Why indeed?

Many blogs and articles can tell you why it works, when it doesn’t, and what components are needed to ensure success. We know the statistics about completers, credentials, certifications, bridge programs, and support systems. We all have anecdotes about first-generation college students who connected with the right training to be successful in a career, and certainly one doesn’t have to look far to find multi-million dollar grant programs building pathways from high school through graduate studies.So why start another blog about Career Pathways?

In a word, perspective.

Most articles and blogs about Career Pathways are written either by researchers, who dive deeply into data, or by educational institutions with grant-funded projects, who promote their strategies and successes. Both perspectives are valuable to the conversation, but neither address the day-to-day challenges of practitioners who navigate the front lines of development and delivery — the nexus of education, workforce, and economic development.

That’s where I live.

“Where you stand depends on where you sit.”

Originally coined by Rufus Miles (Princeton University) in the 1970s, this adage has been cited by everyone from Nelson Mandela to Tom Peters, and in reference to such disparate topics as health care, environmental issues, politics, and organizational development. The notion of “perspective” will be a reoccurring theme in this blog, as it has been with my experiences in Career Pathways over the past decade.

Let me give you a bit of background.

I came to Career Pathways as a project coordinator at Chemeketa Community College, a mid-sized institution in Oregon. With over 10 years’ experience providing contracted training to local industry, I knew that community colleges needed to find other ways to support development of s skilled workforce. Non-credit classes in targeted skill areas produced immediate workers for employers, but the training didn’t apply towards college degrees. Offering 2-year degrees in career-technical fields allowed steady progression for community colleges to produce graduates, but the vast majority of students were not completing them.

A Career Pathways pioneer.

While on loan to the Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development in 2005, I was part of a team attending a National Governors Association conference on Career Pathways in community colleges.  I was immediately hooked — here was a way to tie training to industry needs, break degrees into smaller, more manageable “chunks” of credits that followed occupational progression, add wrap-around support systems to ensure completion, and design transitions from secondary to post-secondary and workforce development to educational credentials. Working with internal teams at Chemeketa as well as statewide representatives from all 17 community colleges, we built a series of Career Pathways models that are nationally recognized today.

Ten years later, my perspective on Pathways continues to evolve.

I left Chemeketa in 2011 and am now President of Connections Consulting Inc., an education and workforce consulting firm located in Salem, Oregon. I continue to help community colleges in multiple states redesign CTE programs to support students and meet industry needs. I also work directly with businesses, nonprofits, industry associations, and government agencies to more deliberately connect local labor market data, occupational skills (including cross-cutting skills), industry-recognized certifications, and credit-based instruction.

This requires big picture thinking and detailed focus simultaneously.

This eclectic mixture of “big-picture” policy and frameworks, and the “details” of aligning occupational and labor-market research with college course outcomes, provides a unique perspective of the internal workings of Career Pathways within secondary and post-secondary institutions. I have learned why it works, when it doesn’t, and the components of a successful Career Pathways program from the inside out.

Why another blog about Career Pathways? My perspective provides a unique window into this field, one that could change the way organizations design and deliver Pathways in the future.

Please join me in this transformation.

Take the first step by Following my Blog.

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