Building Industry-Driven Career Pathway Systems: Empowering the Workforce of Tomorrow

Posted by Lauren Ambrosio on April 20, 2023

Typically, people entering the workforce for the first time, re-entering it, or switching careers fall into two camps: 1. They want to turn their passion into a career, even if it means several years of secondary education and working in a lower-paying field, or 2. They seek a well-paying job and will pursue higher education or certifications to reach their financial goals.

Establishing robust and industry-driven career pathway systems has become increasingly important in today's fast-paced and rapidly evolving job market. Individuals and businesses must align for industries to maintain high standards and provide appropriate compensation to their workforce. These systems enable individuals to acquire the necessary skills, certifications, and credentials to secure rewarding and stable jobs and help industries develop a highly qualified workforce that meets their specific demands. Let us explore the benefits of building these pathways, how to create them, and the importance of industry-led sector partnerships.

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The benefits of industry-driven career pathway systems

Having a defined journey for job seekers will allow individuals to make career and education decisions for their future, and they can see a clearly defined path with an end date in sight. Knowing that a goal is both obtainable and measurably within reach is important in creating a fulfilled, thriving workforce.

An effective career pathway system fosters seamless integration among support programs, educational institutions, training opportunities, and extern- and internships. This ensures that job seekers and students can build the skills and credentials required by the industry and prepare themselves for successful careers. By focusing on the needs of the industry and how it can best serve its community, career pathway systems can help address skills shortages and ensure that training and education programs are relevant and up to date. This can be tailored to the local level to close gaps in underserved areas.

A well-designed career pathway system contributes to regional economic development by aligning high-demand industries with a skilled and capable workforce. As most individuals are primarily seeking stable, well-paying jobs, an industry-driven career pathway system helps them secure the requirements for these positions. This, in turn, leads to greater job satisfaction and financial stability for workers.

Creating a path to job fulfillment not only positively affects the individual. There is a ripple effect when you create education and job opportunities where it was previously lacking. One who feels stable with their job and is part of their community is more likely to give back. Businesses that participate in improving the quality of their workforce are also contributing to bettering their communities and those who live in them.

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Building industry-driven career pathway systems: A quick guide

Creating these education and training paths involves engaging industry leaders, identifying critical occupations, and developing programs that align with industry needs. Here is a summary of the steps based on the information from the Colorado Workforce Development Council:

Take, for example, online or virtual high school options. While online high schools and virtual classes have been around for a while, they’ve become more popular since the onset of the pandemic in 2020. However, since the world returned to “normal,” and in-person classes resumed regularly, we’ve gone back to assuming that these traditional education experiences are the best fit for students. But online education provides a lot of benefits for students who don’t fit the standard rhythm of in-person classes, including

  1. Build a regional, industry-led sector partnership. Establish strong industry ownership over career pathway system development by engaging the industry as full partners.
  2. Build out a career pathway support team of non-industry partners. Recruit workforce, education, and training partners to develop a coordinated response to the industry's talent needs. A proven training partner like Penn Foster can provide access to online training programs in in-demand industries from healthcare and veterinary medicine to manufacturing.
  3. Identify critical occupations based on labor market data and qualitative input from employers. Target a set of professions that industry leaders agree are crucial or underfilled. Currently, there is high demand for skilled healthcare employees, so it could be beneficial to offer training and education opportunities that prepare your learners or employees for a career in the field.
  4. Inventory relevant education, training, and workforce programs. Identify existing programs and gaps to meet the demands of industry, students, and workers.
  5. Understand critical competencies required to perform effectively on the job. Develop occupational descriptions based on industry-defined competencies to inform hiring practices and education and training programs.
  6. Build career pathway programs that prepare students and job seekers with critical competencies. Develop seamless linkages among programs and institutions that support students and job seekers in building the competencies needed for in-demand occupations.
  7. Create a picture of the career pathway and market it to all audiences. Develop a region-specific map that helps job seekers identify the skills and credentials needed for success in their chosen careers.
  8. Create a system for continuous improvement. Keep career pathway systems updated and relevant by using the sector partnership as a place for ongoing conversations and collaboration.

Additionally, use and organize data to understand an industry's key occupations by identifying the industries involved in your sector, large and growing occupations, and sorting Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) code data. Create visualizations of the data to communicate the information effectively.

By following these steps, regions can establish industry-driven career pathway systems that are responsive to the needs of both employers and job seekers, ensuring that education and training programs remain relevant and aligned with industry demands.

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Bridging the gap between education, experience, and industry

Local partnerships ensure that the forces driving career pathway development are grounded in the regional labor market's realities. A strong local workforce is essential for regional economic development. Collaborating with industry leaders, educational institutions, and workforce development organizations can better prepare individuals for in-demand jobs, contributing to the region's overall economic growth and competitiveness. Partnering with local businesses helps to create a skilled and competitive workforce that attracts new businesses to the region and encourages existing businesses to stay and grow. A strong talent pool can help spur innovation and drive economic growth, making the area more attractive to live and work in.

As businesses evolve and face new challenges, partnerships can help facilitate continuous feedback and improvement in the education and training programs, ensuring they remain relevant and adaptable. Industry leaders can identify critical occupations, skill gaps, and evolving trends, which helps to create more relevant and practical training and education programs. The career pathway systems enable stakeholders to align their efforts and resources, creating synergies that lead to more efficient and effective workforce development strategies.

Local, industry-led sector partnerships play a vital role in ensuring the workforce development system is responsive to the needs of local industries. These partnerships help create a more skilled, prepared, and competitive workforce, improving economic growth and opportunities for businesses and individuals.

Additionally, utilizing online training solutions that align with industry needs can be beneficial to ensuring learners have flexible options that allow them to meet their goals – and yours – around their work schedule and life. Penn Foster, for example, offers numerous self-paced, online training programs in top industries, preparing your learners for in-demand jobs like veterinary technician, medical assistant, manufacturing roles, and more.

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Work with a proven training provider to improve industry-driven career pathways

Building industry-driven career pathway systems is crucial to ensure individuals have access to the training, education, and support necessary to secure good-paying jobs while providing industries with a skilled workforce that meets their demands. By establishing industry-led sector partnerships and aligning career pathway programs, we can create a future where job satisfaction and financial stability are achievable goals for everyone. To learn more about how Penn Foster’s training solutions can help your organization create effective career pathways, reach out to our training experts today!

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