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Day One of the Researcher-Practitioner Discussion on Career Pathways Programing for Lower-Skilled Adults in High-Need Cities

Welcome to our two-day discussion of the Career Pathways Programing for Lower-Skilled Adults in High-Need Cities research report.  This report is a comprehensive documentation of a survey of adult education providers, including focus groups, and case studies, across Chicago, Houston, and Miami.  The survey was designed to identify the key features of adult career pathways, and the learner outcome measures used across cities, and sites.
 
We are fortunate to be joined by the two researchers for this project.  Dr. Esther Prins and Dr. Carol Clymer.  Esther Prins is Professor of Adult Education, Learning and Performance Systems, and co-director of the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy, and the Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy at Penn State University.  Dr. Prins was the Primary Investigator for  "Career Pathways Programming for Lower-Skilled Adults and Immigrants: A Comparative Analysis of Adult Education Providers in High-Need Cities.", funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Science (2015-18).   Dr. Carol Clymer is also a Professor of Adult Education, Learning and Performance Systems, and co-director of the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy, and the Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy at Penn State University. Dr. Clymer served as a co-director of the Career Pathways Programing for Lower-Skilled Adults in High-Need Cities research project.
 
The majority of survey respondents were from Community-Based Organizations (CBOs).  We are also joined by two research partners from Chicago, Becky Raymond and Emily Doherty.  Becky Raymond, Executive Director at Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition (CCLC) Executive Director at Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition.  CCLC advocates for and develops strategies for improving adult literacy and basic education systems fostering adult education that transitions learners into the workforce, and post-secondary education.  CLCC was the Chicago region partner for the Career Pathways Programing for Lower-Skilled Adults and Immigrants in High-Need Cities research project.  Emily Doherty is Senior Director of Programs at Jane Addams Resource Center (JARC).  JARC promotes strong communities by helping both job seekers and employers advance in today's rapidly changing economy.  JARC is Community-Based Organizations (CBO) providing career pathways to residents of Chicago, and works in partnership with CCLC.
 
Thank you each for joining us to discuss the highlights of your research, and the implications for serving lower-skilled adults in high-need cities.  Your research-practitioner partnership provides a needed example for collaboration to better understand what makes for the most effective career pathways programs. The full report of your research is a wealth of information that requires unpacking for more practitioners to reflect on their programs, and evidence-based best practices for achieving positive outcomes with learners. 
 
I want to jump into asking Esther and Carol a few questions about the structure of the research.  I encourage members to have a look at the full report, and consider the responses to these first questions.  What questions do you have about collaborating in research-practitioner studies?  Next, as we dive more deeply into the report, please bring your comments and questions about the case studies, best practices for meeting lower skilled adults' needs, and building robust career pathways.
 
Let’s get started…
 
This research is based on a survey of over 100 adult education agencies in three U.S. cities:  Miami, Houston, and Chicago, as well as focus groups and case studies of six participating agencies.  You note in the final report that 94% of the survey respondents were developing, or already providing, career pathways.  However, you underscore the fact that your findings show that the design and implementation of these career pathways varied significantly across programs.  

1. Would you share how you selected the 100+ agencies for the survey, and what criteria were used to determine whether these agencies' programs were developing, or providing career pathways?   

 

You point out that the research is limited on pathway's operated by Community-Based Organizations (CBO's), and focused on the needs of learners with less than a high school education.  You focused on wrap around support services in your case studies because your findings suggest that these services are a vital part of supporting this demographic of adult learners to access and persist in the completion of pathways programs.  

2. Would you tell us how you selected the six agencies for your case studies, and what characteristics they share that model best practices for providing wraparound services in a pathways program?

 

You use the term 'mental bandwidth' to refer to thinking about how these wraparound supports reduce the cognitive load of learners struggling with poverty.  You propose that these supports help to expand their ability to focus on learning.  

3. Can you share an anecdotal example from your case studies that highlights how wraparound services helped expand a learner's mental bandwidth?  Did you notice any priorities within the types of wraparound services that most significantly reduced the cognitive load on learners, and supported their success within pathways programs?

Comments

esprins's picture
Fifty
Good morning, everyone! Thanks for being part of this discussion. I'll start with the first and second questions.
 
1. Would you share how you selected the 100+ agencies for the survey, and what criteria were used to determine whether these agencies' programs were developing, or providing career pathways? 
 
With our agency collaborators (Co-Principal Investigators) in the 3 cities, we developed a comprehensive list of all the organizations that were known to provide adult basic education services in their cities, including community colleges, libraries, community-based organizations, workforce development organizations, K-12 schools, correctional institutions, and other types of organizations. Of the 184 agencies, 62 were located in Chicago, 77 in Houston, and 45 in Miami. Because we wanted to know how adult basic education agencies are incorporating career pathways, the list of providers did not include organizations that serve only or primarily (a) in-school youth or (b) adults who already have a postsecondary degree.
 
 
2. Would you tell us how you selected the six agencies for your case studies?
 
This was an iterative process. First, the survey asked respondents to name agencies that were known to provide high-quality career pathways. So we had a list of organizations nominated by their peers. Then, we reviewed the survey data to identify organizational characteristics, populations served, student outcomes, etc. We also reviewed data from the focus groups held with providers in each city. And we consulted extensively with our agency collaborators, drawing on their knowledge of career pathways (CP) in their cities. Also, we did not include some organizations that have already been widely studied. For example, Instituto del Progreso Latino's excellent CP in programming in Chicago has been documented in a couple of previous studies and a current federally funded study. See e.g. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/opre/resource/pace-career-pathways-program-profile-instituto-del-progreso-latino-carreras-en-salud
 
In the end, we selected two organizations per city that had exemplary CP programs and that served students with lower educational attainment. (E.g., we excluded organizations or sites that served a large proportion of highly educated immigrants and refugees.) Organizations also represented different organizational types (the main adult education provider types in each city--CBOs, community colleges, and/or a school district, in the case of Miami), student populations, neighborhoods, and occupational sectors. For example, since the majority of research studies on CP have focused on healthcare, we intentionally included other sectors as well, such as business, construction, manufacturing, automotive, and so on. 
 
See Table 4 (p. 51) in our report for more information.
Emily Doherty's picture
First

Hi All,

I'm excited to be joining this conversation and sharing JARC's experience participating in the study and our work of delivery career pathways programs. My colleague Nissa Papienski will also be sharing her experience at JARC. Nissa is currently a Program Coordinator for our manufacturing training programs. She screens applicants for eligibility and suitability for the programs, and provides case managers while they are in training. Nissa is also a graduate of our Computer Numerical Control training program, so she brings experience as a participant as well.  Looking forward to the discuss!

Kathy_Tracey's picture
One hundred

Hi, 

I'd like to learn more about your screening of participants You indicate that applicants are screened for eligibility and suitability for the programs. What does this entail. I see you refer to motivational interviews, is that a part of the process? What do you have for alternatives if a student doesn't fit this criteria? And finally, how do you build fault tolerance into the program. For example, often we required attendance levels for continued participation. Yet, those who are most vulnerable (lack of reliable transportation, varied shift work, excetera) have difficulty fully participating. While you have wrap around services, how do academically address these needs? 

Thanks, 
Kathy 

Emily Doherty's picture
First

Great questions Kathy! For eligibility, applicants must be 18 years or older, eligible to work in the U.S., and not convicted of a sexual offense. Applicants are required to bring in documents to verify their eligibility.

For suitability, as part of our screening process, we require all applicants to complete an application for the program, do TABE assessments, and interview with a Program Coordinator. During the interview, we're assessing someone's ability to commit to a fulltime training program (our career pathways training programs require our students/trainees attend 12 - 25 hour per week for 12-20 weeks depending on the program), their interest in a fulltime career in manufacturing, and their willingness to receive coaching. And we are actually currently in the process of updating some of our interview questions to better incorporate motivational interviewing techniques. If an applicant decides they do not want to commit to our program, or we decide we don't think they're suitable for it, we provide referrals to other agencies that better match their interest and needs.

For wrap-around services, all of our trainees receive bundled supportive services while in training and after they start working. The services include a weekly transportation pass, financial coaching, employment coaching, digital literacy instruction, and screening for public benefits (which includes childcare assistance). We also partner with a legal aid organization (CGLA) to provide on-site assistance to our trainees as many are ex-offenders. In some cases, we are also able to provide financial support towards rent, car repairs, eye glass examinations and purchase, and work gear like steel-toed boots or welding jackets. Additionally, we regularly work with other external partners for mental health, housing, and other needed supports.

While we provide robust wrap-around services, we still maintain a strict attendance and behavioral standards in our training programs. We model our programs closely after the manufacturing workplace. This includes a trainee handbook that outlines a strict attendance point system and a time clock that's required for trainees to clock in and out each day. Trainees are only given 3 points for their entire time in training. We do excuse some absences but only if a trainee follows the correct time off request policy in our handbook. We do end up "terminating" about 1 in 10 trainees for repeated failure to meet the attendance rules. For our program, this is an important aspect as we take a dual customer approach; viewing both our clients and employer partners (where we place our graduates) as our customers.

cdc22's picture
First

Hi everyone from Carol Clymer. Thanks for joining the discussion.

Question 2a what characteristics they share that model best practices for providing wraparound services in a pathways program?

Wraparound support services were vital to career pathways programming at all six agencies. Six types of support services were provided across the agencies—childcare; transportation; access to financial support; financial literacy or coaching; employment coaching, job search or placement; and financial aid for tuition, fees, and supplies. See Table 6 on page 68 of our final report for a list of support services provided by the agencies we studied.

Two models were used to provide support services: bundled and mandatory supports or voluntary services. The Center for Working Families model provided through Jane Adams Resource Center (JARC) in Chicago were required for all manufacturing students. This model included access to income supports, weekly financial literacy classes, one-on-one financial coaching, employment coaching, and other supports such as transportation. A JARC participant commented on the value of support services:

“we don’t have to stress about all those actual life problems. All we have to do is concentrate on our school work....It takes a big burden and a big load off the mind when you don’t have to worry about that, and you just concentrate on the school work, which is very helpful.”

In Houston, students had access to the Financial Opportunity Center and were required to participate in at least two center services related to financial coaching, employment coaching, and/or access to income supports. Houston sites—Alliance and HCC: Chinese Community Center—used this wraparound service model; both organizations aimed to increase adults’ financial stability (in addition to placing them in jobs.) An Alliance staff member indicated that students were asked to participate in two services because: “Research has found out that if students are engaged in more than one service, they stay in the program longer, so we can provide them better services.” 

Community colleges offered the same supports as credit students (tutoring, wellness, & disability centers; gym; library; computer lab, etc.) which was very important for helping adult education students foster a sense of identity. According to one Miami Dade College student: “You feel like you are in college.”

Incentives such as free credit classes (City Colleges of Chicago); vouchers to take GED subject tests (Houston); financial incentives for job placement, retention, and other milestones (JARC); and reduced inmate sentences for attending CTE classes (Miami) were also provided to help students succeed in career pathways programs.

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

I have questions for Carol Clymer, Esther Prins and Nissa Papienski:

Carol and Esther: Often adult basic skills program support services include individual or family counseling and/or referral for therapy. Did you consider and reject this as an essential  support service? Did any of your findings suggest this might also be a helpful service in a CP program, for example, in community colleges that may have offered these services to participants? Do you think that personal or family counseling might also “reduce the cognitive load of learners struggling with poverty” and increase “mental bandwidth?” I ask this because I have sometimes heard from community college transition programs that a key factor in achieving retention is a counselor or caseworker with a reasonable caseload who meets with students to support them and help them problem solve.

Nissa: Is the individual or family counseling and casework that I have described as a support service provided in other ways at JARC? For example, you wrote that you work with trainees on a daily basis to ensure they receive the support they need. Does that include services that might be described as casework or personal counseling?

David J. Rosen

esprins's picture
Fifty

I typed out my response and got timed out. :( 

Most agencies referred out for counseling and mental health. Some also had case managers to handle support services that weren't offered by the agency. E.g., a Chicago provider stated,

"We have a philosophy of trying to meet the student where the student is at. Which means that, you know, if the student needs the citizenship, or if the student needs the job, or if the student needs the drug counseling, or if the student needs the domestic violence referrals and case managers— So that we feel if the student leaves, there’s something that we didn’t do."

The community colleges had health/wellness/counseling centers with personal counseling services. E.g., Miami Dade College: https://www.mdc.edu/main/singlestop/counseling-services.aspx   Malcolm X College: http://www.ccc.edu/colleges/malcolm-x/departments/pages/wellness-center.aspx

I agree that this is a very important support service. Jenny Horsman has written extensively about the need to recognize the trauma that many adult learners bring to the classroom (particularly women re: domestic violence). http://en.copian.ca/litweb/other/cclow/doc/therapist/cover.pdf I highly recommend reading her work on this topic.

esprins's picture
Fifty

I would also add that many of the program staff act as de facto counselors (although obviously this didn't involve formal one-on-one counseling sessions like a trained therapist would provide). Here's an example from Miami that illustrates what case management looks like in practice and how far above & beyond the call of duty the staff go to help students:

"I had student [who] was going to go homeless last year around this time. She was having trouble with her mom, she didn’t have a job, her mom kicked her out of her house. And then no one was trying to help her in the family. She came to me. She was crying that she didn’t know what to do. I called 411…and I get the different agencies in Miami-Dade County, see if I can help that student get a place to live. We called different agencies. I went also to Single One Stop to see if they had any agencies that could help me…since they deal with foster care students, to assist me with that student. Thankfully, her grandmother, at the end, opened her house for her, but in the meantime— I’m also a part of the AFC [Association of Florida Colleges] on campus, and I spoke to one of the directors…and we got that student clothes…so she had business attire to go to job interviews….And instead of giving her money, what we did, we collected clothes from some of the staff at the school, and we gave it to her….And we all worked together to help her out and eventually, we helped her write her resume and she got a job at Panera Bread, where she’s working there now."

David J. Rosen's picture
One hundred

Thanks Esther. It sounds like these services are being addressed by these programs.

David J. Rosen

Nissa Papienski's picture
First

Hi David, 

We do provide case management for the trainees, however informal individual counseling takes place as needed. We might counsel someone regarding attendance issues or disciplinary issues - I would call it 'lite' personal counseling.  I meet with trainees weekly or biweekly for a formal check-in which can become some form of counseling depending on the trainee's situation. A recent example is a trainee who attends full time and works full time (often overnights), drives his father to cancer treatments, and is struggling with his own health at times. And that just scratches the surface of what he is experiencing. In our check-ins, I really just let him talk and then at the end I might ask him about his top priorities for the week. I'll also ask for permission to set up a meeting with our financial coach or income support specialist depending on his need. 

Additional personal counseling for our trainees has been on my mind as something to explore - we can give people referrals but at the end of the day it is the trainee's choice to attend or not. It could be something we explore for our Friday soft skill workshops.  One staff recently presented on stress management to the trainees - I would like to follow up with how it went. That could be another way we address needs. 

Thank you for the question, David. Please feel free to ask more questions - I'll do my best to answer. 

Nissa

esprins's picture
Fifty

You use the term 'mental bandwidth' to refer to thinking about how these wraparound supports reduce the cognitive load of learners struggling with poverty.  You propose that these supports help to expand their ability to focus on learning.  

3. Can you share an anecdotal example from your case studies that highlights how wraparound services helped expand a learner's mental bandwidth?  Did you notice any priorities within the types of wraparound services that most significantly reduced the cognitive load on learners, and supported their success within pathways programs?

I first learned about research on scarcity and mental bandwidth (what happens to our brains and decision making when we have insufficient money, time, etc.) from this article in the Harvard alumni magazine. https://harvardmagazine.com/2015/05/the-science-of-scarcity  Mullainathan & Shafir elaborate on these ideas in their book, Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much (2013). The concept of mental bandwidth is highly relevant to adult learners, many of whom have limited economic resources. In short, thinking about financial problems takes up an enormous amount of mental energy, leaving little or no mental bandwidth for anything else, including academics.

In our COABE article, we wrote, "We propose that wraparound supports work because they expand participants’ “mental bandwidth” (Mullainathan & Eldar, 2013; Schilbach, Schofield, & Mullainathan, 2016). Our mental bandwidth is finite, and for people in poverty, thinking about and managing financial problems imposes a massive cognitive load (Schilbach et al., 2016). In field and laboratory studies, the cognitive impact of thinking about financial concerns was the equivalent of losing a night of sleep—even for people without real financial problems (Mani, Mullainathan, Shafir, & Zhao, 2013). When CP programs help students apply for food stamps, pay for transportation, obtain health insurance or childcare, or reduce debt, they increase students’ bandwidth for focusing on academics."

We offer a few examples to support this. During the focus group with JARC students, a dislocated worker stated that because of the agency’s support services,

"we don’t have to stress about all those actual life problems. All we have to do is concentrate on our school work….It takes a big burden and a big load off the mind when you don’t have to worry about that, and you just concentrate on the school work, which is very helpful."

In his own words, this student articulated the concept of mental bandwidth: support services reduce the cognitive load of “life problems” and allow students to devote more mental energy to their studies.

Another student had a similar perspective:

"They don’t give you no excuse for not being here. You’re going to get here because you get either a bus card or a gas card….I mean, you don’t got no excuse for how you don’t want to be here, because they going to help you with something. I just signed up for [health] insurance the other day. I’ve never had insurance. I didn’t even sign up for insurance. I sat there and gave the guy my information. And then before I knew it, I was [like], oh, wow, now I got insurance!"

A third student needed to get her son’s eyes checked and had been “waiting for weeks” for the insurance company to send a list of in-network doctors. She marveled that a JARC employee supplied this information in a matter of minutes.

The director of the Center for Working Families at JARC explained that they provide bundled support services “in order for people to be able to focus on the end goal, which is to remain in training:”

"Through the relationships they build with support staff, students end up coming to us with whatever their challenges are because they know that we’ll try to figure something out for them. And that is a thing that kind of keeps them coming back. Because they can see that it’s starting to make sense and they want to kind of stay on the training at that point because they know there are supports in place and there’s no judgment."

The students’ and director’s comments suggest that bundled support services help students cope with the tangible, non-academic problems that undermine success in education and employment. They also allow students to focus on their goals and enhance relationships with staff, thereby increasing program completion.

***

Regarding the second part of the question, this wasn't a direct focus of our research. However, there is research that underscores the value of bundled supports. The case study organizations used two support service models: voluntary or bundled. In contrast to the voluntary model, the bundled model not only coordinated support services at one location, but also required participation in two or more services. The Center for Working Families (CWF) and Financial Opportunity Center (FOC) are national, bundled support models developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and Local Initiatives Support Corporation, respectively.

The three case study organizations that aimed to increase adults’ financial stability (including JARC) each offered bundled supports, including financial coaching, employment coaching, and access to income supports (i.e., screening for public benefits such as food stamps, health insurance, rental and utility assistance, and child care subsidies). (The other organizations did not have increased financial stability as an explicit goal.) Income supports enhance socioeconomic stability, but research suggests that many low-income adults do not know that they are eligible for these benefits or do not know how to apply. So I would say those 3 components are crucial for minimizing poverty-related stressors. 

In our view, the bundled support model is a promising way not only to increase persistence and program completion, but also to enhance students’ longer-term financial stability.

***

Here are some resources on scarcity: 

“Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function” http://science.sciencemag.org/content/341/6149/976
“How Poverty Taxes the Brain” http://www.socialworkdegreecenter.com/poverty/

 

 

Nissa Papienski's picture
First

Hello all!

My name is Nissa Papienski. I currently work at JARC as a program coordinator and work with our trainees on a daily basis to ensure they receive the support they need. I also graduated from the program in April 2018.

As a trainee, the wraparound support services heavily impacted my choice to attend JARC's CNC program. The supports I received included: free tuition for training, financial coaching, transportation benefits, benefits screening, and a genuine investment from JARC staff. It was an immense relief to receive help.  I could breathe again. I found myself in better moods and less bitter about my financial situation. The supportive services offered at JARC allowed me to picture a different future for myself - I could focus on something other than survival. That fact that JARC staff provides these services also rebuilt my self-worth - I deserved assistance. Also, I can echo the trainee quotes listed in the original comment. I had a few snafus when applying for food stamps - JARC staff solved it in a day. The tangible services substantiated the intangible moral support that JARC staff promoted.

As a program coordinator, I find the key to success with supportive services and improving mental bandwidth is a trainee's willingness to ask for and engage in supportive services. In certain cases, some trainees are so used to relying on themselves that they might not trust another person to be able to assist them. I encourage trainees to ask for assistance even if they think it is out of our scope. Other staff and I are exploring the use of Motivational Interviewing techniques to initiate more candid conversations to explore how we can support our trainees more effectively.  

 

Thank you to everyone for your invaluable work in adult education. 

 

Nissa

Michael Cruse's picture
One hundred

Welcome, Nissa, it's great to have you joining our panel.  You have an invaluable perspective as both a program graduate, and now a program coordinator.  I'm glad you mentioned the use of Motivational Interviews (MI) with your trainees.  This is something I have shared with members on LINCS, but we haven't had much opportunity to discuss as a community.  I wonder if you would share with us some of the challenges you're seeing with implementing MI, as well as what you think may make it a valuable tool for your graduates?

Best,

Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator

michaelcruse74@gmail.com

Nissa Papienski's picture
First

Hi Michael, 

Thank you for the question. My challenge so far with MI is incorporating it into conversations - it is a technique that requires a lot of practice. In my experience, I have found that I need to be hyper-aware about what I ask and what I hear. My background is not in social work or counseling - I have been for the most part relying on whatever emotional intelligence I have honed over the years. MI takes more than that- for me it is about balancing a genuinely open dialogue with a focused very purposeful conversation.

What I like about MI is that it revolves around inviting a person to take ownership and create their own solutions. Another staff member and I plan to create some questions (as a guideline, not a script) for our check-ins that are more geared towards MI so that we can more effectively find solutions together instead of us giving suggestions and advice. The value is great for our trainees and graduates - through the MI-based conversations, they realize that they have options and there are practical steps they can take. 

I hope this helps - I went to an MI training in the fall and the process was very empowering. 

Thank you, Michael, for the opportunity to participate in the discussion. 

Nissa

Michael Cruse's picture
One hundred

Nissa, thank you for sharing your experience using MI with your learners.  I have not used MI, but had a similar idea about it requiring a lot of practice to be effectively used with learners.  It is a practice that is taking hold in some state's Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) systems, and it's possible that there may be opportunities for some community-based organizations to collaborate with their state VR programs to develop the practice with shared consumers.  

I agree that it has a lot of potential value for adult learners, with and without disabilities, as it's really about working with the individual to "take ownership and create their own solutions", as you've said.  In secondary special education and adult disability services, there is a focus on the idea of self-advocacy.  MI uses a similar framework that helps empower learners to use what they know about themselves to both ask questions, and find the best answers for their situation.

Thanks again for joining our discussion, and sharing your work with us.  Please keep us posted on how the MI process evolves with your learners over time.

Best,

Mike Cruse

 

 

Michael Cruse's picture
One hundred

Esther and Carol, thank you for talking with us about more the background of your research.  I encourage members with other questions to ask them.  Next, I want to move on to questions about what you identified as core programs and services, and the impact of bundling services on learner engagement, and outcomes.

 

You report that the most common types of pathways classes or services were ESL (84%), employability or work readiness (76%), and classes to transition to postsecondary education (75%).  In your analyses, you have categorized seven of these classes or services as 'core CP', and noted that with few exceptions, few agencies offered these core pathways services.

4. Would you describe the seven core pathways classes/services, and how you identified them?  What evidence did you find for why so few (16%-54%) of these agencies offered these classes/services?  What suggestions might you have for agencies invested in developing, or strengthening, these types of core program offerings?

 

You highlight statements indicating that, "[m]any CP providers face disincentives to serving these types of students because they 'require additional services and a longer timeframe to succeed in postsecondary education and the labor market' (CLASP, 2014)".    

5. Were you able to identify any programmatic strategies - aside from wraparound services - that helped counter the disincentives to serving your target learners?  You indicate that some exploratory evidence suggests that bundling supports - "provid[ing] a set of coordinated services in one location" - yields better outcomes.  Were there specific examples of bundled service delivery models that seemed to work well in community-based settings?  If so, what were the characteristics of those models?

esprins's picture
Fifty

I will respond to question #4.

You report that the most common types of pathways classes or services were ESL (84%), employability or work readiness (76%), and classes to transition to postsecondary education (75%).  In your analyses, you have categorized seven of these classes or services as 'core CP', and noted that with few exceptions, few agencies offered these core pathways services.

4. Would you describe the seven core pathways classes/services, and how you identified them?  What evidence did you find for why so few (16%-54%) of these agencies offered these classes/services?  What suggestions might you have for agencies invested in developing, or strengthening, these types of core program offerings?

In the survey, we asked about the following types of services. They are presented in descending order, according to the % of agencies that said they offered that service, class, or activity. Those with an asterisk are the ones we consider "core." (see p. 11 in our report: https://sites.psu.edu/adultpathways/files/2018/06/IES-final-report-May-2018-1vwdavj.pdf

ESL

Employability or work readiness

*Classes to transition to postsecondary

HS diploma/GED classes

Job development services

Career exploration or awareness

Classes leading to specific job opportunities

*Classes combining basic skills & CTE

*Short-term certificate program

*Obtain industry-recognized credential

*Obtain postsecondary or stackable credential

Other services (secondary or postsecondary education)

*Internships

Other services (employment)

*Apprenticeships

We considered these core classes because they focus on the fundamental goal of career pathways: to assist learners in strengthening their basic skills and to prepare them to enter postsecondary education or obtain employment. Traditional ESL or GED classes don't necessarily do this, for example.  

Of the 87 agencies that said they offer CP, 36% also reported zero students enrolled in the core CP services. This finding suggests that in these agencies CP may be less robust. So what some people call "career pathways" may include a few lessons on employment in an otherwise traditional GED class. This is very different than a class with carefully integrated basic skills instruction and CTE instruction, for example. 

Based on the CLASP definition of CP that we provided, agencies indicated whether or not they offered CP: "the career pathways approach connects progressive levels of basic skills and postsecondary education, training, and supportive services in specific sectors or cross-sector occupations in a way that optimizes the progress and success of individuals—including those with limited education, English, skills, and/or work experience—in securing marketable credentials, family-supporting employment, and further education and employment opportunities.”

For many of these agencies, CP is very new, so they are still figuring out what it entails and how to design it. That could help explain some of the lower percentages on the core CP services. I think agencies can look to model programs that are publicly documented (including those in our study) and use many of the resources that are already available, as well as the wisdom of colleagues in their cities. For example, Women Employed in Chicago has a website where you can access contextualized language arts lesson plans for "Career Foundation" and bridge classes at 3 different levels and for various occupational sectors, including healthcare, early childhood education, and transportation, distribution, and logistics (TDL). https://womenemployed.org/adult-education-lesson-plans 

cdc22's picture
First

Hi from Carol Clymer. I am responding to question 5.

You highlight statements indicating that, "[m]any CP providers face disincentives to serving these types of students because they 'require additional services and a longer timeframe to succeed in postsecondary education and the labor market' (CLASP, 2014)".    

5. Were you able to identify any programmatic strategies - aside from wraparound services - that helped counter the disincentives to serving your target learners?  You indicate that some exploratory evidence suggests that bundling supports - "provid[ing] a set of coordinated services in one location" - yields better outcomes.  Were there specific examples of bundled service delivery models that seemed to work well in community-based settings?  If so, what were the characteristics of those models?

Our survey data showed that there are minimum test score, language, or other entry requirements for more than one-half of all career pathway services or classes; and case studies confirm that overall, lower-level students had less access to CP programs. Some programs required a high school degree or equivalent; and TABE cutoff scores ranged from 3.0 to 11.9 in case study agencies. However, there were programmatic strategies, other than bundled services, to help lower-level adults access and succeed in classes. For example, Miami’s Lindsey Hopkins Technical College used exit rather than entrance requirements for the Automotive Service Technology program. This practice allowed students with lower basic skills to enroll in the program and master the occupational content that was needed while working on basic skills. To graduate from the program, students needed a 9.0 TABE score on reading and language and 10.0 on math or pass industry certifications. This practice was Florida state policy; see http://www.fldoe.org/core/fileparse.php/5398/urlt/basic-skill-tap-att1.pdf.  

Bridge classes and dual enrollment were two other strategies used to help students with lower skills access career pathways. City Colleges of Chicago had three entry points into career-focused college transition classes, starting as low as 3.0 on the TABE. The Career Foundations Class (3 to 5th grade equivalency) helped adult education students identify skills and interests and learn how to get on a pathway; the Career Bridge Program (6 to 8th grade) offered students an opportunity to learn about a career interest and prepare for the high school equivalency test or improve English; and the Gateway Program (9 grade and above) provided college credit courses at a reduced cost and high school equivalency preparation or English language instruction. Dual enrollment in an adult education program and community college is another strategy to help students access career pathways. For example, through Lindsey Hopkins’ articulation agreement with Miami Dade College, students earn three credits for every automotive service excellence certification (up to 24 credits). Similarly, as part of a statewide articulation agreement, Miami Dade College’s TRAMCON students, who complete industry certifications, can earn approximately 15 credits toward a building construction specialist associate degree or an engineering technology degree. See https://www.careertech.org/florida.

See above answers for information on bundled services.