Designing Career Pathways for ABE/ESL Learners - Follow-up Questions

Thank you to everyone who was able to join us for today's webinar, From Policy to Practice: Designing Career Pathways for ABE/ESL Learners.  If you would like a copy of the webinar, please email myself, or David Rosen at  We will notify everyone once the recording is made available on the LINCS YouTube page, later this fall. 

Our presenters shared excellent information on career pathways for Adult Basic Education and English as a Second Language learners, from the federal, state, and local levels.  Our presenters included:

Judith Alamprese, Abt Associates
Lauren Walizer, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
Derek Kalchbrenner, Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education
Pat Thomas and Partners, Marshall Southwest Adult Education Learning Center

Today, and for the next three days, our presenters will be answering your questions, and sharing more of their knowledge and experience with creating career pathways for this population.  We encourage you to ask questions, as well as share your own experience, in order to gain a new perspective on how to create greater career pathways opportunities for learners. 

Several of today's webinar attendees asked questions that we want to address: 

  • How does a program identify specific job-related activities?
  • How important is it to teach soft skills within ABE classes?
  • Is a Career Navigator an ABE or Workforce partner employee?   

To put these questions in context, I wonder if our panelists would start by responding with what they see as especially beneficial to ABE and ESL career pathways learners under WIOA legislation?  This seems important to informing the logistics questions that we all have about making these programs stronger, and more widely available, for the learners who need them.


Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator





In response to the question of the value of WIOA legislation and Career Pathways for either the ESL or ABE learner, I would suggest it brings into focus the need to collaborate.  We are a small rural program in SW MN.   The only reason we are successful is due to our collaborations and partnerships that extend to our Workforce, Community College, our Public School and especially our employers.  Being on the end of spectrum on  fully embracing the fact that together we are better, it always amazes to see resistance to creating partnerships for the benefit of students.


Partnerships and agency collaboration are a priority under WIOA.  You mention that working with your partners is the only reason that you are successful with learners.  I wonder if you can walk us through how you approached these partners at the outset?  What was the pitch you used to sell the idea, what resistance did you face, and how did you respond to keep moving the conversation forward? 

The Career Pathways Toolkit opens with a chapter on building cross-agency partnerships, which has suggestions for helping program managers to plan, and lead outreach efforts with community agencies, and other stakeholders.  

Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator 



"The Pitch" to engage employers into our partnership was to ask for their input.  This may seem very negative but I feel educators come across many times as being very arrogant with the perception that WE KNOW what employers need.   We do not and must ask for them to drive our trainings.   At this point our employers are invested in our trainings feeling that the trainings are "theirs".   As far as working across agency only takes common sense to realize that alone we cannot meet the needs of our customer who also is in need of services from other agencies.   Working together for the customer feels like a seamless service rather than a disjointed government bureaucracy.  It has been said that the more generations one is away from the farm environment......the less common sense is used.   Possibly our rural backgrounds helps create this mindset.

Hello Pat,

Can you -- and perhaps others on your team -- give us more detail on what it looks like when employers are invested in training, feel that the training is theirs, are driving the training? For example, are employers involved in creating or reviewing the training curricula? Do they meet the training instructors, perhaps on a periodic basis? Do they provide paid or non-paid internships for those who participate in or complete a training? Do they hire graduates of a training? Do they give you feedback on how the graduates are doing as employees, and suggestions of what needs to be added to or revised in the training curricula? What else indicates that they share ownership with you? And when you refer to "employers" are these small company owners, human resource people, or others?


David J. Rosen, Moderator

Program Management CoP



As one of the employers that has been involved in the training program that Pat Thomas is referring to in her comments, I would like to respond to David's questions:

We feel that we are a partner in the training program and play an active role in helping to drive a program that will meet our needs. We feel that we are a partner because we are consistently invited to play an active role in identifying the needs and gaps in order to design training/curriculum that meets the needs of those who are hiring. This helps to ensure that the training program provides the training that students need to become highly qualified for the positions that employers are seeking to fill. We are then continually asked to provide feedback in evaluating the program and/or offering ideas to improve upon it. The key is not only the invitation, but the strong partnership and trust that has developed because Pat (and others involved in the program) have consistently demonstrated that our partnership and feedback is genuinely valued, and truly does play a significant role in driving the program. 

As a partner, we have offered paid internships to students and have offered employment to graduates. We have found that those we have hired are well trained for the jobs we have available. In general, they make strong candidates because of the training they have received. We know the training they have received reflects our needs, because we played a role in ensuring the curriculum met those needs.

As the CEO, I have supported the program and provided input/feedback periodically. Our Human Resource and Clinical Director are also actively involved. I believe many of the other employers involved feel as we do...without this training program in our community, the pool of qualified candidates available to fill the need for well-trained CNAs/TMAs in our community would not meet the need. In recognizing the value of this program, we (like many of the partners) are committed to supporting the program financial in order to ensure that the program is sustainable. I believe that this financial commitment reflects the true sense of ownership that many of the employers feel. 

Pat Mellenthin, CEO

Prairie Home Hospice & Community Care

Marshall, MN


Career Pathways colleagues,

I have two public policy questions:

1. I wonder if the Integrated Education and Training (IET) and Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education (IELCE) program features are clear to everyone, and if the differences in their focus and audiences are clear? Derek Kalchbrenner, you addressed this in the webinar, but could you repeat what you presented on these here for the benefit of those who may not have watched the webinar?

2. Judy Alamprese:  In your presentation you mentioned the ABE Provider Career Pathways Survey that is part of OCTAE’s Moving Pathways Forward project. Can you tell us who the intended audience is for the survey, and where one could get a copy of it?

David J. Rosen, Moderator

Program Management CoP

The ABE Career Pathways Survey is a link in the Career Pathways Planner. See While  the Career Pathways Planner was developed for ABE state staff, the information in the planner also is helpful to ABE local program staff. For example, Section 3 of the Planner on "Supporting Partnerships"  provides examples of the types of payoffs to potential local partners for collaborating with an ABE program. ABE staff can use this information in planning their approach to a new partner concerning what the ABE program has to offer that partner. The Planner also describes the steps to forming partnerships and provides other resources for developing partnerships. 

Section 4 of the Planner  provides tips on how to refine ABE program intake, instruction, and transition services, which are critical to offering comprehensive career pathways services. The section  also describes and has links to a number of useful resources.




Thanks Judy. It looks like the ABE Career Pathways Survey link might be in Appendix 2 (and 3?) and I don't see the appendices included in the link to the Career Pathways Planner you sent. Is there another link for the appendices?


David J. Rosen


Career pathways colleagues,

I have a question for all the panelists about state and local career pathways implementation: what are some of the challenges in implanting IET, IELCE and other career pathways initiatives?

David J. Rosen, Moderator

Program Management CoP


As part of Monday's webinar, we heard about two adaptations to career pathways programs serving ABE and ESL learners. 

Pat Thomas, and her team, talked about the use of a Career Navigator to help learners in their program.   Pat & colleagues, would you tell us more about this role?  What does a navigator's caseload, and how are their interactions with students structured?  Do you believe that this is an equally essential role in building strong partnerships as your other collaborative efforts to work across systems?

Derek Kelchbrenner and Pat,  spoke about working with K-12 education systems to build capacity, and provide access to classes for youth and adult learners.  Would you walk us through some of the challenges faced in creating these opportunities for serving students ages, 16 - to adulthood?  How have you worked to help adult educators manage these challenges, and sold K-12 colleagues on the belief that the benefits outweigh the obstacles?

Attendees, what else did you hear about during Monday's webinar that you would like to know more about?  Share your questions with our panelists.

Mike Cruse

Career Pathways Moderator


I am hoping that today our employer partners and Workforce Navigator can weigh in on questions being asked.  I would like to add to my previous comment on that creating Partnerships is a matter of common sense.   I do not want anyone to think that this is a simple matter.   Creating partnerships for the benefit of the common customer is hard work and demands that leadership in an agency promotes putting the customer as the greatest priority..........not the agency "looking good".   The effort it takes is well worth the outcome! One the question of working with the K12 system I find that the actual product of a co-mingled class has only produced excellent outcomes for all involved.  The challenge comes in breaking the common myth that one cannot serve both together........."we have never done it that way before"  and a willingness to adapt and change how you previously delivered services.   Examples of this is that the public school was willing to use general funds to support this class therefore allowing any high school student to make use of these classes.  Traditionally only the students academically achieving high grades were offered post secondary classes.   A big "change" for ABE and Workforce was accepting the fact that classes would fit within the school day and fit in their schedules. 




1.  All panelists: Do you have advice to offer for engaging local employers in career pathways that support ABE learners?

2.  In the Minnesota ABE Model presented by Pat Thomas, Marshall Southwest Adult Education; Kary Boerboom, Southwest MN Private Industry Council; Michelle Noriega, Marshall Public Schools; and Dawn Regnier, MN West, one of the three main training/education strategies is digital literacy skills. Why is this so important in Minnesota or Southwest Minnesota?

3.  Minnesota Colleagues: Another unusual feature is the co-mingling of training for adults and youth.  You described some of the advantages. Are you seeing any disadvantages or challenges?

4. Minnesota Colleagues: Another unusual, perhaps unique feature is the “online bridge”. Can you describe this in more detail? Give than you are in a rural area, aren’t there challenges with adult learner access to the Internet? Digital literacy skills? Other challenges?


David J. Rosen, Moderator

Program Management CoP

Thanks to our panelists for sharing their knowledge of career pathways for ABE and ESL learners this week.  A recent report of the Adult Training and Education Survey (ATES) shows that  more than one quarter of Americans hold a non-degree credential, such as a certificate or an occupational license or certification.  The ATES is administered as part of the 2016 National Household Education Surveys Program, and collects information from non-institutionalized adults ages 16 to 65 who are not enrolled in high school.   One of the main goals of the ATES is to measure the prevalence of non-degree credentials including estimates of:  
  • Adults who have an occupational certification or license (hereafter referred to as “work credentials”), the type of work these credentials are for, adults’ perceptions of the usefulness of these credentials in the labor market, and the role of post-secondary education programs in preparing adults for these credentials; and
  • Adults who have post-secondary educational certificates, including the subject field of the certificates, adults’ perceptions of the usefulness of certificatesin the labor market, and the role of certificate programs in preparing adults for work credentials.
  A second goal of the ATES is to better understand work experience programs, including characteristics of the programs that adults participate in and programs’ perceived usefulness in the labor market.  While these programs do not necessarily result in work or educational credentials, they are one way for adults to develop work skills.   This second goal is allied with our conversations this week about building community partnerships.  One particular finding notes that work credentials are more prevalent among adults with college degrees than they are among those with less education. For example, 48% of adults with a graduate or professional degree had a work credential compared to 5% of adults with less than a high school education (table 1).  Given these numbers, it appears that we, as adult educators, still have our work cut out for us in supporting ABE and ESL learners in earning work credentials, as part of a career pathway.  I encourage you to share the steps you're taking, questions you're wondering, and resources you're finding helpful in addressing the needs of this population.   Best, Michael Cruse       

LINCS Colleagues,

The slides from the LINCS kickoff webinar From Policy to Practice: Designing Career Pathways for ABE/ESL Learners Sep. 18, 2017 webinar  are now available under the "Documents" Tab in both the Career Pathways and Program Management CoPs, or by selecting the link above.

David J. Rosen, Moderator

Program Management CoP