Community College System to launch Adult Career Pathways pilot

In late September, representatives from the North Carolina Community College System, the North Carolina Student Success Center, 10 community colleges, and the Center for Occupational Research and Development (CORD) gathered for a workshop to discuss the development of a pilot project to implement Adult Career Pathways – a framework developed by Advance CTE that creates clear curricular pathways that lead to employment and further education. 

The workshop was a collaborative effort between the College and Career Readiness team and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education team within the System Office. It was hosted by Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte and facilitated by CORD, a national nonprofit organization that helps educators and workforce development professionals prepare learners for success in college and careers.  

Workshop attendees took a deep dive into Adult Career Pathways, which prepare unemployed, underemployed and dislocated workers for jobs by offering education, support services, and business and industry partnerships. 

Many adults face limiting career opportunities because they lack a high school credential or postsecondary education, such as an associate degree or industry-recognized credentials, which is increasingly required in the workforce. The Adult Career Pathways system will lead individuals to the postsecondary education they need to secure employment in a specific occupational industry and increase their income potential.  

“The hope for this workshop is that colleges break down barriers between departments so that pathways are fully accessible, utilized and streamlined for any student in a community college setting in North Carolina,” said Lindsay Tipton, Director of Career Pathways at the North Carolina Community College System. 

At the full-day workshop, attendees discussed how to connect existing pathways; the pros and cons of a systemic model vs. locally driven; the development of a common language between Credit for Prior Learning, portfolio, and Military Credit for Prior Learning; and who the necessary partners are at the colleges. 
“We hope attendees will be able to create usable pathways that encourage adult learners to enroll at their local community college and apply their work history, earned credentials, military service and other skills that may be assessed to award academic credits,” Tipton said. 

Shari Brown, Director of Transitional Studies at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute, said the pilot meeting was an enlightening experience.

“The workshop gave our college the opportunity to solidify partnerships among departments, specifically curriculum, career and technical education, college and career readiness, and continuing education,” Brown said. “As a College and Career Readiness director, it was enlightening to collaborate with our peers on assisting students as they navigate their career pathways.” 

A key partner in the pilot will be the North Carolina Student Success Center, which helps colleges undertake large-scale, institution-wide changes – such as implementing Adult Career Pathways – that are essential to helping colleges attain their goal of improving completion rates of students. The Center will help develop a systemic template that is adaptable for the various pathways that exist in career and academic development. 

“This is an opportunity to see how colleges are constructing pathways, defining them, and working with workforce boards to make sure pathways are clearly aligned,” said Dr. Andrea Crowley, Executive Director of the Student Success Center. “We want to make sure we’re designing pathways that lead to high wages and high growth jobs. The key is to ensure our colleges’ academic programs are illustrating the connection to education and meeting the education needs of their local workforce partners.” 

CORD also presented a Pathway Wizard during the workshop, an electronic template that is modifiable per pathway, per learner. They started a pilot with three colleges using the Wizard and plan to expand it next year. 

The next workshop will take place in Spring 2024. 

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