Building Career Pathways for Maximum Learning and Advancement

As our nation’s economy approaches near full employment status, it is more important than ever that collaboration take place among education and training partners, industry councils and economic and development agencies to plan a regional economic futures. Effective career pathways initiatives bring together community stakeholders to identify a region’s workforce and training needs, develop avenues for education and advancement, and ultimately lead to better jobs and a more skilled workforce for the community.

More than just a map of job titles and related credentials, a career pathway can illustrate complex relationships and synthesize information about an industry or an occupation. For example, TPMA staff have recently been working with a task force led by the Manufacturing Institute and funded by the Arconic Foundation to explore career pathways in aerospace manufacturing. The aerospace industry requires a highly skilled workforce familiar with green technologies, advanced manufacturing practices (such as 3-D printing), and stringent FAA recommendations. Career Pathways in this specialized industry—even across regions with very different economic climates—can help businesses, education providers, and the workforce system create solutions that tap into existing resources and innovations at the same time. Next month, members of the aerospace task force will be presenting some of these solutions at the Manufacturing Institute’s Manufacturing Workforce 4.0: A Symposium on Skills for the New Economy.

Career pathways aren’t just for industries and occupations with complex technical skill requirements. They’re also relevant in sectors that rely on a workforce with exceptional interpersonal skills, like hospitality and tourism. Used as a marketing tool to attract students and job seekers, a career pathway in the service industry can dispel myths that only dead-end jobs exist. For example, TPMA client NoRTEC uses career pathways to inform residents about the regional occupational outlook in the tourism industry and four other sectors. The tourism career pathway highlights opportunities for people with service industry experience and a bachelor’s degree—highly skilled jobs that pay a family sustaining wage.

Career pathways maximize opportunities for learning and advancement by simplifying the connections between institutions of higher education and the communities they serve. By identifying on- and off-ramps to education, creating connections to jobs and real-world experience, and providing neutral career counseling for learners of all ages, career pathway systems are designed to help students and employers navigate lifelong learning.

TPMA staff have designed career pathway efforts on behalf of both education and industry; we know what it takes to meet the needs of both sets of stakeholders.

If you would like to learn more about career pathways and how they can help your region, contact Sara Tracey at or 330/388-9325