As labor markets shift and contexts within districts and institutions change, all career pathways — including secondary and postsecondary pathways developed by the state, district or institution — must go through a natural life cycle. Once a career pathway has been approved and implemented, it is natural for the conditions that surround and support the pathway to change over time. At these points in a career pathway’s life cycle, the state must make decisions about intervening in the operation of the pathway to ensure that learners are being well served.
Advance CTE, as part of the New Skills for Youth initiative, designed a resource to help state leaders think through intervention options for pathways, and explore the steps leaders should take when making decisions to transform or phase out pathways that do not have labor market relevance. It begins by asking states to examine all of their pathways through regular and thorough evaluation processes, and then using the results to determine next steps.
First, if a pathway is of high quality and high relevance, states should celebrate it and share it as an example for other pathways to follow. States should avoid the mistake of focusing all of their attention on the pathways that need more intervention – celebrating great pathways encourages them to continue their work, and helps other pathways find ways to improve.
If a pathway has high labor market relevance, but learner outcomes are not where they should be, states should intervene in the form of deliberate and coordinated technical assistance. Many states provide technical assistance to their pathways, but unfortunately, pathway intervention often stops at that point, without progressing to transformation or phase out. If a pathway has quality learner outcomes, but low labor market relevance, then states should consider transforming that pathway into a pathway in a related, but higher demand, field. For example, some family and consumer sciences pathways could use their solid curricular foundation and instructors and transform into a healthcare pathway, which is one of the highest demand industries in many states.
Finally, when a pathway has come to the point in its lifecycle where its labor market relevance and learner outcomes are not what they should be, states should consider phasing that program out in order to make space for higher quality programs that will better serve learners and the state economy. This is, of course, not an easy decision, but a necessary one to make. Read Advance CTE’s guide today to explore considerations for how to ensure that pathways are phased out in a way that best serves learners and their communities.
Ashleigh McFadden, State Policy Manager