Adult Career Pathways from Coast-to-Coast

ACP Trailblazer

Photo of Morna Foy

Morna Foy


Wisconsin Technical College System

Q: Wisconsin has advocated career pathway programs for adults for quite some time. In your view, why does the career pathways approach resonate so well with both employers and educators in your state?

A: In Wisconsin, educators, particularly in the technical college system, have historically been and continue to be responsive to the skill training needs of their local employers. The career pathways approach of breaking down existing training programs into smaller pieces is a natural progression of the educator/employer partnership, particularly with high-demand industries in need of a skilled labor supply to grow their businesses.

Q: From your perspective as System President, what are some of the most promising career pathways strategies underway at the local level? Can you share a success story with us?

A: Strategies which incorporate the largest number of adults in the training offerings are the most promising. Wisconsin technical colleges have excelled at combining the career pathways model with adult basic education bridge and English Language Learner instruction, which provides participants with opportunities for employment very quickly and positions them on a path of life-long learning to build their skill sets over time. For example, Moraine Park Technical College reports that 89 percent of initial certificate completers of adult career pathway bridge programs have gained employment in their respective fields, additionally 25 percent have continued their post-secondary education beyond their first certificate.

Q: What’s your vision for adult career pathways in Wisconsin over the next several years?

A: That the career pathways approach in Wisconsin will become a seamless process at all of our institutions of higher education and that career pathways will strengthen the connection between education and employers so that we can continue to grow Wisconsin’s economy. Successful implementation of career pathways will assist all Wisconsinites to achieve the skills necessary in this economy to begin, grow, and advance within their chosen career path now and into the future.


Featured ACP Resource

Renewable Energy (Green Jobs-Prep): Intermediate ESL

Hubbs Center for Adult Basic Education, Saint Paul, MN


This 15+ hour preparatory curriculum for renewable energy jobs contains instructional and support materials that build English language, technology, numeracy, and soft skills within career specific instruction. Included are unit materials with instructor guidelines, unit benchmarks, student worksheets, videos on renewable energy, and a culminating activity that gives students the opportunity to apply what they have learned. This curriculum is designed to prepare students for further education in energy related fields in the context of the Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources career cluster.


Students will: (1) Learn energy-related vocabulary; (2) Scan documents for key information; (3) Explore careers in renewable energy; (4) Create and interpret data in charts; (5) Research and create a report on an energy source; (6) Analyze energy usage in the United States; and (7) Demonstrate literacy skills appropriate for Intermediate English as a second language (ESL) learners.

The curriculum is available for download at: or


ACP-SC is Moving to LINCS!

We are happy to announce that the ACP-SC is joining the Literacy Information and Communication System (LINCS). Later this summer, the website and its resources will be transferred to a new home on the LINCS website. For additional information on this transition, continue to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, check the ACP Community Blog for updates, or email us at



Correctional Education Association Conference

Cleveland, OH
June 30-July 3, 2013

Featuring: The ACP-SC Webcast Series Presents: Adult Career Pathways in Correctional Education and Re-entry Programs

Monday, July 1
2:15 - 3:15 p.m. EDT


National Career Pathways Network Conference

San Antonio, TX
October 13-15, 2013


Effective Transitions in Adult Education Conference

Providence, RI
November 13-15, 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 Pathways Positioned to Transform Workforce Education

State Spotlight on: Wisconsin

One could easily describe Wisconsin as an early adopter of career pathways. Their journey has been marked by milestones, each helping to shape the state’s approach to workforce development. Much of Wisconsin’s earliest career pathways efforts were supported by funding from the Joyce Foundation’s Shifting Gears initiative, designed to promote long term regional economic growth in six Midwestern states by improving the education and skills training of the workforce. Wisconsin’s involvement in Shifting Gears led to the development of the Regional Industry Skills Education project, known as RISE. The program engaged stakeholders in state-level policy change and regional program innovation with the goal of creating adult career pathways programs that offer workers stepping stones to skills and credentials that Wisconsin’s growth industries demand. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, the Wisconsin Technical College System, local workforce boards, and employer partners have been engaged in this statewide effort, building on local models and drawing on national expertise, to make career pathways a more central part of the state’s education and job training systems.

The RISE initiative has emerged as an important model for adult career pathways, one that is successfully connecting lower-skilled adults to education and career opportunities throughout the state by providing programs that offer a series of courses that yield stackable credentials.

Wisconsin Career Pathways chart

Bolstered by continued support from the Joyce Foundation, RISE has undertaken several new focus areas this year, all with an eye on the state’s overall goal for adult career pathways of increasing the number of adults who earn postsecondary credentials related to occupations in high demand. RISE is co-led by the Department of Workforce Development and the Wisconsin Technical College System who benefit from input from workforce development boards and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. This past fall, RISE leaders began an inventory of career pathways programs offered through the technical colleges, identifying industries represented and noting which pathways had bridge programs in place to support lower-skilled adults. More than 200 total career pathways programs were identified at colleges across the state, each offering stackable credentials. Of these, 57 contain bridge programs consisting of courses that link basic and English skills development with occupational skills development and accelerate the transition from pre-college to college-level work for adult students. A wide range of industries have been targeted for bridge program development based on local employer needs. For example, programs developed in 2012 range from bridges leading to certificates in digital photography to programs in sustainable small farming practices to programs leading to diplomas and degrees in Machine Tool/Computer Numerical Control, just to name a few. Having the support of adult education staff on the college campuses enables the development of a seamless set of courses that results in stackable credentials, regardless of the entry level of the learner. The state’s online curriculum bank allows colleges to share recently developed course outlines to leverage system resources and promote collaboration among RISE programs.

Below is an example that highlights the steps in an adult career pathway from pre-college through diploma-level instruction in welding and medical assisting. For program examples in other disciplines, visit the RISE website at:

Wisconsin postsecondary education programs

Wisconsin’s commitment to providing curriculum responsive to employer needs is evident through its career pathways programs. Recently, RISE leaders began collaborating on a project to make better connections between employers’ hiring needs and the training programs available to support them. Still under development, a new web-based tool will allow workforce development and educational staff to create curriculum to address specific needs “on the fly” when in the field visiting with industry leaders. Employers will be able to build customized curriculum by selecting courses from multiple career pathways programs available through the state’s technical colleges. This effort will take advantage of existing programs while helping employers ensure potential new hires get the training they need to meet the entry-level skills requirements of evolving industries.

Convening local program leaders and promoting enhanced communication is also high on the priority list for the RISE team. In February, RISE hosted a statewide event at which more than 200 participants from the technical colleges and workforce development system talked about the changing economy, its effects on career pathways programs, and how partners can align their efforts. The Sector Strategy and Career Pathway Conference was part pep rally, part think tank, and part call to action. Conference attendees heard state and national experts urging partnerships to address the need for skilled workers. Sector strategies require regional stakeholders from industry, workforce and economic development, education, and labor to identify industry needs that can be addressed collaboratively. Career pathways require similar engagement of sector groups to ensure each step on a career pathway provides a skill set desired by a local/regional industry sector. Jonathan Barry, Deputy Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, described the work as “critical to the success of the Wisconsin economy.”

The most comprehensive undertaking for the RISE team this year is the development of a career pathways support services matrix. Work began with a webinar and series of workshops to reach out to individuals across the state that have “touch points” with students. The goal was to begin a dialogue with support services staff from both the workforce system and technical college system. RISE leaders want to provide a process through which support service staff from the various agencies can work together as local teams to address barriers to providing the types of supports adult career pathways students need. The creation of a local/regional matrix for support services is the first step toward this team approach. Local partners are encouraged to use the support services template provided by the state to identify the services offered in their local area. Teams are also encouraged to send their completed matrix to the RISE staff for sharing through the project website. RISE leaders hope the emphasis on local collaboration around support services will allow individuals who rarely have the chance to communicate with one another the opportunity to share concerns and best practices, ultimately leading to a smoother delivery system, as well as a better understanding—by both staff and the individuals they serve—of local services available. The matrix focuses on four areas of support:

Career Pathways Support Services Matrix: Financial, Educational, Well-Being, Career Prep

Amy Charles, Education Director for Career Transitions and Workforce Development at the Wisconsin Technical College System, says the renewed emphasis on support services is important for the future success of RISE students because support services are often viewed as add-ons rather than vital for student persistence. Charles also notes that some aspects of support services remain difficult to fund with public dollars and local collaboration can help identify other partners in a region that may have the resources and capacity to assist. “Career pathways are broader than just one program or target population. They really are an essential component of Wisconsin’s overall approach to workforce development. I think we’re on the cusp of a lot of great things moving forward,” suggested Charles.


Research and Policy Corner

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau recently published the report How Are Women Served by the WIA Adult and Dislocated Worker Programs?┬áPrepared by Mathematica Policy Research, the report is the culmination of a study conducted to gain more insight into how the Workforce Investment Act Adult and Dislocated Worker programs address the needs of its adult female customers. An issue brief, The Workforce Investment Act Adult Program: How Women Fare, summarizes the report’s key findings. Additional reports on career issues important to women are highlighted in this month’s Research and Policy Corner.

Magazine cover: Increasing opportunities for low-income women

Increasing Opportunities for Low-Income Women and Student Parents in STEM at Community Colleges

2012, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Student Parent Success Initiative

This report analyzes trends in women’s representation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields of study at community colleges, as well as promising institutional and broader policy initiatives for improving recruitment, retention, and completion rates for women students in general and student parents in particular. It profiles seven programs that have successfully worked to recruit and/or retain female students in community college STEM programs. The report argues that investments in STEM education at community colleges make good economic sense because students receive the academic preparation and credentials to enter high-wage STEM careers and the nation benefits from an expanded STEM workforce to meet the needs of U.S. industry.

Download the report at:

Green Jobs

Why Green is Your Color: A Woman’s Guide to a Sustainable Career

2011, U.S. Department of Labor, Women’s Bureau

Ensuring women are prepared to succeed in a 21st century changing economy is critical to the financial stability of women and their families. Why Green Is Your Color: A Woman’s Guide to a Sustainable Career is designed to assist women with job training and career development as they enter innovative and nontraditional jobs. The guide offers resources and information women need to enter and succeed in jobs in the emerging green economy. It was created to help women at all stages of their careers — whether newly entering the workforce, transitioning to new careers, or returning to the workforce. Training providers, educators, counselors, and other workforce development professionals will find it useful in promoting the recruitment and retention of women in green career paths. A web-based training resource is also available as a companion to the guide.

Download the guide at:

Magazine Cover: Quality Employment for Women in the Green Economy

Quality Employment for Women in the Green Economy: Industry, Occupation, and State-by-State Job Estimates

2013, Institute for Women’s Policy Research

This report provides the first-ever estimates of women’s employment in the green economy, state-by-state, by industry, and by occupation. The analysis draws on the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey; the Brookings-Battelle Clean Economy database; and the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Green Goods and Services survey. The report examines women’s share of employment in the occupations predicted to see the highest growth in the green economy and includes two alternative state-by-state estimates for growth in green jobs. Focusing on investments in green buildings and retrofits, the report includes a state-by-state analysis of employment in key construction occupations by age, race, ethnicity, and gender.

Download the guide at:

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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.