Adult Career Pathways from Coast-to-Coast

ACP Trailblazer

Photo of Beth Thompson

Beth Thompson

Assistant Director, Texas LEARNS

State Office of Adult Education and Family Literacy

Q: Texas made a significant investment in implementation of the Integrated Career Awareness curriculum for adult education programs across the state. What led to this commitment and how does the effort help support career pathway programs for adults?

A: Texas participated in an OVAE pilot for the ICA online course. Teachers who participated in the pilot felt that ICA added a career awareness aspect to their classes in a flexible and integrated manner. A second opportunity to try ICA came on the heels of the OVAE pilot. Texas Adult Education partnered with the Texas Workforce Commission to conduct fast track GED pilots in three metropolitan areas. Those classes were required to include career awareness curriculum. Again, ICA earned positive reviews from teachers. ICA seemed to provide a solution to our growing need to incorporate career awareness into all adult education classes. Teachers from both pilots informed the design for statewide adoption and Texas used a Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Incentive Grant to fund implementation.

Q: What challenges have you encountered in designing and implementing a multi-tiered professional development system to support Integrated Career Awareness?

A: We intentionally designed the training so that trainers would gain experience using the ICA Curriculum before they became trainers. The toughest challenge was getting trainers at the regional and local tiers to slow down enough to acquire actual boots-on-the ground experience using the curriculum and to participate in follow-up training as a teacher before they began training others. Doing so created trainers with a deeper understanding of the curriculum and gave trainers the ability to respond to questions from first-hand experience.

ICA comes with ESL adaptations, but Texas has a large population of Beginning ESL Literacy and Low Beginning ESL students who do not yet have a working vocabulary in English. A second challenge was making the lessons accessible to beginning ESL students. The Central Region GREAT Center adapted several lessons for that population and made those materials available to local programs.

Q: ACP News: From your perspective as Assistant State Director, what are some of the most promising career pathways strategies underway at the local level?

A: The most promising strategy is the most basic: Knowledge is power. Introducing the concept of career pathways at all levels gives students the knowledge they need to reach a sustaining wage job in a shorter time frame. The possibility of a real career is motivating for students. Motivation and direction will reduce the time between student entry into adult education and their entry into a job with a family-sustaining wage. In the process, a motivated student completes levels, earns a GED® and transitions to postsecondary education, training, or work and the local program builds stronger partnerships to improve transitions for future students.


Featured ACP Resource

Hospitality and Retail Career Preparation: Contextual Education for the GED

2011, Michigan Adult Education and Professional Development (MAEPD) Project

Cover of Hospitality & Retail Career Preperation teacher guide.

This resource is a six unit, 60-hour course that includes 36 scenarios. The curriculum consists of a Teacher Guide and Student Workbook, and is designed to teach reading, writing, and mathematics skills within the context of hospitality and retail topics. The units include:

  1. Exploring the Hospitality and Retail Industries;
  2. Customer Service;
  3. Communication Skills in the Workplace;
  4. Hotel Industry;
  5. Restaurant Industry; and
  6. Retail Industry.

This resource utilizes a wide and varied vocabulary, comprehension strategies, and reading skills that enhance comprehension of literary and real-life materials. Students will be able to:

  1. Derive meaning from literary and real-life material;
  2. Comprehend literary and nonfiction texts;
  3. Analyze literary and nonfiction texts;
  4. Recognize that ideas are expressed in complete, coherent sentences, and are organized within paragraphs;
  5. Recognize errors in real-world documents and select corrected versions and/or edits and revise for clarity or logic;
  6. Compose an essay according to specific guidelines when given a general interest topic;
  7. Develop and apply number sense to solve a variety of real-life problems and to determine if the results are reasonable; and
  8. Develop and apply data analysis, statistics, and probability to solve a variety of real-life problems.

The instructional materials are available for download at:
Hospitality and Retail Career Preparation: Contextual Education for the GED
Hospitality & Retail Career Preperation



American Association of Community Colleges Annual Convention

San Francisco, CA
April 20-23, 2013


Career Clusters Institute

Fort Worth, TX
June 10-12, 2013


Correctional Education Association Conference

Cleveland, OH
June 30-July 3, 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.

Career Awareness Focus of Texas’ Commitment to Large-Scale Professional Development

Adult education leaders in Texas took a holistic approach to adult career pathways. The approach starts with a commitment to incorporating career awareness into every adult education class in the state. Fulfilling this commitment was no small task. The effort began when Texas was selected to participate in a professional development opportunity funded by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) and facilitated by the National College Transition Network (NCTN) and World Education designed to assist adult education instructors in the implementation of the Integrating Career Awareness (ICA) curriculum. Developed by NCTN and the System for Adult Basic Education Support (SABES), ICA is an in-depth career awareness curriculum designed to help adult education students at intermediate education functioning levels understand the critical link between education and careers.

Texas was one of several states selected to pilot ICA professional development activities that included facilitator-led online courses and technical assistance webinars that support the implementation of the curriculum. Four local programs varying in size and demographics piloted the project. The sites received intensive training to help program staff incorporate career awareness and planning into instruction and counseling. They also:

  • developed a plan for sustaining professional development offerings related to career planning and for sharing with other local programs,
  • assisted in identifying state-specific materials and information to compliment the ICA curriculum, and
  • responded to questions about how to connect the curriculum to state standards and other initiatives.

Initial teacher feedback on the ICA curriculum from the OVAE-funded project pilot sites was very positive; however, state leaders quickly realized that additional training would be critical to ensuring instructors across the state received the support needed to implement the curriculum. Other early observations by instructors included recognizing the importance of ICA’s cultural context lessons and resource materials, fostering student engagement and buy-in early in the class, and the acknowledgement that most students come to class to complete their high school equivalency and give little thought to career planning and next steps.

As interest in the ICA curriculum grew, state leaders identified a second pilot opportunity through a state initiative known as C-4, a fast-track GED program funded through a partnership with the Texas Workforce Commission. Project goals included intensive GED preparation coupled with career readiness skills and enhanced employment outcomes. The ICA curriculum was deemed a “perfect fit” to support program goals and help students reduce the time they spent in adult education. The three state regions that engaged in the C-4 initiative saw significant student learning gains on the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE). In addition, instructors gained important insight into students’ awareness of education and training opportunities, career ladders, job attainment, and labor market knowledge.

The outcomes from the pilot projects led state leaders to set a goal for adult education that builds student pathways to college and career readiness by creating and implementing tools, support, and professional development. The widespread implementation of the ICA curriculum was a key to achieving this goal. With funding through a Workforce Investment Act (WIA) incentive grant, a statewide plan for professional development began to emerge. Implementing ICA statewide would involve training 2,850 teachers and counselors, 650 administrators, and 390 paraprofessionals located across 268,820 square miles. With the support of the adult education professional development consortium comprised of eight regional Getting Results Educating Adults in Texas (GREAT) Centers, state leaders felt they were up to the task of implementing ICA statewide by instituting training and trainers at two different levels. The GREAT Centers would provide professional development within their region and each local program would identify a point person or “key trainer” who would implement ICA in the classroom and then train local staff.

Arrow, curving to the right. Demonstrates scaling growth in ICA Professional Development in Texas.

Scaling ICA Professional Development in Texas

This professional development model creates a cadre of Master ICA Trainers (MICATs) at the regional level and key trainers at the local level. The training model starts with a face-to-face workshop or facilitator-led online course, after which participants begin teaching the ICA curriculum. Follow-up training activities are held via webinar and prioritize areas of support identified by the trainer through online surveys completed by the participating faculty. It was through teacher feedback that the state recognized a need for additional support for low-level ESL learners. In response, one of the GREAT Centers adapted the ICA curriculum, incorporating the use of flash cards into lessons to help overcome challenges faced by low-level ESL students with limited workplace vocabulary.

Elizabeth Thompson, Assistant State Director for Texas LEARNS, says that the ICA professional development model has become a building block for local staff to develop college and career readiness plans for their programs and determine how new staff will be trained in the coming years to sustain this effort. A new policy focus on goal-setting is playing a key role in helping students see the big picture and plan for what will happen when they “walk out the door.” ICA introduced adult education programs to the use of labor market information within adult education classes. To build on that momentum, Texas now has 11 pilot sites in Counseling to Careers, an initiative that leads programs through an analysis of their communities to identify in-demand jobs, training programs, and employers who are hiring. This provides common ground for the development of partnerships between colleges, workforce offices, employers, and adult education, as well as offers local programs a natural opportunity to institute contextualized instruction.

Group of people both seated and standing.

Seated: Students Valisa and Victoria spoke to adult educators at the 2013 TALAE Conference about how they have benefitted from the ICA curriculum. Both students have chosen to prepare for careers in Medical Billing because of the career information provided through ICA. Standing: Teacher Connie Siebert and Assistant State Director Beth Thompson.

Thompson says implementing the large-scale professional development model for ICA was challenging at times, due in part to atypical funding and concurrent activities at both the regional and local levels. However, their perseverance has yielded faculty who are better equipped to prepare their students for a future that’s beyond the GED with a clear plan for transitioning to college or training that leads to a family sustaining career.


Research and Policy Corner

State Sector Stragies magazine cover

State Sector Strategies Coming of Age: Implications for State Workforce Policymakers

January 2013, National Governors Association/Corporation for a Skilled Workforce/ National Skills Coalition

Three national organizations partnered on a new report that asserts more than half the nation’s states are exploring or implementing sector strategies, making the model “the most consistently adopted approach to meeting businesses’ need for skilled workers and workers’ need for good jobs.” Sector strategies are commonly defined as partnerships of employers within a single industry that bring together government, education, training, economic development, labor, and community organizations to focus on a region’s workforce needs. The report notes that sector strategies can address current and emerging skill gaps, provide a means for engaging directly with industry across traditional boundaries, and better align state programs and resources serving employers and workers.

The report describes current sector strategies, discusses their differences from traditional workforce and economic development programs, and describes actions that state administrators and policymakers can take to create strategies and implement them effectively. The report demonstrates how sector strategies are “evolving to integrate potentially powerful supply-side and demand-side activities, providing a means to integrate career pathway initiatives focused on the education and skills development of workers with the kind of high-growth industry clusters that have been the focus of economic development initiatives for decades.”
Download the report at:

Strengthening Our Workforce from Within: Adult Education’s Role in Furthering Economic Growth in Greater New Orleans

Screenshot of the Strengthening Our Workforce website

January 2013, Greater New Orleans Community Data Center

Recent studies from the Brookings Institution found a gap between the skills required by jobs, including job openings, in the New Orleans metro area and the skills supplied by the metro labor pool. In this new report from the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, researchers assess the extent to which low adult literacy rates are affecting the greater New Orleans economy, whether changing demographics post-Katrina have increased the overall skill level in the city’s labor pool, the extent to which improvements in K-12 education will be sufficient to address workforce development needs in the future, and additional efforts that may be needed to optimize the productivity of the workforce.

The report cites career pathways as a key ingredient in making adult education programs successful, highlighting commonalities such as high-quality education programs, a range of academic and non-academic student support services, and industry sector-based strategies that focus on specific job vacancies at partner companies. Nine case studies from programs across the U.S. are featured as well as a helpful checklist for stakeholders titled “What’s My Role?,” offering tips for economic development organizations, employers, educators, policymakers, workforce boards, support service organizations, and philanthropies.

Download the report at: rce/index.html

New ACP-SC Online Courses

Register on the website now for two new online courses:

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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.