Understanding Integrated Career Pathways
Colleges, states, and the federal government are increasingly focused on career pathway approaches as a strategy for helping more adults acquire marketable skills and credentials. Integrated pathway models are one approach to creating a better-aligned system for providing education and training.
Unlike traditional, linear models, an integrated model does not make students wait until they finish Adult Basic Education or developmental education before entering a career/technical program. Instead, students learn basic skills and vocational skills at the same time, often in the same course.
The Accelerating Opportunity model is based on the I-BEST model developed by the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges. In the I-BEST model, a basic skills instructor team-teaches with a vocational skills or career and technical instructor for at least 50 percent of the course. Students also receive comprehensive support services throughout the pathway.
Evidence from the I-BEST evaluations show that integrated pathway models help move students further faster. Compared to students in traditional basic skills programs, I-BEST students are:
- Three times more likely to earn college credits
- Nine times more likely to earn a workforce credential
Integrate pathway models improve the overall student experience and increase the chance of success.
|What low-skilled, nontraditional students typically face:||What students in integrated pathway models experience:|
|Confusing array of career programs||Integrated instructional models, college prep, and career pathways|
|General education focus as the default for programs and services||Programs and services specifically geared to career pathways|
|Long remedial education sequences||Acceleration, compression, and dual-enrollment strategies|
|Inadequate or inaccessible support services||Array of support services, including proactive advising|
|Programs not designed with career advancement in mind||Programs designed around labor market opportunities and needs|
Developing a system of integrated career pathways at the state or college level is hard work—it requires a major culture shift at all levels. But, as the data demonstrate, the status quo is not working for most adult learners today:
- The average skill level of U.S. adults falls below the international average on all three areas: literacy, numeracy, and problem solving in a technology-rich environment.
- 1 in 6 adults has weak literacy skills, and nearly 1 in 3 has weak numeracy skills
- Nearly 2/3 of low-skilled adults are working, but earn low wages.
By 2018, only 36 percent of total jobs will require workers with just a high school diploma or less; 64% of jobs will require at least some postsecondary education
But right now, 62% of adults 18 or older lack the credentials needed for a family-supporting career:
- 13% of adults ages 18 and older have less than a high school credential
- 30% have a high school credential but no college
- Another 19% have some college but no degree
Across the country, we need systems strategies that increase basic skill levels AND credential attainment. Integrated pathway models are an evidence-based strategy for helping more adults advance their careers.