Category Archives: Career Pathways

Federal Initiatives: Professional Development Resources for Adult Education from the U.S. Department of Education

LogoOCTAEFind on this OCTAE (Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education) site the following Federal Initiatives: Click here to enter the site.


Funder Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA; PL 113-128), Section 242, OCTAE carries out a program of national leadership activities to enhance the quality and outcomes of adult education and literacy activities and programs nationwide. Find on this page categories and links to resources from current and recent OCTAE-led activities and links to fact sheets that capture resources by topic.

Topics and Resources Provided on the Site: Click here to access full resources

  • Implementing State-Adopted Challenging Content Standards
  • Partnering to Develop Career Pathways
  • Disseminating Evidence-based Methods and Techniques
  • Integrating Technology into Teaching and Learning
  • Advancing Research and Evidence



From Adult Learning Spotlight: Powerful Learning, November 2019

Powerful Learning

People exchanging informationMeet The Low Wage Workforce

“Fifty-three million Americans – 44% of all workers aged 18-64 – have low-wage jobs, according to “Meet The Low Wage Workforce,” a new report from the Brookings Institute. These workers earn median hourly wages of $10.22 and median annual earnings of $17,950. The common thread in the report’s recommendations are “policies and programs to support low-wage workers advance to higher wage and greater financial stability should address both sides of the labor market: the assets and circumstances of workers and the number and nature of available jobs.”

Other articles in the November, 2019 edition:

Degree and Nondegree Credentials Held by Labor Force Participants

Examining the percentage of adults who have a postsecondary degree misses other types of postsecondary credentials that could be useful in the labor market, such as postsecondary certificates, occupational licenses and occupational certifications.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released a new Data Point report today (March 27) entitled Degree and Nondegree Credentials Held by Labor Force Participants. This report examines the rates at which working adults have attained either a postsecondary degree or a postsecondary nondegree credential, including postsecondary certificates, occupational licenses, and occupational certifications. The report uses data from the Adult Training and Education survey, conducted as part of the 2016 National Household Education Survey (NHES) program.

Among the findings:

  • Although only 45 percent of working adults have a postsecondary degree, when nondegree credentials are factored in, 58 percent of working adults have some type of postsecondary work credential.
  • Among working adults who do not have a postsecondary degree, the most common nondegree credential is an occupational license.

Figure 1: Percentage of adults in the labor force who have different degree and nondegree credentials: 2016. LEFT pie graph: 55% No postsecondary degree. 45% Any postsecondary degree. RIGHT pie graph: 13% No postsecondary degree and a nondegree credential. 18% Postsecondary degree and nondegree credential. 27% postsecondary degree and no nondegree credential. 42% No postsecondary degree and no nondegree credential.

To view the full report, please visit this link to the Data Point handout entitled Degree and Nondegree Credentials Held by Labor Force Participants or cut and paste this URL into an address bar:

Green line that separates post

Nonemployer Statistics–An Indicator of Virginia’s “Gig Economy”

Ann Lang, Senior Economist with the Virginia Employment Commission, wrote an article for “Economic Information & Analytics,” which attempted to provide an indication of Virginia’s “gig economy”—a much discussed but hard to define sector of the economy. This analysis is not a comprehensive look at the “gig economy” and is based solely on nonemployer statistics from the Census. Nonemployer statistics are used to gain insight into this sector of the economy, as many gig workers fit the definition of nonemployers. Click on this link to Gig Economy-NonEmployer- Article 2014-15 to read the full text.

Read an excerpt of the article’s summary below:

“Nonemployer businesses run the gamut from old-fashioned family-run corner stores to home-based bloggers,” said William Bostic Jr., the Census Bureau’s associate of for economic programs. “In some cases, the business may be the owner’s primary source of income, such as with real estate agents and physicians, but in other instances, they may operate the business as a side job, such as with babysitting and tutoring.”4

Over the 2010-2015 period, nonemployer establishments in Virginia increased by 66,149 or 13.0 percent, surpassing the national growth of 10.0 percent. While Virginia’s nonemployer firms are growing, they remain smaller in number and economic impact than traditional payroll employment, which increased by almost 200,000, or 5.6 percent. The largest gains in nonemployer establishments over the five year period occurred in transportation and warehousing; other services; professional, scientific, and technical services; and real estate and rental and leasing—all sectors that encompass service activities.

Image of a bar graph about nonemployer establishments by industry in Virginia, 2015.

Click on this link to read the full PDF article: Gig Economy-NonEmployer- Article 2014-15


New Evidence on Integrated Career Pathways: Final Impact Report for Accelerating Opportunity


Screen Shot 2017-08-11 at 1.47.35 PMJobs for the Future provides a link to the final implementation report, which “describes the effect of Accelerating Opportunity (AO) on education and employment outcomes for underprepared adult learners. Designed and led by Jobs for the Future and national partners, AO allowed adults with low basic skills to enroll in integrated career pathways at community and technical colleges.”

New Evidence on Integrated Career Pathways: Final Impact Report for Accelerating Opportunity, Theresa Anderson, Daniel Kuehn, Lauren Eyster, Burt S. Barnow, and Roberth Il Lerman, Urban Institute, 2017.

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Education Matters: Career Outlook

According to 2015 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), earnings increase and unemployment decreases as educational attainment rises. Click here to enter the site.

Literacy Unemployment

Grouping workers by education level, the chart shows that those with more education have higher earnings and lower rates of unemployment than those with less education.

These data are from the BLS Current Population Survey, a monthly survey of households that collects information about demographic and labor force characteristics.

Dennis Vilorio is an economist in the Office of Occupational Statistics and Employment Projections, BLS. He can be reached at (202) 691-5711 or


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Virginia’s Forgotten Middle

Middle Skilled Jobs and Low Skilled, Low Literate, Entry Level Workers in the U.S.

• Middle skilled jobs require more than a high school education but less than a bachelor’s degree (e.g., associate degree, postsecondary certificate, apprenticeship, etc.)

• Comprise about half of all U.S. jobs. Historically, these jobs were available to those with a high school diploma (sometimes less), but changes in production and increasingly sophisticated technology now require more education and preparation for this growing group of jobs than ever before.
Additional education and training beyond high school is now the norm for access to middle skills positions.

– The Future of the U.S. Workforce: Middle Skills Jobs and the Growing Importance of Postsecondary Education, Achieve, Inc., September 2012


The Skills Gap: Living wage work is available in all regions of Virginia, but not enough literate or trained workers are able to fill middle skilled job positions.

More than 175,000 middle skill job openings occurred in Virginia last year. Each job, on average, took 26 days to dill. That nearly month-long gap stripped businesses of more than 36 million hours of productivity; families of more than $1 billion in wages; and Virginia’s General Fund of an estimated $54 million in state income taxes.”

The Interest Gap: Too few people pursue these middle class careers because of outdated societal stigmas or they are unaware of them, how well they pay, the advancement opportunities they offer, or even how to secure the credentials necessary to pursue them.

The Affordability Gap: Financial aid is largely not available to Virginians pursuing short-term workforce training programs, despite evidence that they typically need it the most.

– Workforce Credentials: The Pathway to Virginia’s New Middle Class: Virginia’s Community Colleges, September 1, 2015

Throwing Down the Gauntlet for Professional Development

OCTAEIt is time to throw down the gauntlet for PD.  A serious conversation and commitment to Adult Education professional development is long overdue.  We should be talking more extensively and with higher-level commitment about the conditions we need to create for work and learning in our field, for the good of adult learners and our nation.  All the more so as we work together to prepare for a full and robust implementation of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act…

Judging Adult Education Teacher Performance.  Very little national data is available by which to judge current teacher performance in Adult Education, but the data that is available shows enormous variation between and within states and local grantees on key performance indicators.  Depending on which state or local program they enter, adult learners face very different prospects for success. The likelihood that an adult learner will achieve a positive outcome in a given year can be three to four times higher in some states than in others, almost certainly due at least in part to differences in teaching effectiveness…

Many difficult questions face us at this juncture. For example, how can we take our efforts to scale? What service delivery training models should we choose?  Can we craft activities that are both efficient and effective? The New Teacher Project found that systemic district efforts did not significantly contribute to improvements in practice.  Are more personalized models needed for adult education? Are current job-embedded models providing the needed level of personalized support for educator growth?

Read the rest of the article at this link.

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Career Pathways Exchange: Resources

Career pathways exchange

WIOA Topical Fact Sheets

U.S. Department of Education (ED), Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), 2015

The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education’s WIOA resource page provides information to assist stakeholders in better understanding key provisions and changes to Title II (the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act) of WIOA.

On Wednesday, March 25, 2015, OCTAE released brand new WIOA fact sheets on:

The resources provide general overviews, terms and definitions, allowable uses of funds, priority of service guidance, performance reporting requirements, related resources, and more.

Be sure to bookmark for more WIOA-related information.

U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Employment and Training Administration (ETA), 2015 

The WIOA Collection website powered by DOL-ETA’s Workforce3One provides information and resources for states, local areas, grantees, and other stakeholders to assist with implementation of WIOA, including:

  • WIOA 101 – webinars offering an introduction to key provisions in Titles I and III
  • WIOA Vision – DOL’s vision for a revitalized transformed workforce system
  • Resources – tools on issues such as “Leadership and Partnerships” and “Statewide Strategies”
  • Partners’ WIOA Sites – links to federal partner agencies and national workforce associations
  • WIOA Action Planner – a self-paced assessment tool designed to help leaders at all levels plan and prepare for WIOA implementation.

The recently launched action planner currently features sections on Partnerships and State Leadership & Governance, an action plan template, and a user’s guide. Sections on one-stop center service design, youth services, and local leadership/governance are coming soon.

Creating Career Pathways in Colorado: A Step-by-Step Guide

Collaborative Economics and the Woolsey Group, LLC, 2014

Prepared for the 2014 Colorado Sector Strategies Summit, “Growing the Talent Pipeline,” this comprehensive guide explains the relationship between career pathways and sector strategies and offers step-by-step instructions and tools for building sector partnerships in your region using career pathways. The strategies and processes provided are relevant to stakeholders in all states.

Building TANF and WIOA Partnerships to Improve TANF Recipient Employment Outcomes: Lessons Learned from TANF/WIA Coordination

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Office of Family Assistance (OFA), 2015

In this archived webinar, hosted by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families’ Office of Family Assistance, a panel of experts and officials from states and local areas share their experiences with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)/Workforce Investment Act (WIA) collaboration. WIOA establishes TANF as a required one-stop partner and provides states with an option to submit a combined state plan that includes TANF. An audio recording, transcript, and presentation slides are available.

Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States


Data from the OECD Program for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies’ Survey of Adult Skills found that 36 million Americans have low literacy skills, nearly 24 million of whom are part of the workforce. In addition, nearly 46 million Americans struggle with numeracy. These skills issues have significant negative impacts on individuals, their families, and their communities. Grounded in evidence and informed by effective and emerging practices, Making Skills Everyone’s Business offers seven strategies that hold great promise for improving the conditions that create and perpetuate poor literacy, numeracy, and problem solving.

Click here to access more information:

A Resource Guide to Engaging Employers

A Resource Guide to Engaging Employers

A Resource Guide to Engaging Employers

A Resource Guide to Engaging Employers, written by Randall Wilson, PH.d. and offered on the Jobs for the Future website, presents working models of successful employer engagement and lessons for securing and sustaining partnerships with employers. It was written to help education and training providers fully realize the value of strategic, long-term, and intensive partnerships with employers. The resource leads readers through a continuum of activities supporting these partnerships, with each level involving deeper engagement and integration of employers into the work:

  1. Advising
  2. Capacity-building
  3. Co-designing
  4. Convening
  5. Leading

Employability Skills Framework

employability skills framework
The Employability Skills Framework site includes free valuable resources for incorporating workplace skills into instruction.
The site also includes a section on federal legislation related to workforce skills instruction, and a lesson planning checklist.
Employability Skills in the Classroom
  • Employability skills, along with academic and technical skills, are a critical component of college and career readiness.
  • Documenting employability skills that are embedded in classroom practice helps students to realize the connection between education and employment.
  • Opportunities exist for teachers to integrate employability skills in everyday lessons, at every age and in every content area.
  • Development of employability skills does not occur in one or two classes, but grows over the course of a student’s educational career.
  • Classroom activities emphasize various employability skills, but not all skills will be evident in every lesson.

The Future of the U.S. Workforce: Middle Skills Jobs and the Growing Importance of Postsecondary Education

middle skills jobs_achieveMiddle Skills Jobs and the Growing Importance of Postsecondary Education (2012), Achieve, includes sections on the future (projections, composition, and demands) of the U.S. workforce; the mismatch between workers’ skills, education levels and job requirements; the many education paths to middle skills jobs; and middle skills jobs and access to middle class jobs.


Cornerstones of Completion: State Policy Support for Accelerated, Structured Pathways to College Credentials and Transfer

CornerstonesIn spring 2012, after a year of intensive data analysis and planning, the colleges participating in Completion by Design announced strategies for creating clear, structured routes through college for more students, often referred to as accelerated, structured pathways to completion. These strategies contain elements unique to each college, but all drive toward helping students enroll early in program streams that lead to a major, and keeping students engaged and progressing until they complete credentials with labor market value.

Click here to enter the site.