012


Association for Career and Technical Education Conference CareerTech VISION 2012

Atlanta, CA
November 29–December 1, 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.

State Spotlight: Kansas Experiences Statewide Transformation through Career Pathways

The evolution of career pathways has been a journey in systemic change for educators and workforce development professionals in Kansas. The state currently is in the midst of an implementation grant as part of the Accelerating Opportunity initiative supported by several philanthropies. However, the road to change was paved with many incremental steps, each playing a unique role in the development of a statewide career pathways system.

The first career pathway investments were made possible by an incentive grant from the U.S. Department of Labor and a Ready for College Adult Transitions Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) to Kansas Adult Education. The grant was used to fund the KAN-Go and Next Step projects that focus on transitioning adults to college by strengthening partnerships between local workforce investment boards, adult education directors, and technical and community college admissions teams. Two successful adult education models emerged from these projects which included steps to create and define the role of transition coordinators and utilize career-specific contextualized instruction.

Washburn Tech’s AO-K students prepare for careers in industrial maintenance Washburn Tech’s AO-K students prepare for careers in industrial maintenance

Following these efforts, the state of Kansas was one of eleven grantees selected to participate in the U.S. Department of Labor Employment and Training Administration’s Career Pathways Technical Assistance Initiative. The support provided by the project helped regional businesses and partner agencies operationalize improved adult education delivery models. An outcome of the initiative was the hosting of two Career Pathways Institutes by the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas to advance local leaders’ knowledge and understanding of career pathways as a framework for preparing individuals for 21st century jobs. The Workforce Alliance also funded mini-grants for the adult education programs in its region by leveraging philanthropic support from the National Fund for Workforce Solutions to allocate workforce development investments for adult education initiatives. According to Kathy Hund, Kansas Board of Regents and Department of Commerce’s Director of Workforce Training & Education, “The early career pathways work wasn’t necessarily smooth or easy—we were in the ‘storming and forming’ stages, but it was critically important work that gave us time to bring a team together to focus on building consensus and establishing a career pathways plan for the state.”

Subsequent grants have accelerated the momentum of career pathways system-building, including:

  • A grant from the National Governor’s Association funded the Keeping Kansas Competitive Career Pathways Summit, to convene employers, policymakers, and thought leaders, in defining the future direction of adult education and credential attainment.
  • A $15 million/5-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is funding the Kansas Health Profession Opportunity Project (KHPOP) to support career pathways in health professions by serving lower-skilled adults who are eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The project pushed key partners to formalize processes and operations among agencies and service providers in the creation of a seamless system for health careers training.
  • A consortium of Kansas colleges were awarded a $19 million Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant in 2011, part of which supports the implementation of career pathways at multiple community and technical colleges across the state.
Career Pathways Students in Washburn Institute of Technology’s AO-K program for Healthcare Occupations Career Pathways Students in Washburn Institute of Technology’s AO-K program for Healthcare Occupations

While partnership-building and programmatic efforts in career pathways have emerged and grown, three strategic priorities from the Kansas Postsecondary Technical Education Authority have been driving system change that allows career pathways programs to better serve adults with lower skills. These priorities include:

  • Implementation of a tiered funding model for technical education that incentivizes two-year institutions to offer high wage-high demand programs supporting economic drivers in Kansas.
  • Alignment of program efforts with industry needs, ensuring that industry-endorsed credentials are incorporated into each academic award level.
  • Collaboration with state business leaders on accountability measures for adult career pathways programs’ critical outcomes, including: 1) earned industry credentials, 2) entered employment, and 3) amount of earned wages.

Fast forward to the present and you will find nine Kansas community and technical colleges engaged in Accelerating Opportunity: Kansas (or AO-K, for short). AO-K is a groundbreaking demonstration project that is transforming the state’s delivery system for adult education. AO-K uses an integrated education and training career pathways model to deliver career and technical education with adult basic skills instruction, keying off the successful I-BEST model created in Washington State. Students complete short-term certificate programs aligned with labor market needs, leading to industry endorsed credentials and immediate jobs. Two examples of these programs include:

  • Wichita Area Technical College has partnered with Goodwill Industries (Goodwill) to support their adult education services related to career pathways. The adult education division of the college will soon be located with Goodwill in a new, centrally located building. Goodwill staff members assist college personnel with intake, workforce development, and other roles related to career pathways program support. The college has developed a core set of stackable industry credentials totaling seven credit hours in aviation manufacturing, an industry experiencing high-growth and demand in the Wichita region. The program curriculum was jointly developed with local employers to ensure its alignment with industry needs.
  • Washburn Institute of Technology partnered with a local community-based organization to implement the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council’s Certified Production Technician program. Student completion of the program results in an industry-recognized credential in industrial maintenance. Assisted by a full-time transition coordinator, adult education students are receiving the support they need to transition to this and other career pathways programs.
AO-K Healthcare Program student hones her blood pressure measurement skills AO-K Healthcare Program student hones her blood pressure measurement skills

The Accelerating Opportunity project, managed by Jobs for the Future and funded by five philanthropies—the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Joyce Foundation, Kellogg Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, and Open Society Foundation—awarded Kansas $200,000 for planning and $1.6 million for implementation. While the AO-K project is still in its early stages, Zoe Thompson, state coordinator for AO-K, reports education leaders involved in the project recognize the immediate benefits to the state such as enhanced partner relationships, both internal (adult education and career technical education) and external ( local and state Workforce Investment Act providers, Adult Education, TANF, and Department of Commerce), and an integrated career pathways model that is creating a sustainable cultural shift in the state. The state’s goal is to scale the AO-K model to all 26 community and technical colleges in Kansas. Across the state, partnerships developed through career pathways grants and initiatives have resulted in a transformational model for the delivery of integrated basic skills, technical skills training for adults, and an increased number of underprepared adults in Kansas entering postsecondary education and training and earning industry-recognized credentials.


Research and Policy Corner

Recent reports of interest to Adult Career Pathways practitioners are featured below.

Toward College Success for Working Adults: The Pipeline to Credentials in the Wisconsin Technical College System

Center on Wisconsin Strategies, April 2012

Toward College Success article image

This paper is a pipeline data study that reports the first longitudinal analysis following the progress of working-age basic-skills students in the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS) over a multi-year period, providing a picture of the educational trajectory of low-skilled adults. The study was comprised of seven cohorts of first-time WTCS students aged 25 - 54 who completed no more than a high school degree (or equivalent) at the time of their first enrollment in a postsecondary, adult basic education (ABE), or English language learning (ELL) course at a technical college. Students in each cohort were followed for a five-year period following enrollment.

The research team examined students’ chances of reaching three milestones along the technical college pipeline:

  • Attempting at least three college level credits,
  • Enrolling in a qualifying college program of at least one year in length (or an apprenticeship program,) and
  • Completing a qualifying college program.

Because of the success of ABE students, who are completing degrees at least as often as other students, the study’s researchers emphasize the importance of investments in Career Pathways designed to support the advancement and success of working adults.

Download the paper at:


Featured ACP Resource

Take Charge of You Future - Magazine Cover

Take Charge of Your Future: Get the Education and Training You Need

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education

This “back-to-school” guide is designed for people who have been incarcerated, and for those on community supervision (probation and parole). It will help them begin—or continue—on the path toward furthering their education or training. The guide stresses the importance of earning a high school credential; getting a certificate or license in a career technical field; or earning an associate or bachelor’s degree to help advance in a career and in life. Organized around six major topics, the guide is designed for a user to read from start to finish, or select just the chapters containing information they need most. It covers the steps involved in setting goals, getting organized, finding employment, and pursuing an education, from a high school credential to a college diploma. It also provides advice about finding and securing financial resources to pay for education and training. Although not an exhaustive resource, the guide directs users to resources where they can get questions answered and gather more information. Information on services in specific states is not provided, but when possible, the guide suggests a way to find the information in question.

Currently available at:

Phone: 703-688-ACP7 (2277)
Kratos Learning, ACP-SC Project
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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.