Career Pathways Initiative

ETA Chats with Mary Clagett of JFF About New Policy Paper

Posted by Andrala Walker - On April 24, 2012 (EST)

ETA Chats with Mary Clagett of JFF About New Policy Paper

During this week, ETA issued Training and Employment Notice 39-11 (, which outlines key resources available to states and local areas on career pathways.  Among them is a new Policy Paper - The Promise of Career Pathways Systems Change and Initiatives.  The paper, commissioned by ETA and developed by Jobs for the Future (JFF -, gives an overview of career pathways and provides examples of state and local workforce investment systems that are centrally involved in the development of career pathways. The paper may be downloaded from the Resources section of this Community of Practice.


We were pleased to chat with co-author Mary Gardner Clagett, JFF's Workforce Policy Director  in a two-part conversation and get her thoughts about the importance of workforce boards in career pathways.


Q.  Thanks, Mary, for joining us this week! ETA is very excited to release this paper.  Can you share why you think states, local, and tribal communities should invest in building career pathways systems and will benefit from the paper?


A.  Thanks, Andrala, for inviting us to talk about this.  First, career pathways systems can help individuals of all skill levels - particularly those who are low-skilled - to pursue, progress through and complete the education and training they need to attain industry-recognized credentials and family-sustaining employment.  Second, for workforce systems and Workforce Investment Boards, in particular, career pathways provide a valuable strategy for organizing and improving the effectivness of education and training. Finally, career pathways meet employers' needs for skilled workers, spurring productivity and economic growth of businesses, industries, and regions.  This paper provides a great starting point for policymakers and practitioners to learn more and get real examples of how it can be done.


QSounds like a win-win for all parties.  What would you say are the key roles that workforce investment systems should play in building career pathways?


A.  Workforce Investment Boards, or WIBs, are ideally situated to take a leadership role for pulling system partners and stakeholders together and for ensuring that career pathways are geared to the needs of the labor market of high-demand industry sectors and to employers in those industries important to the state and regional economies.  Regardless of who takes the lead, we think that workforce systems should be integrally involved in these key ways:

  • Collecting, analyzing and sharing labor market information;
  • Providing skills assessments, skills matching, and career navigation functions; and
  • Providing career counseling and support services.

There are also more strategic functions that WIBs can perform in the development and implementation of career pathways systems, like supporting research and capacity building; convening key program partners; using labor market information to identify high-demand employers and industry sectors in the state or region; facilitating sector partnerships; or even helping to identify and pursue leveraged funding and partnerships.  In many parts of the country, strategic WIBs already carry out these important roles and responsibilities.


Q.  In the paper, you highlight several state and local WIBs who are leading efforts in career pathways.  What are some of the common strengths of these boards?


A.  Great question!  These boards tend to see themselves as being responsible for much more than just running the WIA programs and overseeing the One-Stop Career Centers. They are strategic; they work with business and industry and economic development leaders to determine the region's high-demand growth sectors; they facilitate the convening of industry partnerships in those sectors; they work closely with their education, training, and human services providers to meet all the skill needs of their regions so workers can find good jobs and businesses can thrive.


Join us for Part Two of our conversation with Mary Clagett on Thursday of this week and hear more thoughts on the career pathways paper, credentials, and national efforts gaining ground on career pathways. 


What are your thoughts about the paper?  Share them with us.



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Modified On : April 24, 2012
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