Module 5: Managing the Moving Parts

Organizing your work in support of career pathways implementation may seem a bit like managing an octopus at times. There are many moving parts – often moving in different directions simultaneously. To ensure your career pathways efforts get off the ground, commit to planning and structuring your work around purposeful, scheduled tasks that are grouped in four phases:

The planning process begins with a small group of key leaders who share a collective vision for career pathways. This vision grows when additional partners are identified and engaged and when all partners have committed to investing time and resources in the partnership to advance career pathways for the benefit of the community. The planning phase should include activities and actions to build awareness of and advocacy for career pathways among community stakeholders. The career pathways partnership – whether in the form of a committee, an advisory board, a consortium of local partners, or similar structure – should draft an action plan to accomplish its vision. The plan should describe what is to be achieved, why, how, when the various components will be achieved and who is responsible for each element. Refer to the Action Plan in the Activities section of this module for a template to get started.The design phase comes next and is when you will answer many of the questions noted above, such as identifying, defining, developing, specifying, assigning and scheduling the various components of the career pathways program. These elements will likely include:

The implementation phase involves action to prepare for and launch the career pathways program and courses. This includes acquiring or leveraging appropriate instructional materials, facilities, equipment, and supplies; assigning, equipping, and training instructors and counselors; and recruiting/enrolling students. During this period, the informational/promotional activities shift from being directed primarily to employers, college staff, and community stakeholders to being directed at potential students and community groups who can assist you in reaching potential students; in other words, moving from advocacy building to recruitment. Once program implementation is underway, the evaluation/improvement phase officially starts and continues indefinitely, yet the design of the evaluation should occur during the planning phase. The purpose of the evaluation phase is to determine what elements of the career pathways program are successful and what elements need to be improved. Is the program achieving the stated goals, in terms of the measures the partnership agreed upon in its action plan? Is the program being implemented as originally intended? Are students and employers benefitting from the program? Following are some points to consider. A well-planned and implemented career pathways evaluation:

Your institutional research division is a likely source for assistance in designing your evaluation plan or can assist you in identifying and contracting with an external evaluator whose objectivity can lend additional credibility to the findings.

What About Funding?

Funding for your career pathways program will likely fall into two categories:

Since the “change factors” involved in launching a career pathways system will vary considerably from one institution to another, it’s difficult to provide a one-size-fits-all set of costs that will apply to every situation. However, below are broad categories of change that can be used to identify resources that will need to be included in a specific budget.

Start-up costs are ones that are needed for stimulating the development and implementation of a program, but your eye should be on institutionalizing the program from the outset. Expenses such as lab equipment and instructor salaries should not be considered part of your career pathways budget, but a necessary part of your institution’s regular budget. Below are some budget issues to consider:

Identify resources already available that can be used in career pathways development:

Coordinating Work-based Learning Experiences

While high-quality technical programs delivered within our community college walls are effective at preparing completers to be successful on the job, those programs are even more effective when student learning experiences are enhanced through work-based learning opportunities. While the format of these opportunities will vary by program area/industry, level of participating students, and worksite environment, work-based learning allows students to apply their theoretical knowledge to practical experiences. You will likley be called upon to identify and potentially coordinate the types of experiences afforded to students through career pathways programs. Here are some suggestions for both employers and educators to consider when including work-based learning in a career pathways program.

Make work-based learning partnerships a priority for your career pathways program and include messaging about the benefits of such opportunities in your career pathways marketing. Help employers understand how work-based learning can transform their worksite into a laboratory that offers real-world context and technical training that could go a long way in helping them address their long-term workforce needs by “growing their own” talent pipeline.

Points to Ponder

The coordination of career pathways efforts at the local level requires creativity, organization, effective and frequent communication, relationship building, and stamina, not to mention program-specific knowledge and an ability to help stakeholders find common ground. These characteristics, and no doubt many others, will serve you well as you embark on the career pathways journey. Use the guidance and suggestions offered in this course to build your foundational knowledge of career pathways and take advantage of the resources and planning activities to explore successful models, benefit from the lessons learned by others, and organize your work. Remember that stakeholder engagement is essential to creating a responsive career pathways system that truly meets the needs of your community and region.

As you continue to travel the road of career pathways coordination, keep in mind the following suggestions.

Above all, approach the journey with the spirit of cooperation and community building. Your enthusiasm and passion may just be contagious.