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Innovative Approaches to Career Advancement for Low-Income Families

Image of four people working in separate framed photographs.By Brendan Kelly, Senior Social Science Research Analyst, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation

Career pathways programs aim to address the demand for skilled workers while offering low-wage workers the opportunity to obtain education and training to advance into the middle class.

These programs organize post-secondary education and training as a series of manageable steps leading to successively higher credentials and employment opportunities in growing occupations. Each step is designed to prepare students for the next level of employment and education and provide a credential with labor market value.

Innovative Strategies for Increasing Self-Sufficiency (ISIS) is an experimental evaluation of nine promising career pathways program, including some that are grantees of ACF’s Health Profession Opportunity Grant program. Recent publications from ISIS include a short overview of the study, a brief that discusses the career pathways framework, and profiles of three of the ISIS partner sites. Including…

Established in 1995 in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, this program assesses participant’s academic skills and nonacademic needs, offering both accelerated remedial education and extensive support services. VIDA regularly adjusts training programs based on local demand for labor.

Instituto del Progreso Latino, Carreras en Salud
Developed in 2005, the program offers training as a series of well-articulated steps with the entry point depending on skill level. It provides a range of support services, including academic advising, assistance with nonacademic issues, tuition assistance, and job readiness classes. The program also provides employment specialists who maintain relationships with employers and connect students to job openings.

Health Careers for All (HCA), Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County
This program assesses applicants’ interest in a health career and likelihood of success in the program. HCA provides tuition assistance and supportive services as needed. The program provides outreach to employers and one-on-one job readiness support. Additionally, the program maintains an ongoing relationship with participants to support a return to training for more advanced credentials and skill development.

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