Online Course: Building Strategic Partnerships

Update! The Adult Career Pathways online courses are now available on LINCS!

LINCS is adding the opportunity for professional development for its members in the form of a series of optional online courses developed by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education’s initiative Adult Career Pathways. These online courses are self-paced, freely available, and accessible 24 hours a day through the LINCS Learning Portal. The courses will enable users to work at their own pace, at a time that is most convenient to them.


Online Course: Building Strategic Partnerships

Building Strategic Partnerships is intended for adult education program administrators interested in building new and strengthening existing partnerships essential for successful development and implementation of adult career pathways programs and systems.  The course is self-paced and features three modules: (1) Understanding Strategic Partnerships; (2) Engaging Strategic Partnerships; and (3) Sustaining Strategic Partnerships. The modules link to this discussion thread (Title: Online Course: Building Strategic Partnerships) within the LINCS Community Career Pathways group to provide opportunities for you to discuss how to apply the course information in your teaching with your colleagues from around the country.


Use this discussion thread to post your responses to questions below from the online course, Building Strategic Partnerships. Please share your comments to any of the following questions, or post a general comment or feedback on the course.

  1. Introduce Yourself.
  2. How has your agency leveraged resources through building strategic partnerships for creating ACP programs or systems?  If you haven’t yet, what ideas have you developed through this session for identifying potential partners to build your ACP programs or system?
  3. What impact do strong partnerships have on program success? If you haven’t been involved yet with ACP programs, what are your thoughts on using this information as you build ACP programs? 
  4. Review the AECAP Guide for State Leaders  to gain an understanding of the project and how factors affecting partnerships were determined. How can you apply these strategies to your practice?
  5. What are some tips to build more collaborative partnerships?
  6. Share your action plan for creating a new partnership
  7. What parts of the building strategic partnerships do you feel you are successful in? What parts do you feel are areas to improve? What is your plan for improving these areas?


This online course was developed under the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education’s Designing Instruction for Career Pathways initiative under Contract No. ED-CFO-10-A-0072/0001, which developed and delivered trainings and online courses to adult education providers in order to increase the quality and quantity of adult career pathways programs.


The new LINCS Learning Portal offers adult educators free online professional development courses from a variety of OVAE initiatives. Join today at:


Hi, my name is Robin Lane, and I'm the program director for SkillTech, the adult workforce development division at the Center for Technology, Essex, in Essex Junction, VT. I was very happy to find this course and the LINCS community resources because it's so relevant to a project I was recently assigned.

In the decade since my department was created, our primary product/service has been to provide work-related short courses for adults in our region. When I took over as department director several months ago, I was also asked to tackle a three-year grant funded project designed to conduct outreach to identify employer expections, align our curriculum to meet those expectations, and develop linkages between courses/programs and industry certifications.

I'm hopeful that this online course will include valuable insights as I begin my outreach to our local employers!


Hello.  My name is Monica McGauley, and I am an adjunct Basic Education Instructor for Moraine Park Technical College.  We have recently added two positions to our department that involve the training of students through a career pathway.  Recently, I applied for a position as a Middle College Support Specialist, which is a position that would not only recruit Junior and Senior students in our career pathway welding program, but also would work with business partners to set up summer internships for those same students.

Thanks for sharing about your career pathway program in welding.  It sounds like you are off to a good start!  Do you have adults in your program too?  And I see that you are the basic education instructor.  Does that mean that you teach reading and math skills using contextualized instruction focusing on welding?  Please tell us a little more about how this works at Moraine Park Technical College.

I hadn't seen your post about contextualized instruction when I posted this question asking about your use of contextualized instruction.  I'm still interested in knowing more about your experiences and if you have adult learners in your program.

Having strong partnerships is instrumental in ACP success.  One of our current career pathways is called Middle College.  Junior students who are interested in welding are offered positions in our welding program at the technical college.  They are given duel credit for the work they complete at the college to put toward their high school diploma.  The goal of the program is to provide training and education to students who will upon graduation provide a workforce for area manufacturing partners.


My name is Nicole Harden, I’m a Program Specialist for a large CBO.  Currently, we are running a program which utilizes over 70 partnerships with other CBO’s to assist people in achieving self-sufficiency, including some training providers and community colleges.  I’m interested in learning more about building/utilizing training program/community college partnerships to assist in our goal by providing career pathways for our clients served.  Our partnerships are our program, they contribute directly to the success of our program, and I would love to see these partnerships continue to bloom.  I think a tip for creating collaborative partnerships is utilizing the strengths of each organization in working towards a shared goal.  My action plan is to reach out to the multiple community colleges in our area, as well as employers in our area, provide them with an outline of our current program and see if they would be interested in partnering to assist in serving on an advisory committee in building out our program.  

My name is Peg Gould, and I the Assistant Director of the Community Education and Training Department of Mercer County Community College in Trenton, NJ.  Our department offers ABE/HSE/ESL funded, noncredit programs, with an employment-employability skills slant.  I am struggling with engaging employers or with forming partnerships with them, and I hope to gain knowledge from this course about forming partnerships effectively with local employers.

Hi, my name is Marie Thompson.  I teach both English and math.  I have a PhD in English and have taught several 101 and 102 classes.  I find that I absolutely love working in adult ed and look forward to learning from all of you and LINCS.  

Regarding building/engaging partnerships, we have collaborated in the past regarding resumes/cover letters etc.  We are also in the middle of a new partnership in which we provide help with resume, cover letters, interview skills, and college/career related math. 

Again, we are beginning a few new employability collaborative projects with different community partners.  As far as I can tell, we are following the Strategic Partnership Guidelines rather well--however, we are still in the planning stages.  We have met and outlined our needs and our goals and remain in communication as we develop lesson plans--we will be actually beginning one of our main projects in March--perhaps I can provide more information then.


My name is Mike Cruse, and I am a Career and Technical Education (CTE) resource specialist with Arlington Public Schools, in Arlington, VA. In my role, I work with our auto program - both technology and body work - to support students in the Automotive Youth Educational Systems' internship program with area garages and dealers.

While this is geared towards students in high school, it has been a strong partnership for not only our students in grades 9-12, but also the adult high school with which we share our campus.  

I look forward to learning more about building and sustaining strategic partnerships from this course, and group.



Hello everyone,

I'm Pamala Wilson from Henderson Community College in Henderson, Kentucky. I am the Dean of Success Grants.  I write grants as well as over see our  adult education program. We are just beginning to develop career pathways to assist our students in transitioning into post secondary education.

Looking forward to the discussions as well as the class.


Hi, Pamela -

Thanks for your introduction to the community, and embarking on the Building Strategic Partnerships course through the LINCS' learning portal.  I wonder if you could share with us a little bit more about the types of career pathways your college is developing?  What are the career fields?

It would also be great to hear some of the challenges and successes you've encountered so far in building partnerships.  Let us know your questions as you work to develop these pathways for your learners.



Our college has formed many partnerships over the years. We have provided training and consulting services in exchange for materials, training sites and endowed chairs. Without these partnerships, many of our programs would struggle to exist.  I believe these partnerships have also added credibility for the quality of education our college provides.

I am Heather Powell with the Arkansas Literacy Councils. I am new to this, and I am attending these sessions to learn about what is on the horizon for us as CBO's. I look forward to the insights and information I will gain.


Hi, Heather -

Great to hear that you're embarking on this professional development opportunity!  Can you tell us a little bit about the work on the horizon between the Arkansas Literacy Council and your local CBOs?  It is always helpful and inspiring to hear how adult education colleagues are working to build partnerships within their communities.


Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator

I am the principal of an adult HS diploma program in Delaware.  I'm working on identifying and bringing together stakeholders to provide input for our program (i.e. employers, community-based organizations, state agencies, graduates, etc.).  I'm wondering if anyone has experience with this type of activity, and if so, how they characterized the group when reaching out to stakeholders, in order to get good participation and useful feedback for the program.  Any details would be appreciated - or it there is a particular source for information on this topic that someone could refer me to?  I'm looking forward to any responses!

Hi, Betsy -

Thanks for introducing yourself, and sharing your work in trying to bring together different stakeholders to build a strong network of partners.  One resource I suggest is the Tools for Building Employer-Educator Partnerships website.  Here you can find success stories and resources, from both an employer and adult educator perspective.  

Another resource is the Career Pathways Toolkit: A Guide for System Development.  This is an excellent starting point, and can serve as a guide as you move along in the process of developing your program's partnerships.  The first element, Build Cross-Agency Partnerships and Clarify Roles, begins on page 11, and should get you started off on the right foot.

It would be great to hear how you and your team are doing as you move ahead in building a connected career pathways program!


Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator

Hello Betsy and others,

Betsy, you wrote: " I'm working on identifying and bringing together stakeholders to provide input for our program (i.e. employers, community-based organizations, state agencies, graduates, etc.).  I'm wondering if anyone has experience with this type of activity, and if so, how they characterized the group when reaching out to stakeholders, in order to get good participation and useful feedback for the program." 

I am assuming that "the program" is your adult high school diploma program. If that is correct, I am not clear if it is a physical campus, a distance education program or a blended learning (face-to-face and online) model.

I wonder what your objectives are in building a community partnership: Improve curriculum? Improve other aspects of your adult school diploma program? Recruit new students? Help your students and graduates get more work experience and employment opportunities? Something else?

I also wonder if there are additional potential stakeholder groups such as community colleges and four-year colleges to which your students might apply; also, within community-based organizations, community colleges, and the private sector, job and career training programs to which your students might apply; and within public schools, libraries and volunteer organizations adult basic education and basic English language programs whose graduates might come to your school. 

I have experience bringing employers (including groups within a company such as HR, supervisors, and employees) organized labor, and education providers together to develop and provide company and union-sponsored workplace basic skills programs, as well as some experience with community partnerships spearheaded by adult basic education programs that the following suggestions for you are based on:

1. Actual stakeholders, not just those whom you hope will be stakeholders, will partner when their goals and needs are at stake, not just the goals and needs of the convening organization, and when they see how their goals will be met through the partnership. This implies knowing what those goals and needs are.

2. Before you hold a larger initial partnership meeting with multiple kinds of potential stakeholders who will have different goals and needs, meet with each group (employers, community-based organizations, state agencies, graduates, community colleges, etc.) separately. This may require many meetings, for example you may want to meet with different kinds community-based organizations, employment and training providers, faith-based organizations, and immigrant service providers as separate groups. You may also want to meet separately with each state agency (e.g. labor/employment and training, social services, agriculture, health, corrections, etc.) The goal of each meeting might be, in your case, to understand as concretely as possible what the group's goals and needs are for their clients or employees who need adult secondary level skills and knowledge, and possibly successful preparation for work and/or post-secondary education. You will want to ask not only about the academic/cognitive content their clients/employees need, but also about their clients' non-cognitive (affective, work-readiness) needs, and about how an innovative education model can best fit their lives. One possibility is to have these initial meetings as a part of a face-to-face community needs survey, and then to hold a larger community meeting to report out what you have learned, how you propose to have your adult school meet the goals and needs you have learned about, and to invite potential stakeholders to join your advisory board.

3. An advisory board made up of people from these groups who have expressed interest, who are actual stakeholders, not just representatives from the various groups may be very helpful in achieving their shared goals. You want people who are very interested in what you are doing, and who will put in time to make sure it meets their clients' needs. The advisory board can bring them together with some specific tasks that you make clear in advance, for example: review curriculum, identify effective strategies for recruiting potential learners, and (especially in the case of employers) provide internships for students, and hire qualified graduates.

I may have other suggestions, but let's see if any of what I have written is on target for you first. If I have misunderstood what you are trying to do, please set me straight.

I know there must be others here with the kind of experience that Betsy is asking about. What have you learned that might be useful to Betsy and others here?

David J. Rosen

I am an adult education teacher.  I partner with Work One.  Work One talks to my students about the incentives the organization can provide them, and I educate the students to get their high school equivalency diplomas so that they can go out into the workforce and help our economy grow.


Hi, Sandy -

I'm sorry that you had problems accessing this video.  You can watch all six of the Building Strategic Partnerships Videos here.  Please let me know if you're still experiencing any difficulties in accessing these videos.

Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator

How has your agency leveraged resources through building strategic partnerships for creating ACP programs or systems? If you haven’t yet, what ideas have you developed through this session for identifying potential partners to build your ACP programs or system?

Our program works with our local WorkOne, which is also under Workforce Development, to help our students get training for certifications in area of need within our state. We provide the class, and they provide the funding.

We have had a fairly strong relationship with our local WorkOne (Workforce Development).  It has been to work toward the same goal in helping our students/clients. This not always the case with every adult education program and WorkOne. It's really sad because we are all working toward helping our students/clients get a better life.

It is difficult for me alone to create a partnership plan. I would have to talk to my boss.  We do have plans to work with a community center where one of our programs is housed. We already have a good working relationship with them. It will go one step further if they are given a grant in the near future.

We need to strengthen our partnership with our local WorkOne. It was really good for awhile, but both places have gone through some staffing changes.  We need to work on better communication.

I understand the idea, but this does not appear to be my cup of tea. It's almost too much information for one person to take in. I would needs weeks to feel fully educated on this topic.

Hi, Sandy -

Thanks for sharing your reflection on the course.  I wonder if you could give me one  sub-topic that you are most interested in learning about to support your students?  If you have specific questions, I am also happy to try and help answer them, so that you feel like this was a worthwhile experience for you.


Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator 

At Gander Hill Prison in DE, we are concerned with educating incarcerated persons and preparing them for the world of work. We are connecting with stakeholders as well as our education department to facilitate this.

My name is Amy Garcia.  I am the Professional Development Coordinator with a local program in Texas.  I have been with the program for 3 years in a part-time capacity.  I look forward to learning from the resources provided in this course along with the comments from others in the course.

Hi, I am the coordinator for my program. In my position I believe it is crucial to develop partnerships to build a pathway of success for our adult learners. Partnerships in my opinion provide resources that many of the students would not have an opportunity to learn about that are available to them. These resources can be a reason that some students persevere to stay regardless of their life situations.  

Our program needs to strengthen our partnership with the area workforce Onestop.  Distance of over nearly 150 miles from our location to the Onestopcreates a disconnect in understanding local area dynamics, needs,  and resources. The major factor here is excellent communication and being able to clear articulate and be heard on what is needed and how we can partner and give back.

Hi, Nance -

You're not alone in the challenge of connecting learners with your 'local' One-Stop Center.  One-Stops are excellent resources for training referrals, career counseling, job listings, and other employment-related services. Did you know that customers, as One-Stops refer to their users, can also connect to a center's information online or through kiosk remote access?  Is this something you have tried with your learners?  If so, what was their experience?

The American Jobs Center System is coordinated by the Department of Labor, which also hosts a web site with a clickable map of American Jobs Centers’ web sites for each state and a list of state, regional, and local center contacts. You can also find a center by calling ETA's toll-free help line at (877) US-2JOBS (TTY: 1-877-889-5267).

I'm curious what other steps programs have taken to connect their program with the services of their are One-Stop.  What has worked, and what hasn't worked for you?  Please share your experiences, so we all benefit from how to create stronger partnerships with this valuable resource.


Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator

I am an adult education director in a rural part of Minnesota.   We have many successful Career Pathway classes being offered in our area.   Probably our most successful training is a Certified Nursing Assistant class we offer to both high school students and adults.   As one researches more on what makes a successful Career Pathway class one can come upon suggested components of a successful class.   What I would suggest is that yes specific components are important,

but I believe the culture or philosophy that drives your partnership and project is extremely important.   We would suggest that following qualities or philosophies contribute to our success:  All Partners are student focused (not agency focused);  employers drive our content;  All partners collaborate in a fashion that Business as normal changes.

We hope to share our model in an upcoming webinar on Career Pathways later this month.   

Pat Thomas

Hi, Pat -

Thanks for sharing a preview of your program's philosophy, and what drives your business partnerships.  We're looking forward to learning more about your Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program later this month.  Mark your calendar: September 18th-20th.  Keep an eye on the LINCS homepage for more details about our webinar and panel with SW Adult Basic Education, and others joining us to gain a better understanding of career pathways for ABE and ESL learners.

Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator 

My name is Lucile Hefka I am the Lead GED Teacher and Global Career Development Facilitator (GCDF) /Transition Specialist for Trident Literacy Association (TLA). TLA is in the process of updating and revising our programs to reflect a more contextualized curriculum with emphasis on specific career pathways, building business and community partnerships, and integrating strategies to align with the new requirements under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA).  At this time, we have partnerships with South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Department, Palmetto Goodwill, Trident Technical College Division of Apprenticeship Program, and Apprenticeship Carolina, and various local community organizations. It is crucial to develop and form Partnerships throughout the community in order to provide the needed services for our students. We are at the very early stages of this process but we hope to establish and maintain many resources for our students.

Hi, Lucille -

Thanks for sharing your roles with us, and the list of your community partnerships.  It's impressive how many partners you have established.  What advice do you have for other programs interested in establishing a diversity of partners?  What are your current challenges in growing the resources you and your partners are able to offer your learners?


Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator 

I work in Adult Education Career and Workforce areas. I am always wanting to build and establish new business and industry partnerships. These partnerships are for the community businesses and our student to come together.

Compile a list that includes almost all of the local business and industry. Have a community meeting to discuss needs of employers and potential employees. Build  an alliance of interested parties. 

Working in an area with low unemployment, I find it difficult to sustain partnerships. Employers/Organizations don't seem to have time to attend meetings. I have had to change meetings from once a month to 3 times a year. Many companies have their own training programs. I have better employer retention with smaller business/industry.

Hi, Micaela -

You're not alone in experiencing some difficulty with larger employers.  I wonder if you'd be able to share some of what has worked for you in connecting with smaller businesses, and industries?


Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator

I think these partnerships work well across all categories; (workforce, and education) collaborating for a greater need, and let us not forget, purpose, To have connective think authoritative, only helps humanity across all barriers as well as successes. A wholesome and well rounded education, is what the participant receives.

Hello. I believe the Memorandum of Understanding is definitely the STRONGEST and most powerful guiding tool in maintaining the basis for partnerships. The MOU is the foundation of why the partnership was formed and should take a lot of thought in writing it.Before every meeting, the partnerships should recite the MOU and always be reminded of who and what the objective is to capture. It is formed for the people that need it. 

I believe that many human resource development instructors should be occasionally, included when partners meet. Instructor feedback is very important when forming classes that target college & career readiness goals. Often times, instructors see a need within their communities and have great ideas on how to fill the need but not many resources or connections to make it a reality. 

Howdy, my name is Jennifer Adams and I am the hybrid position for pathways and dual enrollment here at the community college. I am just wanting to learn more on how to better the program and help our students develop the skills needed to find careers that they are proud of achieving no matter the field. I am new to this so I am wanting to gain some building blocks to help me better our programs.

Hello, my name is Patricia Rodriguez and I am new to both adult education and career pathways. I am really excited about learning more about these programs. I am also looking forward to learn more information on how to improve our program. I would like to be better equipped at providing the much needed assistance to improve the academic future of our adult learners.