How do Career Pathways differ from what we have already been doing?


I was asked by a colleague how I think a Career Pathways approach differs from what they have already been doing at their center.

When I asked what they have been doing, she said that for over two decades they have been been preparing adult learners for college, jobs and careers. They have been coaching students in academic skills and career and life management skills. Their students include those who may want to get their High School Equivalency (HSE), and others who are not yet college or career ready, even if they finished high school. Students learn how to investigate careers, various skills involved in applying for a job such as how to build a good resume and successful interviewing skills, proper workplace communication, what employers expect in terms of workplace behavior. They teach occupational skills in areas such as health careers, retail sales, welding, and other high-demand areas. They have a building trades program that has courses and a union-sponsored apprenticeship program. They also teach job readiness or "soft skills". Their students do job shadowing and internships in several career areas. The center works with employers to make sure their curricula for all their training, education and job readiness courses is aligned to what is required for high-demand jobs.

So, she wondered, isn't that what Career Pathways is?

What do you think? Is that what Career Pathways is?

David J. Rosen


Hi, David -

Great question! I'm interested in how your colleague defines what is being done in their program?  My personal understanding of what Career Pathways are comes from the National Career Pathways Network (NCPN).  NCPN does a good job of spelling out what they consider to be included in a definition of Career Pathways.  You can read the full definition and explanation here

Here is the basic definition, which the NCPN website does a good job of expanding on more fully.

A Career Pathway is a coherent, articulated sequence of rigorous academic and career/technical courses, commencing in the ninth grade and leading to an associate degree, baccalaureate degree and beyond, an industry recognized certificate, and/or licensure. The Career Pathway is developed, implemented, and maintained in partnership among secondary and post-secondary education, business, and employers. Career Pathways are available to all students, including adult learners, and lead to rewarding careers.

This definition was jointly developed by The Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD), the College and Career Transitions Initiative (The League for Innovation in the Community College) and approved by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Career, Technical and Education (Formerly OVAE).

This is a very broad definition, which we can chose to explore in a variety of ways within this community.  I'd encourage your colleague to join us in defining what we explore here, and contributing to the conversation. Regardless of the definition applied to the program, we are working towards similar goals of helping learners navigate career options that lead to a sustainable, living wage, for our learners and their families.


Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator