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A Career Pathway is a series of connected education and training programs and student support services that enable individuals to secure a job or advance in a demand industry or occupation. Career Pathways focus on easing and facilitating student transition from high school to community college; from pre-college courses to credit postsecondary programs; and from community college to university or employment.

Career Pathways Initiative Goals:
  • To increase the number of Oregonians with certificates, credentials, and degrees in demand occupations.
  • To articulate and ease student transitions across the education continuum from high school to community college; from pre-college (ABE/GED/ESL) to credit postsecondary; and from community college to university or a job.

Career Pathways is a student-centered, demand-driven innovation community colleges have launched to proactively adapt to the dynamically changing needs of students and employers. Career Pathways focus on easing the transitions for all students across the educational continuum. Oregon's community colleges are developing programs that realign curriculum, provide alternative delivery methods as well as flexibility for Oregonians to gain skills and advance in the labor market more quickly to address employer and student needs.

Oregonians can get on the fast track to higher learning and higher earning with Career Pathways. They can achieve:
  • Faster attainment of skills and pay in high-demand occupations
  • Expedited professional and technical certificates and degrees

The goal is to increase the number of students attaining certificates and credentials using these flexible schedules, driven by industry needs and program designs at the local level, and providing student supports to increase access, persistence, and success.


The "eye on the prize" for Pathways:

  1. Increase the number of Oregonians accessing postsecondary education;
  2. Increase the number of Oregonians who persist in attaining degrees and other credentials;
  3. Decrease the need for remediation at the postsecondary level;
  4. Increase entry into employment and further education; and
  5. Increase wage gain over time for student completers.

Types of Pathways

Community colleges are implementing pathways approaches in four transition arenas across the education continuum:

  1. Secondary to postsecondary;
  2. Pre-college (ABE/GED/ESL/DE) "bridges" to credit postsecondary;
  3. Postsecondary education for skills upgrading and career changers; and
  4. Community college postsecondary to university system.

Core Elements and Design Features

Career Pathways is a comprehensive systemic framework that includes six core elements:

  1. Institutional and instructional innovation;
  2. Student supports and tools;
  3. Partnerships;
  4. Employer involvement;
  5. Continuous improvement; and
  6. Sustainability.

1) Institutional and Instructional Transformation

 Mission Integration:

Requires that academic, student support, remedial, adult education and workforce development offices work collaboratively to design pathways and roadmaps. Similarly, secondary institutions must follow the same model, with Career Pathways providing a framework to break down the silos of "academic" and "career and technical education" tracks.

Requires a resilient partnership with high school Career and Technical Education focused on seamless transitions from high schools to postsecondary education.

Curriculum/Instructional Transformation:

Alternative delivery methods: Provide education and training for students and incumbent workers at times and locations convenient to students and employers, rather than instructors or institutions. This can include: asynchronous or synchronous learning offered evenings or weekends, blended or "hybrid" delivery models, and delivery at off-campus locations such as job sites and community facilities.

Contexted curriculum: Design curriculum that utilizes industry-based and relevant material. Many "bridge" programs embed occupational, workplace, or technical skills in the Adult Basic Education, GED, English as a Second Language (ESL), or Development Education (DE) curriculum.

Modularized ("chunked") curriculum: Structure and sequence curriculum in modules or "chunks" tied to jobs with multiple entry and exit points, with multiple levels of industry recognized credentials built into the sequencing of the pathway.

Competency-based curriculum: Developed and/or packaged curriculum that meets academic and quality standards, is designed and organized by competencies required for jobs, and is cross-walked with industry skill standards and certifications where applicable. Job profiling and the use of "subject matter experts" (such as ACT's WorkKeys profile or the DACUM profile) should be strongly considered as a tool to strengthen the curriculum and meet the competency needs of business.

Roadmaps & Templates:

Provide visual roadmaps or templates depicting the coursework, competencies, skill requirements, and credentials needed for a series of related occupations in an industry sector. These visual roadmaps assist students and workers as they navigate their pathway to better jobs and increased earnings.

Provide employers with an organizational development tool to focus on career planning and development for their employees.

Include career lattices that identify multiple entry and exits points and potential lateral and vertical movement within an occupation or career cluster linked to occupational labor market data.

Ensure roadmaps are "demand-driven" and collaboratively developed, fully engaging employers, faculty, advisors, educational administrators, workforce professionals, and labor representatives as appropriate.

Maximize the use, distribution, and visibility of tools by students, advisors, counselors, parents, and public workforce development professionals. The tools can also be: loaded onto websites; incorporated in college catalogs, high school career guides, and recruitment materials, and; used as a tool for ongoing curriculum improvement in both secondary and postsecondary settings.

Articulation and Transition:

"Bridge" Programs: Implement easily accessible programs that provide developmental education to "bridge" academically under-prepared students to a credit bearing postsecondary pathway.

Rigorous Academic Credentials: Provide credentials for demand occupations that are rigorous, recognizable, and relevant in the labor market.

Dual/Concurrent Enrollment & Dual Credit: Provide opportunities for students to earn college credit through dual or concurrent enrollment at a community college, or concurrent enrollment at a university and a community college.

Articulation Agreements: Provide seamless articulation across educational institutions for courses, credentials, certificates, and degrees.

2) Student Supports and Tools

Career Planning & Counseling:

Provide career planning courses, workshops, and web-based resources that include tools such as assessments, career portfolios and individual education/career plan development, thereby increasing understanding about demand occupations and career clusters of interest to students and workers.

Provide job search assistance, coping strategies for blending work and education, and skill building in resume writing, interviewing, and social networking.


Incorporate opportunities for "learning by doing," including internships, co-op work experience, simulations, and team class projects that are assignments from local employers or community organizations.

College and Workforce Readiness Preparation:

Provide preparation supports to high school students and adult learners to assure college and workforce readiness. This may include:

Placement test preparation workshops for youth and adult learners;

Reading, writing, and math summer institutes to decrease need for remediation, and receipt of a career readiness or workforce Certificate;

Workplace skills and workshops for adults re-entering the workforce.

Case Management:

Provide case management, referral to community resources, and childcare and transportation assistance as appropriate to assure student success and ease of transition.

Credit for Prior/Experiential Learning:

Provide clearly defined option for adults to continue lifelong learning and receive credit for prior experience.


Access for all students, regardless of educational or skill level
For example, English language learners will have access to coursework that will help them prepare for jobs as technicians in the microelectronics industry, as will college graduates recently laid off from the sales jobs they held for many years, as will high school seniors.

Multiple entry and exit points tied to jobs
Fewer students are using the community colleges as a link in a linear educational pipeline where they move from a high school diploma to an associate's degree to a bachelor's degree to work. As more and more students are blending education and work or returning to school after periods of no school, just work, they are accessing education as a cycle. Students frequently enroll in college to take only the classes they need to get a job, returning for more classes when they want a better job, and so on. Yet they are often unclear about which courses lead to which jobs. By modularizing the curriculum into sets of courses with discrete employment outcomes, students will be able to enter and exit a degree or certificate program at clear, but various, points in their educational cycle rather than completing the entire program at once.

Linked to employer needs
The determination of which courses are grouped together is based on current and ongoing labor market analysis of employer demand and research on the skill sets business requires for various jobs within an industry. Ability to offer an employer recognized credential for less than one-year or two-year program. Oregon Labor Market Information System (OLMIS)

Uses existing curriculum to build toward degree completion
In the past, many job seekers have built their basic or occupational skills through non-credit offerings. When they want to enroll in a certificate program or take a few courses of a degree program, they find that none of the classes they took before count toward their academic goal. A pathways system integrates non-credit and existing credit courses to create a seamless system for students to move from pre-college to credited academic programs.

Easily understandable
The college catalog is impressive but overwhelming to most students and many staff. The development of "roadmaps," which graphically show the various routes a student can take to achieve employment outcomes, makes the alternatives clear to both staff and students.

Meets students' life needs
Students need educational options that allow them to blend work, family responsibilities, and school. Career Pathways recognize that a high percentage of community college students work by providing more delivery options (distance education, weekend college) as well as repackaging existing two-year curriculum into a logical sequence of shorter options. Pathways also provide the "wrap around" student services that enhance student planning and informed decision making and increase student success in achieving both academic and employment goals.

Integral to the Career Pathways system is a "rolling" or continuous improvement research and development design. This makes the system adaptable to changes in the labor market and feedback from students, staff, and business about appropriate skill sets, employment outcomes, and curriculum delivery.

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