The design and implementation of career pathways can vary widely, depending on the target industries and occupations. However, key design elements can make a career pathway more effective at helping students earn credits, complete an industry-recognized credential, and gain employment and higher earnings. Effective career pathways offer students a clear blueprint for educational and employment advancement that meets industry needs. This blueprint should include multiple “on and off ramps” that individuals with varying needs can access. For example, students who need basic skills training may start in a pre-pathway bridge program, whereas others may enter directly into a short-term or one- to two-year certificate program. Pathways should offer stackable credentials that build on each other and allow students to enter and exit the pathway at multiple points as they progress in their careers. For instance, a short-term certificate can lead to an entry-level skilled job and a longer-term certificate, which then can be followed by mid-level skilled employment or a two-year degree, and so on. An example of an effective pathway program is the Pima Community College Pathways to Healthcare Health Profession Opportunity Grant (HPOG) Program, which features placement assessments, contextualized basic skills and training, support services (including advising, financial assistance, and social supports), and employment connections to work-based learning opportunities.
The framework's recommendations are based on syntheses of existing research. Please see the framework report for a list of works cited.