Adult Career Pathways from Coast-to-Coast

ACP Trailblazer

Photo of Amanda Harrison

Amanda Harrison speaks to graduates at the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit Community Education Services GED® awards ceremony in Lewistown, PA. Photo provided by Lewistown Sentinel.

Amanda Harrison
Chief, Division of Adult Education, Bureau of Postsecondary and Adult Education
Pennsylvania Department of Education

Q: Pennsylvania’s efforts to develop Career Pathway programs for adults have really been an evolutionary journey. Tell us about some of the milestones along the way.

A: Our recent work in Career Pathways represents the logical next steps in work the state has been doing for many years. In Program Years (PY) 2005-07, Pennsylvania conducted a pilot project, called Career Gateway, with WIA incentive funds to build cross-agency partnerships at the state and local levels. The goal was to transition adult basic education students to nonremedial postsecondary education/training in targeted industries with the necessary skills to successfully complete the programs and gain employment in the chosen industries. The results were positive; 201 out of 400 adults at 10 participating agencies enrolled in postsecondary education/training in targeted industries during the two-year period. All were clients in Pennsylvania’s One-Stop delivery system, PA CareerLink©, and many received individual training accounts to cover the costs. We were able to use state funds to support the Career Gateway project for two additional years. In 2009, our state funds were reduced, causing us to revise our delivery of services, and we weren’t able to continue funding Career Gateway as a separate project.

In spring 2011, we held a competition for both direct service and state leadership funds. We decided to fund a state leadership project that would help agencies build on the work begun under Career Gateway. This project has been providing technical assistance to programs to develop career pathways under their direct service grants. So, in a sense, the impetus for what we are doing now was the recognition that, if we treat career pathways as something we do with “special” money, when the money goes away, so does the Career Pathways work. Instead we are saying “Career Pathways is what we do. Adult basic education services are an integral and essential part of Career Pathways for adults in need of those services.” At the state office, we need to support agencies in developing the skills, knowledge, and partnerships needed to make that happen. The Career Pathways project and our professional development system are both intended to provide that support.

Q: From your perspective as Adult Education Division Chief, what are some of the most promising career pathways strategies underway at the local level?

A: One promising strategy is integrating career awareness activities into instruction and support services. Pennsylvania was part of the National Career Awareness Project in PY 2010-11. The Career Pathways project and the professional development system have worked together to build on that work over the last two years. Now, when the advisors and I visit programs in which this work has been a focus, students are able to articulate how participation in adult education is helping them define and achieve their educational and career goals. Several of our programs have also had success by developing strong partnerships with specific programs at one or two postsecondary partners in their local area. They use local labor market data, local workforce data, and their own program data to determine need and reach out to relevant programs. Working closely with staff members in the postsecondary programs, the adult education staff develops curriculum and instruction to prepare students for entry into those programs.

Q: What’s your vision for Career Pathways for adults in Pennsylvania over the next several years?

A: What’s your vision for Career Pathways for adults in Pennsylvania over the next several years?

  • Instruction through which students develop sufficient understanding and mastery of the concepts being taught and that they can recognize when, where, and how best to apply those concepts in real life.
  • Integrated career awareness activities to help students understand their options.
  • Support services to help students develop the skills to overcome barriers, plan for and persist in their education, and achieve their goals.

Beyond that, what I would really like to see is recognition and support at higher levels in the workforce development system, especially among postsecondary partners, for the work adult and family literacy programs are doing. Our programs are making excellent progress in establishing partnerships with specific postsecondary programs to help students transition and succeed. I would ultimately like to see partnerships between adult basic education programs and postsecondary institutions become part of strategic planning at postsecondary institutions.


The ACP-SC Community

ACP-SC Will Present Two Webcasts at COABE

The ACP-SC team will be presenting three sessions and hosting two all-new live webcasts during the upcoming 2013 Commission on Adult Basic Education (COABE) Louisiana Association of Public Community Adult Education National Conference in New Orleans, LA March 24-28.

In-person attendees and online viewers will have the opportunity to watch as Cheryl Keenan from the U.S. Department of Education, Division of Adult Education and Literacy, Office of Vocational and Adult Education and expert panelists highlight research and best practices on how to incorporate career awareness, planning, and counseling at the program and classroom levels. The webcast will be filmed live at COABE and broadcast to the field. Viewers are encouraged to participate in the Q&A; portion via Twitter using #CreatePathways and by starting the discussion early in the ACP-SC Community Forums. Start the discussions about the webcasts by clicking on the title of the webcast title you are interested in:

The ACP-SC website is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, OVAE. Visit the ACP-SC Community frequently for additional updates and information about the webcasts. Be sure to either attend the webcasts or watch them both live online!


Learn More About Pennsylvania’s Efforts to Develop Career Pathways Programs for Adults!

KayLynn Hamilton, workforce development liaison for Pennsylvania’s adult education programs, will be participating in an online discussion in the ACP Community February 15 – 22, 2013.

Join the conversation:



National Association of Workforce Boards Forum

Washington, DC
March 8-12, 2013


Commission on Adult Basic Education Conference

New Orleans, LA
March 24-28, 2013


Mountain Plains Adult Education Association Conference

Cheyenne, WY
April 10-12, 2013


American Association of Community Colleges Annual Convention

San Francisco, CA
April 20-23, 2013

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.

One Size Does Not Fit All: Pennsylvania Develops Flexible Model to Meet Local Needs

The Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Bureau of Postsecondary and Adult Education Division of Adult Education recently completed the pilot phase of its Career Pathways for Adults initiative. Local sites were selected based on potential career pathways and job opportunities for students as well as each agency’s experience with an earlier successful transitions project, Career Gateway. Twenty-two adult education agencies and eight local workforce investment areas participated. The Career Pathways for Adults initiative builds on strong relationships among multiple state agencies and the vision of a group of adult education leaders to develop a career pathways model that provides both structure and local flexibility. The initiative also leverages significant work by local adult education agencies in building and maintaining partnerships with employers, postsecondary providers, and community-based organizations.

Pennsylvania is a diverse state with great variances in the types of employers. According to KayLynn Hamilton, workforce development liaison for the state’s adult education programs, it became clear in the early stages of the Career Pathways for Adults initiative that each area of the state would need customized tools to carry out the design and implementation of their career pathways programs. While state leaders agreed to focus on three industry sectors – manufacturing, healthcare, and energy – the team felt it was important to provide local agencies with a menu of resources they could use to define and build their own pathways.

In addition to a state planning guide for career pathways, individual Career Pathways for Adults guides were developed by Pennsylvania State University’s Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy (ISAL) for each local workforce investment area participating in the project. The guides provide:

  • An introduction to career pathways,
  • Guidance on using career maps,
  • A program map illustrating steps students can follow as they progress through career pathways services, and
  • Local labor market information on multiple industry sectors.

For example, the resource guide for the Lehigh Valley region provides an overview of the natural gas, healthcare, hospitality, and retail sectors with details about industry partnerships, the progression of education and training opportunities, certifications, support services, and sample career pathway maps for each industry sector.

Career pathway maps offer students an easy-to-understand “visual” depicting a specific career pathway within an industry sector. The resource guides mentioned above encourage the use of career pathway maps to support basic skills and career awareness and development. For example, case managers can use career pathway maps to:

  1. Inform students of the variety of occupations available within an industry and the expected salary,
  2. Help students understand the education and experience needed to enter employment within a specific industry, and
  3. Help students gain perspective about the additional education and experience needed to move up a career ladder once employed within a career.

Case managers as well as teachers use career pathway maps to help students set short‐ and long‐term educational and employment goals. To further aid local practitioners, the ISAL developed the 20 Ways to Use Career Pathway Mapsreference sheet which offers other suggestions for case managers, teachers, and students. The reference sheet, the local resource guides, and other career pathway tools are available on the Pennsylvania Adult Education Resource website at

Additional support for teams participating in the pilot phase of the Career Pathways for Adults initiative has been delivered through monthly professional development webinars for program administrators, case managers, and teachers. Topics for the webinars include “Career Pathways in Adult ESL” and “Contextualizing Instruction Using Job Spidering,” as well as others.

During the first year of Career Pathways for Adults implementation, Pennsylvania state leaders focused on several areas of emphasis that will continue in 2013, including:

  • Using data to help programs identify career pathways sectors for inclusion of low-level learners. Many lower-skilled adults are squarely focused on securing jobs that will support their families. Program managers have been encouraged to closely examine where their students are headed and ask tough questions, such as:
    • Regardless of career pathways opportunities students want to pursue through further education and training, how prepared are students for the workplace now?
    • Where do local community employment opportunities exist to enter at the lowest skill level and advance through company-provided training?
    • How can program managers work with corporate human resource departments to build company-specific career maps that help students plan for both short- and long-term goals?
Adult Education Students

Career Pathway students engage in a career awareness activity at Intermediate Unit #1 in Coal Center, PA.

  • Intentionally including career coaching as a defined element in case management. During program year 2010-11, Pennsylvania was selected to participate in the National Career Awareness Project sponsored by the Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS). The project provided curriculum resources, Integrating Career Awareness in the ABE & ESOL Classroom, technical assistance for teachers and program leaders, and coaching for program implementation of the ICA curriculum. Moving forward local career coaching efforts will comprise five components: 1) Career Awareness, 2) Postsecondary Opportunities, 3) Workforce Development Partners, 4) Employment Opportunities, and 5) Follow-up Opportunities.
  • Growing adult education’s burgeoning partnerships with the state’s community colleges. In 2011, a consortium of colleges in Pennsylvania received a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant aimed at assisting displaced workers. The TAACCCT project set out to develop programs and materials suitable for the diverse population eligible for training under the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for Workers Program. However, anyone can benefit from the programs and materials developed. Adult education leaders recently assembled career coaches and adult educators to discuss the benefits of partnering with the state’s colleges to advance their mutual goals.

As the New Year begins, Pennsylvania adult education leaders are looking forward to program growth, expanded partnerships, and continued support for local implementation of career pathways that meets broad state goals while effectively responding to the needs of communities.

Join KayLynn Hamilton in the ACP-SC Community this month as she shares some of her experiences related to developing Adult Career Pathways resources for local adaptation.

Special thank you to contributor KayLynn Hamilton, Pennsylvania State University, Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy.

Research and Policy Corner

Policy to Performance November 2012

Policy to Performance State ABE Transition Systems Report, Transitioning Adults to Opportunity

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, November 2012

The Policy to Performance project, conducted from 2009 to 2012 with funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education, was designed to advance state activities in systems and policy development to facilitate adults’ transition from adult basic education (ABE) to postsecondary education, training, and employment. Eight states participated in the project and received technical assistance about ABE state systems and policy development through national meetings, customized coaching, and telephone and email communication. The technical assistance included strategies and tools state ABE staff could use in their work with interagency partners to align services and policies that would result in a coherent set of activities for a well-functioning state ABE transition system.

The State ABE Transition Report highlights activities conducted by the Policy to Performance project and the findings that resulted from the work of the participating states. The report describes key elements of a state ABE transition system, technical assistance activities conducted and planning processes utilized, examples of strategies used by participating states to implement ABE transition policies, and lessons learned related to state transition system development. A description of each state’s project activities, including contact information, is provided to facilitate cross-state communication.

Download the report at:

Employability Skills Framework

Screenshot of the Employability Skills Framework website

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

A new resource from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) offers support for adult educators, workforce development professionals, and career and technical educators seeking to improve the delivery of instruction for and assessment of employability skills. The OVAE-supported project Support for States’ Employability Standards in CTE and Adult Education recently completed the consolidation of information on employability skills and has launched a website to serve as a centralized clearinghouse that can help inform instruction and assessment. Developed by MPR Associates under contract to OVAE, the website shares information compiled from a variety of sources that represents a common understanding of employability skills supported throughout the federal government.

The project defines employability skills as general skills required for success in the labor market at all employment levels and for all sectors. An interactive framework has been developed that organizes these skills into three broad categories:

  • Applied Knowledge—the thoughtful integration of academic knowledge and technical skills, put to practical use in the workplace.
  • Effective Relationships—the interpersonal skills and personal qualities that enable individuals to interact effectively with clients, coworkers, and supervisors.
  • Workplace Skills—the analytical and organizational skills and understandings that employees need to successfully perform work tasks.

The framework enables users to trace the employability skills back to the organizations or agencies that identified them to better understand the relationships among the different sets of skills. The project website also includes:

  • An online tool to inform the selection of an employability skills assessment
  • Profiles of state, local, and employer-led employability skills initiatives
  • Links to related initiatives

Visit the site at:

Featured ACP Resource

Illinois Bridge Initiative

Creating a Successful Bridge Program: A “How To” Guide

October 2012, Illinois Bridge Initiative, Illinois Community College Board/Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity

Developed as part of the Illinois Shifting Gears initiative, this newly published guidebook offers a comprehensive look at designing, implementing, and sustaining bridge programs. The guide provides strategies, examples, and worksheets practitioners can immediately use and adapt. Helpful for new programs who need to anticipate essential steps as well as for those who are redesigning a program or improving a particular program element, the guide also includes tips for continuous improvement and profiles of successful programs. Major topics covered include:

  • Building the Team
  • Choosing the Career Cluster and Connecting to a Career Pathway
  • Identifying and Recruiting the Target Population
  • Measuring Abilities, Placing, and Advancing Students
  • Contextualizing the Curriculum
  • Providing Career Development Services
  • Providing Transition Services
  • Funding Bridge Programs
  • Assessing Bridge Program Progress and Outcomes
  • Sustaining a Bridge Program

The complete guide is available for download at:

ACP Logo

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.