Career Pathways Initiative

ETA Continues its Career Pathways Chat with Arkansas' Phil Harris

Posted by Andrala Walker - On May 29, 2012 (EST)

ETA Continues its Career Pathways Chat with Arkansas' Phil Harris

Arkansas was recently highlighted in ETA's Career Pathways Webinar Series as a state subject matter expert.  Over the past few years, Arkansas has emerged as a leading state example of building a successful career pathways system. Over 24,000 have been enrolled in career pathways programs, with over 21,000 certificates and degrees being conferred, including Associate degrees, technical certificates, and employability certificates.

We continue our chat with Phil Harris, Assistant Director of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) at the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services.  On last week,  Harris talked about the unique partnership between TANF and Labor in Arkansas' career pathways initiative.  More information about the initiative can be viewed in our career pathways webinar at

Q.  Phil, last week, you described the partnership between the TANF agency and Labor in developing career pathways.  What would you say were some of the strategies you used to build such a strong agency partnership?

A.  Well, Andrala, since the beginning of Career Pathways, we've had a signed   Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in place.  The MOU ensures that each of the partners are fully aware of their roles and responsibilities in the project.  We also have a shared vision that we created together.  It helps to keep everyone focused on the end goal.

Q. What are some of the challenges?  How did you overcome them?

A.  Perhaps the most serious challenge is that the system is funded 100% at this time through TANF.  So any fluctuations in the state's TANF grant amount impacts this program.  We are currently working to remedy this situation by looking into other potential funding sources and leveraging all our available resources.

Q.   We received lots of questions during our webinar about establishing career pathways systems in rural areas?  Any ideas or thoughts?

A. Given the distinct rural nature of Arkansas, the existing community college system network plays a major role in our success.  These institutions are generally viewed as the engine of their local communities and are paramount to the ongoing success of the pathways model.

Q.  That's great insight.  So, in conclusion, what are some future plans for Arkansas' career pathways efforts?

A.  Given that Arkansas' program already includes the state's 22 community colleges and three technical institutes, we plan to increase our efforts in developing sound curricula that is tied to occupations that are in high demand in local areas.  That remains a top priority.  We also want to increase the number of our TANF-eligible participants enrolled in programs throughout the state.

Q.  Thanks so much for joining us, Phil.

A.  It's our pleasure!  Thank you, Andrala.

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Modified On : May 29, 2012
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