Connections: The Newsletter of the National Career Pathways Network

Volume 31, No. 2
Employer Engagement

Successful Career Pathways Programs Bring Employers to the Table Early and Often

meetingIn this article, we highlight three recent presentations by NCPN members that offer valuable insights on employer engagement and the essential role it plays in Career Pathways programs. 4T Academy in Princeton, Indiana; Take Ten+ in Gwinnett County, Georgia; and Rebuild Your Future in Salisbury, North Carolina, collectively represent a broad range of career fields (automotive manufacturing, construction, and healthcare) and learner populations (high school students, unemployed and underemployed adults, and justice-involved persons).

The most striking commonality among the programs is their emphasis on identifying the skills needed by employers as part of the programs’ planning and maintenance processes. Doing so requires consistent, frequent engagement with program-affiliated employers.

4T Academy provides a four-year secondary program designed to equip high school graduates to qualify for entry-level production positions at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana (TMMI). Students who are eligible may continue their education in Toyota’s Advanced Manufacturing Technician Program (AMT) or other supporting positions in the company. From the program’s inception, TMMI has played an essential role in informing educators and administrators about in-demand skills. All three participating Gibson County schools were engaged in the planning process along with Ivy Tech Community College. The program development is facilitated by the Indiana Manufacturing Competitiveness Center (IN-MaC) at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Presenter Alisa Deck, IN-MaC’s senior program manager, noted that successful program building starts by learning from employers what their actual skill needs are and identifying the root causes of skills gaps. Employers and educators should be at the table throughout the skills mapping process to ensure the curriculum plan meets everyone’s needs. TMMI provides over 900 hours of on-the-job training and related instruction at their facility. The TMMI core training helps students to apply what they are learning in the classroom to real-life work. Seniors complete a paid internship as well. Before graduation students receive an evaluation and interview with TMMI. Offers are awarded to those who qualify for full-time employment. If they so choose, they have the opportunity to take advantage of tuition reimbursement to further their education.

The Rebuild Your Future program (funded by the NC Job Ready Initiative) is designed to help justice-involved persons become qualified for employment in the construction industry. The program’s architects “pulled in the employers on the front end” to help identify what qualifications were required. “We wanted to make sure that we learned about the employers’ needs from their occupational skills requirements,” said Keri Allman, Program Manager of R3 Services at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College. Employers also helped the program’s leaders learn how to deal with the many barriers that justice-involved persons experience in transitioning into gainful employment, especially barriers such as low skills and criminal backgrounds. “Knowing that helped us create pathways that can overcome some of those barriers,” Allman said.

Take Ten+ provides “integrated education and training” (IET), an approach to adult education that (as defined in the WIOA legislation) “provides adult education and literacy activities concurrently and contextually with workforce preparation activities and workforce training for a specific occupation or occupational cluster for the purpose of educational and career advancement.” To help enrollees in the program make seamless transitions from training to the workplace, the program’s administrators work with industry partners to identify what skills are needed in the positions they have to offer. “What I like to do when we work with our companies is to work from the job backwards” said Stephanie Rooks, Vice President of Adult Education at Gwinnett Technical College. “First we make sure that the companies out there figure out what they need, and then we create the program based on that need.” “We’re always communicating with our industry partners to make sure that we’re giving students exactly what they need to be successful in that job,” Rooks said. “The partner input in curriculum before, during, and after the training is a must.”

To view a presentation on each of the featured programs, see the resource links below.

  • Toyota and Three Gibson County School Systems Team Up to Build Manufacturing Academy. Alisa Deck, Senior Program Manager, Indiana Manufacturing Competitiveness Center (IN-MaC), Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN; Sarah Young-Niemeier, Training Manager, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana, Inc., Princeton, IN (PDF) (VIDEO)

  • Take 10! Unleashing the Power of Partnerships in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Stephanie Rooks, Vice President of Adult Education; Cher Brister, Director, Green Technologies; Michael O’Neal, Coordinator, Integrated Education and Training, Gwinnett Technical College, Lawrenceville, GA (VIDEO) (PPT)

  • Rebuild Your Future: Connecting Former Offenders with the Construction Industry. Keri Allman, Program Manager, R3 Services, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Salisbury, NC; Tashina Mahatha, Account Manager, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Salisbury, NC (PPT) (VIDEO)