CTE For Real

II. Essentials of Career Pathways and Adult Education Career Pathways


Florida Eight Areas of Focus
FL#1–Program Design
  FL#2–Curriculum and Instruction
  FL#3–Professional Development
  FL#4–Student Support

OVAE 10 Component Framework
OVAE#1–Legislation and Policies
  OVAE#3–Professional Development
  OVAE#4–Accountability and Evaluation Systems
  OVAE#5–College and Career Readiness Standards
OVAE#6–Course Sequences
  OVAE#7–Credit Transfer Agreements
  OVAE#8–Guidance Counseling and Academic Advisement
  OVAE#9–Teaching and Learning Strategies
  OVAE#10–Technical Skills Assessments
A Career Pathway is
    a coherent, articulated sequence of rigorous academic and career/technical courses, commencing in the ninth grade and leading to an associate degree, baccalaureate degree and beyond, an industry-recognized certificate, and/or licensure. The Career Pathway is developed, implemented, and maintained in partnership among secondary and postsecondary education, business, and employers. Career Pathways are available to all students, including adult learners, and lead to rewarding careers. (Hull et al., Career Pathways: Education with a Purpose, CORD, 2005)
An Adult Career Pathway is similar but focuses more on the special needs and circumstances of adults, especially those who were not initially successful in public education. Whereas the target population of Career Pathways is high school students, the target populations of Adult Career Pathways include demographics such as high school dropouts, holders of GEDs (but no further credential), high school graduates with no college, foreign-born residents, ex-offenders, re-entering workers, and employed persons who seek to upgrade their skills. (For more on Adult Career Pathways, see Hinckley et al., Adult Career Pathways: Providing a Second Chance in Public Education, CORD, 2011.)


Career Pathways in Florida's Strategic Plan

The state of Florida is committed to Career Pathways as part of its strategic plan:
    Even as we work every day in Florida to foster economic growth and create new jobs, we must have a broad, forward-thinking vision for strengthening our state's workforce in the decades to come. For Florida's workforce system that vision is outlined in the new, 2010-2015 strategic plan for workforce development, Creating the Strategy for Today's Needs and Tomorrow's Talent. Workforce Florida, supported by the Agency for Workforce Innovation and Florida's 24 Regional Workforce Boards, collaborated with leaders in business, education and economic development, among others, to develop the bold, five-year plan. (Workforce Florida, Inc.) (To download the plan, go here.)
The vision that forms the basis of the strategic plan is that "Florida will develop a globally competitive workforce." Florida's Career Pathways movement—and specifically the Adult Education Career Pathways (AECP) movement—is part of that vision.


Florida's 17 Career Clusters and Associated Career Pathways

   The Career Clusters approach provides a system approach rather than a program enhancement approach.
Career Clusters are groupings of occupations/career specialties used as an organizing tool for curriculum design and instruction. Occupations/career specialties are grouped into the Career Clusters because they require the same knowledge and skills for career success. The knowledge and skills represented by Career Clusters prepare learners for a full range of occupations/career specialties, focusing on the holistic, polished blend of technical, academic and employability knowledge and skills. (careertech.org)


Florida has adopted the Career Clusters/Career Pathways model as an organizational tool that can help educators prepare the state's citizens for jobs in the U.S. economy. In addition to the 16 nationally recognized career clusters, Florida has implemented a Career Cluster focus on energy (for a total of 17 clusters). National development teams identified knowledge and skill statements for each of the national 16 Career Clusters, as well as 79 Career Pathways that lead, through education and training, into employment sectors. This system is fully crosswalked with occupational descriptions and tools developed by the U.S. Department of Labor.


The Career Clusters/Pathways model offers a framework that is suitable both for middle and high school students and for adults. To ensure effective implementation of Career Clusters, Florida has adopted a state policy that supports Career Clusters and has integrated them into the state plan.


The 17 Career Clusters and corresponding Career Pathways that Florida has adopted are shown in the following table.


Cluster Pathways
The production, processing, marketing, distribution, financing, and development of agricultural commodities and resources including food, fiber, wood products, natural resources, horticulture, and other plant and animal products/resources.
Food Products and Processing Systems • Plant Systems • Animal Systems • Power, Structural and Technical Systems • Natural Resources Systems • Environmental Service Systems • Agribusiness Systems
Careers in designing, planning, managing, building and maintaining the built environment.
Design/Pre-Construction • Construction • Maintenance/Operations
Designing, producing, exhibiting, performing, writing, and publishing multimedia content including visual and performing arts and design, journalism, and entertainment services.
Audio and Video Technology and Film • Printing Technology • Visual Arts • Performing Arts • Journalism and Broadcasting • Telecommunications
Careers in planning, organizing, directing and evaluating business functions essential to efficient and productive business operations.
General Management • Business Information Management • Human Resources Management • Operations Management • Administrative Support
Planning, managing and providing education and training services, and related learning support services.
Administration and Administrative Support • Professional Support Services • Teaching/Training
Planning, services for financial and investment planning, banking, insurance, and business financial management.
Securities and Investments • Business Finance • Accounting • Insurance • Banking Services
Planning and performing government functions at the local, state and federal levels, including governance, national security, foreign service, planning, revenue and taxation, and regulations.
Governance • National Security • Foreign Service • Planning • Revenue and Taxation • Regulation • Public Management and Administration
Planning, managing, and providing therapeutic services, diagnostic services, health informatics, support services, and biotechnology research and development.
Therapeutic Services • Diagnostic Services • Health Informatics • Support Services • Biotechnology • Research and Development
Hospitality and Tourism encompasses the management, marketing and operations of restaurants and other food services, lodging, attractions, recreation events and travel related services.
Restaurants and Food/Beverage Services • Lodging • Travel and Tourism • Recreation, Amusements and Attractions
Preparing individuals for employment in career pathways that relate to families and human needs such as counseling and mental health services, family and community services, personal care, and consumer services.
Early Childhood Development and Services • Counseling and Mental Health Services • Family and Community Services • Personal Care Services • Consumer Services
Building linkages in IT occupations for entry level, technical, and professional careers related to the design, development, support and management of hardware, software, multimedia and systems integration services.
Network Systems • Information Support and Services • Web and Digital Communications • Programming and Software Development
Planning, managing, and providing legal, public safety, protective services and homeland security, including professional and technical support services.
Correction Services • Emergency and Fire Management Services • Security and Protective Services • Law Enforcement Services • Legal Services
Planning, managing and performing the processing of materials into intermediate or final products and related professional and technical support activities such as production planning and control, maintenance and manufacturing/process engineering.
Production • Manufacturing Production Process Development • Maintenance, Installation and Repair • Quality Assurance • Logistics and Inventory Control • Health, Safety and Environmental Assurance
Planning, managing, and performing marketing activities to reach organizational objectives.
Marketing Management • Professional Sales • Merchandising • Marketing Communications • Marketing Research
Planning, managing, and providing scientific research and professional and technical services (e.g., physical science, social science, engineering) including laboratory and testing services, and research and development services.
Engineering and Technology • Science and Math
Planning, management, and movement of people, materials, and goods by road, pipeline, air, rail and water and related professional and technical support services such as transportation infrastructure planning and management, logistics services, mobile equipment and facility maintenance.
Transportation Operations • Logistics Planning and Management Services • Warehousing and Distribution Center Operations • Facility and Mobile Equipment Maintenance • Transportation Systems/Infrastructure • Planning, Management and Regulation • Health, Safety and Environmental Management • Sales and Service
Design, generation, distribution, and service of energy sources including alternative energies.
Pathways pending

Florida's State Plan for the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 states the following:
    To enhance opportunities for students to contribute to their own self-sufficiency, Florida has implemented a career ladder approach to career and technical education programs with the development of occupational completion points (OCP) at both the secondary and postsecondary program levels. An OCP is a group of competencies/skills needed to obtain proficiency in a specific occupation as identified by Florida's Agency for Workforce Innovation and/or business and industry. OCPs provide opportunities for students to acquire entry-level employment competencies at less than full program completion. This enables a student to enter and exit a program without penalty or repetition of competencies. OCPs provide clearly defined career paths for students and facilitate articulation between secondary and postsecondary institutions. . . . The postsecondary career and technical education credentials offered in Florida range from certificates (Postsecondary Adult Vocational Certificate programs) to degrees (AAS and AS degree programs). Program offerings are aligned with industry needs through a statewide process that identifies targeted occupations meeting high-skill, high-wage, or high-demand criteria. (Florida CTE State Profile)


    CTE is leading positive change in secondary, postsecondary, and adult education, with innovative programs that are making a difference nationwide. CTE: Making the Difference is a high-energy 3-minute video highlighting the many ways CTE is working for America.


Each pathway can be represented in a course sequence. Shown below is a sample course sequence (frequently called "program of study" [POS] at the secondary level) that a traditional student would follow in transitioning from secondary to postsecondary.



Multiple resources are available at both the state and federal levels. The Florida Dept. of Ed.'s Division of Career and Adult Education publishes the curriculum frameworks aligned to the Career Clusters recognized by the U.S. Dept. of Ed. (http://www.fldoe.org/workforce/dwdframe/heal_cluster_frame11.asp). The Career Cluster framework pages also contain links to Community College AS/AAS and Career Cluster Curriculum frameworks. To determine which cluster a particular program is assigned to, see the list of Secondary/PSAV CTE programs at or AS/AAS/CCC programs at


  All course sequences should have multiple entrances (including for the adult learner) and multiple exits.
In addition, the Federal Department of Education (OVAE) has published "Career and Technical Programs of Study: A Design Framework"—a resource that "identifies a system of 10 components that, taken together, support the development and implementation of effective programs of study." For more, see http://cte.ed.gov/file/POS_Framework_Unpacking_1-20-10.pdf.


A particular region may not offer all 17 Career Clusters and corresponding pathways. Pathway development is contingent on the labor market in each region. Career pathways development should be connected to economic development and workforce development, and educators should have a clear understanding of the support role they play in supplying skilled workers for the region.


  Use Resource 2.1 to gauge participants' level of understanding of the relationship between education and workforce development in your region.


Adult Career Pathways (Adult Education Career Pathways [AECP])

Florida's Career Pathways system initially focused on the transition of high school students to postsecondary education and/or training. More recently the focus has broadened to include the many career-limited adults in Florida's communities who, as in all communities, do not have the education and/or training necessary to earn a "living wage."


  For statistics on "living wages" for localities across the country, visit the "Living Wage Calculator" at http://www.livingwage.geog.psu.edu.


Florida's career-limited adults need a second chance in public education that enables them to enter and exit the Career Pathways system as their circumstances dictate. The solution is Adult Career Pathways, which are referred to in Florida (and henceforth in this document) as Adult Education Career Pathways (AECP). The need varies from region to region, and the partners in each region must work together to define the role of AECP in the broader communitywide Career Pathways system.


We can profile adults needing a second chance into the following groups (with overlaps between the groups):
  1. High school dropouts
  2. High school completers who did not pursue further education and training
  3. College noncompleters
  4. Returning veterans who entered military service after high school
  5. Immigrants
  6. Criminal offenders who have completed their terms of incarceration
  7. Adults who need to retool (to change careers, reenter the workforce, or advance in their present careers)
Adult Education programs primarily work within the following groups:
  • High school dropouts
    • Are 16 years or older and have legally left the secondary school system
    • Do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent
    • Want to learn to speak, read, and write the English language
  • Have earned a high school diploma, or its equivalent, but require remediation to obtain employment or pursue postsecondary education
  • Immigrants
  • Criminal offenders (who have completed terms of incarceration)
Without some well-designed intervention, the bleak future faced by the millions who lack any postsecondary education is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Adult Education is changing to meet the challenges in our economy.


National Vision of AECP

  Adult education is at a crossroads and finds itself changing to meet the new demands of a global economy.
An AECP program works within the Career Pathways umbrella and offers multiple entrance and exit points for adults. An AECP program consists of the guidance, remediation, curricula, and other support elements required to enable career-limited adults to enter the workforce and progress in rewarding careers. It is a systemic framework that connects adult education programs, work, and postsecondary education. Each step in an AECP program is designed to prepare the student for the next level of work and education.


Typical AECP programs components include the following:
  • A "prep stage" designed to prepare participants for job entry and college study
  • Industry-focused curriculum
  • A multistep career ladder
  • Partnerships with community and government agencies
  • Part-time employment (usually beginning after completion of the prep stage)
  • Personal and academic support services
AECP programs are designed to expedite transitions—from unemployment to employment, from underemployment to better employment, or (as in the case of displaced workers) from one industry to another. (Hinckley et al., Adult Career Pathways: Providing a Second Chance in Public Education, CORD, 2011)


The following graphic describes some of the key aspects of AECP programs.



The following graphic describes the "new basics" toward which adult education is evolving via AECP programs.


Adapted from National Center on Education and the Economy, Guide to Adult Education for Work: Transforming Adult Education to Grow a Skilled Workforce, 2009


Career Ladders (Maps)

Every AECP program can be represented visually by a ladder or map that illustrates the steps to further education and employment. (In the literature, the terms ladder and map are used interchangeably. We will use the term ladder.) The key components of pathway ladders commonly include the following:
  • Potential jobs in the pathway industry
  • The progression of education and training within the pathway
  • Salary information
  • Service providers
  • Partnerships
  • Support services
  • Linkages between pathway components
Following is a sample career ladder for a pipefitter welder in southwest Virginia for the coal mining industry.



Pathway ladders are developed as information is collected on the pathways they represent (e.g., labor market data, related postsecondary courses). Each regional partnership must decide what industry sector(s) and related occupations are imperative for the region and develop the corresponding career ladders. The ladders should be updated regularly to reflect changes in partners or course requirements or other relevant changes.


In an AECP program, the academic ladder should be aligned with the career ladder of the targeted industry, as in the following illustration.


Career Pathways System

Adapted from National Center on Education and the Economy, Guide to Adult Education for Work:
Transforming Adult Education to Grow a Skilled Workforce
, 2009


Florida's AECP Initiative

Driving Forces for Florida's Adult Education Career Pathways Initiative—The vision to realign Florida's Adult Education system through a Career Pathways framework is largely the result of dramatic changes impacting both the state and the nation, namely, economic considerations. As adult education professionals we are continually struck by the barriers adults face in the attainment of both education and employment. The structure of today's workforce requires, at the least, basic academic, employability, and career and technical skills. However, as the workforce shifts towards a knowledge-based economy, the requirements of the nation's workforce advance. Within this system, much of the nation's potential workforce is left behind, lacking sufficient employability and academic skills and facing situational, institutional, and dispositional barriers to educational goal attainment. "In the globally competitive economy of the 21st century, state economies in large part will thrive or decline based on how well they cultivate and retain 'knowledge workers': individuals who possess postsecondary educational credentials (though not necessarily a bachelor degree), technical aptitudes, the ability to learn rapidly, and an entrepreneurial approach to employment" (Mazzeo et al., 2006, Working Together, http://www.workforcestrategy.org/publications/WSC_workingtogether_12.1.06_3.pdf). In Florida, Adult Education Career Pathways recognize that the development of human capital is a collaborative effort between Adult Education and Career and Technical Education.


The 2009–2010 reporting year revealed that Florida registered more than 372,000 individuals into ABE/GED, Adult High School, and English for Speakers of Other Languages programs. It is estimated that more than 1.5 million additional adult Floridians lack a high school diploma and that more than 30,000 Floridians lack the literacy skills necessary to perform even the most basic functions. Such individuals are largely unable to retain employment beyond the entry level and many are unable to secure a job at all. By rededicating its programs to focus upon career exploration and contextual learning with emphasis upon career preparation through postsecondary education, Florida's Adult Education programs will be repositioned as a starting point to a better life for millions, not an end point where further education is not expected.


Currently, approximately 30% of Florida's adult education graduates transition into postsecondary programs. Florida seeks to significantly increase this number since more than 70% of jobs created between 2006 and 2020 will require more than a secondary education diploma. Associate degrees, professional certificates, and baccalaureate degrees are the gateway to economic independence for millions. Therefore, Florida's Adult Education Career Pathways strategic plan seeks to support individuals securing middle skill jobs where salaries range between $33,000 and $55,000. For many individuals, the use of career ladders will be necessary, whereas for other students, the opportunity to earn an associate to baccalaureate degree is a realistic possibility. Essentially, the initiative will not only provide a systemic framework that will support millions of individuals, but will also help Florida achieve its goal of attracting and retaining new businesses and growing existing businesses for a more diversified and strengthened economy. On a final note, Florida's initiative is recognized as a national model and is undergoing development simultaneously as Florida is playing a key role in architecting a national Adult Education Career Pathways model.


In Florida, AECP is a systemic framework that connects adult education programs, work, and postsecondary education. Each step in an AECP is designed to prepare the student for the next level of education and work. Each step measures skills and improves career and earning opportunities. The AECP includes both noncredit and college credit programs tied to high-growth industries, fields, or occupations that provide family-sustaining wages.


Florida's Adult Education System is responsive to the economic and educational needs of its adult learners. In order to foster economic growth for the state and provide its adult population with basic literacy, numeracy, and language skills, the Adult Education System has adopted the following strategic vision:
    The strategic vision of Florida's Adult Education System is to prepare its adult learners for success in postsecondary education and assist them in developing the skills necessary to succeed in 21st century careers.
In alignment with the Florida Department of Education's (FLDOE) Next Generation Strategic Plan, Florida's Adult Education Career Pathways Initiative is focused upon improving the quality of Florida's Adult Education programs by incorporating a Career Pathways framework based upon the nationally recognized 16 career cluster model. Improvement of adult education program outcomes is also based upon the use of contextual learning to improve college and career readiness and the alignment of resources to strategic goals.


The goal of Florida's AECP Initiative is to improve the quality of Florida's adult education programs by incorporating a Career Pathways framework based on the nationally recognized 16 career cluster model. AECP is part of a larger system and should be developed through the partnering of local education institutions and stakeholders. Partnerships should include employers, school districts, local colleges and technical centers, and other area education providers as determined locally. Community and business partnership arrangements provide support services (childcare, transportation, case management), job shadowing, and internships.


Outcomes associated with AECP include higher rates of persistence and completion and smoother transitions from each educational level to the next and from education to employment. Improvement of adult education outcomes also results from the use of contextual teaching and the alignment of resources to strategic goals.


The specific measurable goals for Florida's AECP initiative are:



Florida's strategic vision for adult education is that adult education students will be prepared for success in postsecondary education and will develop the skills necessary to succeed in 21st century careers. The specific goals are:


Best practices for Adult Education Career Pathways suggest the following as key features of a comprehensive, fully implemented AECP system:
  • Basic skills instruction contextualized for a specific occupation or cluster of occupations within an industry or field
  • Support services, such as counseling, academic advising, tutoring, career counseling, financial aid, and job placement
  • Curriculum and coursework that are broken into steps and that are aligned with and articulate to academic and career advancement
  • Visual diagram or "road map" that shows multiple entries and exit points and depicts vertical and lateral movement within an occupation or career cluster
  • Transition or "bridge" programs to help adults improve their basic skills and prepare for postsecondary-level courses, especially math, reading, and writing courses
  • Community and business partnership arrangements (services such as childcare, transportation, and case management), job shadowing, and internships



Florida's AECP Five-Year Strategic Plan—Areas of Focus

Adapting from Career Pathways and Adult Career Pathways best practices and models, Florida's initiative and strategic planning process focused on eight strategic areas of focus. These areas of focus represent key Adult Education program elements and are together are critical for achieving improved student outcomes.


Program Design Programs are designed to transition or "bridge" adults between basic and college-level skills, especially math, reading, and writing courses. Programs provide clear pathways for participants, regardless of their skill level at the point of entry, to advance as quickly as possible to postsecondary programs and ultimately to family-sustaining employment or advancement in their careers. Programs provide visual diagrams or "road maps" that show multiple entry and exit points and depict vertical and lateral movement within an occupation or career cluster.
Curriculum and Instruction Programs ensure that curriculum covers the full range of basic and work-readiness skills needed for entry into and success in postsecondary education and training and the workplace, and use a range of resources and instructional techniques that optimize both educational gains and career and college readiness. Curriculum and coursework are aligned and articulated with academic and career advancement. Instruction provides basic skills contextualized for a specific occupation or cluster of occupations within an industry or field.
Professional Development Teachers, counselors, and administrators need ongoing professional development to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to plan and implement an AECP system.
Student Support Programs provide services such as tutoring, career counseling, career exploration and planning (using Florida CHOICES or its equivalent), and access to case management, child care, transportation, financial aid, and job placement.
Assessment Programs use a variety of assessment tools (in addition to standardized tests used in adult education) to measure postsecondary readiness such as college placement tests, SAT, and/or ACT tests.
Partnerships AECP is part of a larger system and should be developed in partnership with other local educational institutions and stakeholders. Community and business partnership arrangements provide support services (e.g., childcare, transportation, case management), job shadowing, and internships. Partnerships must include the school district, college/technical center serving the region, workforce representatives, and other area education providers as determined locally.
Marketing Awareness of AECP is increased through targeted marketing of linkages between adult education, postsecondary, and the workforce. Strategies will inform adult learners of unique program offerings and disseminate best practices for adult education providers.
Accountability Programs analyze student outcomes to set baseline data and goals for increasing the number and percentage of adult students who enter postsecondary education and earn degrees, certificates, and/or industry credentials. Programs document, evaluate, and improve student and program outcomes on a continuing basis.


The following flowchart illustrates how the adult learner might flow through the AECP system:



What to Do First


  Use Resource 2.2 to gauge participants' level of understanding of your career pathways system and education's role in economic development.


  Use Resource 2.3 to determine the extent to which your AE has moved toward the "new basics."


One of the first steps in building an AECP program is to identify an employment sector and a suitable target population. This should be done in partnership with business and industry. (See sections III, "Partnership Development," and VI, "Effective Advisory Committees.") When selecting a sector to focus on, consider two main factors:



While you may identify several potential sectors, consider the one that presents the most opportunities for growth and development of career pathways. What are the possible entry points for the adult learner? After scanning the postsecondary programs available, you will be able to make a decision as to which programs could best serve AE and ESOL adult learners.


  Use Resource 2.4 to determine which sectors have the most potential for growth in your region.


Once an industry sector has been targeted and occupations identified by industry, programs available to AE and ESOL learners should be identified. What postsecondary programs are available? Are those programs candidates (with possible modifications or "bridge" programs) for entry into the pathway for the targeted audience (AE and ESOL adults)?


  Use Resource 2.5 to identify available programs related to the targeted industry sector.


This section has provided an introduction to Career Pathways in general and AECP specifically. AECP systems can be complex, encompassing many components.


   Use Resource 2.6 to get a snapshot of career pathways in your region.