New Way of Doing Business: Career Pathways


American companies in numerous industries are utilizing career pathways to meet their talent needs and improve opportunities for their employees. Career pathways are an effective strategy to help workers acquire marketable skills and industry-recognized credentials by encouraging greater collaboration among education, workforce partners, and businesses looking to hire skilled workers. The model works for youth and adults, and positions American workers for long-term careers and success.

A new law that governs our nation’s workforce system was passed in 2014 called the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The law requires that career pathways be used to support individuals, including low-skilled adults, youth, and individuals with barriers to employment with workforce development activities, education, and supportive services to enter into employment.  Career pathways are a foundational strategy throughout the legislation to align education and workforce programs with labor market demand.  The law defines career pathways as a combination of rigorous and high-quality education, training and other services that move a worker into or advance within a specific occupation in demand.  For more information on WIOA, go here:


By partnering with employers to develop career pathways systems, we at the Department of Labor are strategically leveraging public and private resources to develop a skilled workforce. Employers support the design and development of career pathways by developing curriculum, delivering training, identifying skills sets, providing work-based learning opportunities, and most importantly, providing jobs! Career pathways engage employers early on in the design of an initiative to help ensure that a career pathway system aligns with business needs.

For example, Toyota worked with the Kentucky Community College Technical College System to design a customized training program that focused on the goal of making sure that a new generation of skilled, globally competitive autoworkers emerged.  The career pathways approach ensured a modular, flexible, and contextualized approach including highly-valued stackable and industry-recognized credentials.

For young adults, employers provide critical work experience which is the first step on a young person’s path to career success.  If you are an employer and you are not working with your local workforce development board or American Job Center (AJC), please visit to find the contact information for the board or AJC nearest you.

To support the workforce system in building career pathways systems, the Department of Labor in partnership with its federal partners released the “Career Pathways Toolkit: An Enhanced Guide and Workbook for System Development.”  All career pathways materials can be found on:

If you have questions, please email

Dr. Jennifer Troke is a Division Chief at the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) Employment & Training Administration’s Office of Workforce Investment (OWI), Division of Youth Services.

The GradsofLifeVoice Forbes team provides thought leadership, research and expert commentary on innovative talent pipelines and related issues such as the skills gap, income inequality, workforce diversity, and the business case for employment pathways. We seek to change employers’ perceptions of young adults with atypical resumes from social liabilities to economic assets. This post was originally featured here.

Education, Hiring & Retention Practices, Partnerships, Skills Gap, Workforce Development,
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