Career Pathways Leading Improved Services

Ensuring that everyone in this nation is equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed is crucial in our competitive, global economy. One key part of this effort is ensuring that young people and adults of all skill levels who are transitioning to new careers or looking to enhance their careers receive the supports they need to do so. Too often, though, our systems for helping hard-working Americans acquire marketable and in-demand skills can be complex and difficult to navigate for students, job seekers, and employers alike. The good news is that career pathways are a promising solution to that challenge. Career pathways are integrated collections of strategic programs and services that help students and job seekers transition from education to employment. They connect the necessary adult basic education, occupational training, postsecondary education, career and academic advising, and support services so that students and workers can successfully prepare for, obtain, and progress in their career.

Career pathways have received strong and consistent support over the past decade from philanthropic partners, and both government and philanthropy have invested in research and demonstration projects that produce promising practices and evidence of what is working and where.

Across the nation, support from the business community has also been key to successful local efforts. Career pathways demand private sector engagement to ensure that participants are training for and getting experience in real jobs with real advancement opportunities. By working together, state and community partners can create career pathway systems with on-ramps, bridges, and stackable credentials, to help close the gap between vacancies and the numbers of under- and unemployed youth and adults eager to get to work.

While career pathways are not a new concept to our communities, convening 12 agencies across the federal government to work together to promote career pathways is historic and is critical for promoting further scale.

In April 2012, the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services formed a federal partnership and issued a letter of joint commitment to promote the use of career pathways to assist youth and adults in acquiring valuable skills and industry-recognized credentials through better alignment with employers of education, training and employment, and human and social services.

Building on that work, we have expanded support to multiple agencies to foster better coordination of programs and services. Today the Obama Administration is demonstrating a strengthened commitment to promote career pathways, providing updated information and resources from the expanded federal partnership to help states, regions, local entities and tribal communities integrate service delivery across federal and state funding streams. While state and local partners build career pathway systems, at the federal level, we recognize that we can support our partners’ efforts through our policy, performance, and funding.

Through shared definitions and goals for career pathway systems, the federal government is taking steps toward removing obstacles for state and local areas to streamline programs and services to make it easier for individuals, including those with significant disabilities, to navigate and succeed in attaining their career goals.

Our federal agencies continue to incorporate career pathways approaches into a wide range of program investments, evaluation and research activities, and technical assistance efforts. Learn more about federal career pathways initiatives at these websites:,, and, as well as the websites of each federal agency partner.

Mark H. Greenberg is Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Johan E. Uvin is Deputy Assistant Secretary Delegated the Authority of the Assistant Secretary for Career, Technical, and Adult Education at the U.S. Department of Education.

Portia Wu is Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training at the U.S. Department of Labor.


  1. Good and informative article !! But here I want to raise a number of serious questions.

    How can we get local districts to assume greater responsibility in developing leaders?

    How can we create new kinds of partnerships between colleges and universities and local districts to prepare and develop educational leaders?

    How can we expand the certification process to include those inside and outside education who have demonstrated certain leadership skills?

  2. Thank you? Definitely a needed discussion to continue with your message. Especially for those of us teaching Adolescent Life Skills and Global Citzenship at USVI Career and Techincal Education Centers located in the US Territory.

  3. Good article, as a professional and independent consultant in International trade, I would like to add the need for a ‘serious’ language and cultures training – studies beginning in elementary school years.

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