News about Adult Career Pathways

Wisconsin practitioners dig deeper into Career Pathways at Bootcamp event

“Career pathways is the right thing to do for our students and it is the right thing to do for employers,” Morna Foy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System, told those attending the Oct. 1 Career Pathways Bootcamp held at the Verona headquarters of Epic Systems.

She explained that career pathways makes students more employable, gives them portable skills and helps them survive in an economic downturn.

“We have done a pretty good job, but we have to do better,” she continued. Foy also addressed fears that career pathways will cause decreased enrollment saying “if we don’t do this we could really have an FTE problem” because competing colleges will offer short-term, flexible, competency-based education.

Deans, instructors, student services personnel, curriculum directors, attended the event to learn more about the changing approach to technical education.

 After a humorous skit by Taylor Weichman, interim education director – Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Pete Silva, education director – Fire Service, Willa Panzer, associate vice president – Office of Student Development and Assessment, and Sandra Schmit, associate vice president – Office of Instruction, presented a shared understanding and vision for career pathways in the Wisconsin Technical College System.

Schmit used an aerial photo of a double round about to show how technical college education can seem confusing to students.

“Career pathways allow students to get on where they need to get on and get off where they need to,” she said. “It is a more efficient customer-centered approach that provides the supports they need.”

In answer to the question, who needs career pathways?, Panzer cited some “big scary numbers” showing a down turn in birthrates and the number of people with no college education or even a high school diploma. Small and large companies in every employment sector in Wisconsin have open positions they can’t fill, she added.

Career pathways is not a cheap approach. However, resources are available at the federal, state and local level, she reminded the audience.

Mark Johnson, education director – Adult Secondary and Developmental Education, explained the design, methods and outcomes of Bridge programs that use integrated instruction, team teaching and contextualized learning to allow Adult Basic Education and English Language Learners to complete occupational programs with credentials that result in employment. He cited several successful examples including Madison College’s Patient Care Career Pathway Bridge program where students are showing higher progress toward degree and retention than traditional students.

“This is not a ‘lite’ version of course work,” Johnson said. “But we help students succeed.”

Jonathan Feld, director – High School Articulation, Transfer, International Education and Scheduling at Milwaukee Area Technical College, retold the college’s experience with developing the first career pathways.

He explained how the college administrators “blew up” the old paradigm of putting students in associate degree, technical diploma or adult basic education “buckets.” Rather than allowing the Accuplacer exam to judge whether a student was in or out of the college, they use results to put the student on a continuum of skills and training.

“We don’t test high school students, but we let them enroll,” he said. “While adults may test to high school junior level, but they can’t take courses.” MATC changed that so that adults aren’t stopped from entering the program they want, instead the college also provides them with the simultaneous academic support they need to succeed.  MATC has removed the stopping points so adults enter and earn marketable credentials more quickly.

In the afternoon Schmit spoke on “Nuts and Bolts of Building and Getting Approval of Embedded Technical Diplomas and WTCS Career Pathway Certificates.” The event ended with breakout sessions giving opportunity for attendees to ask specific questions of various WTCS education directors.