XAP at the National Career Pathways Network Conference – Our Goals and Progress

blogbannerrXAP’s Chief Product Strategist, Don Phillips, is attending the National Career Pathways Network Annual Conference in Indianapolis this week. XAP is excited about our work with career pathways and the opportunity to learn more and share our ideas at the conference. We asked Don to put together a blog entry explaining what we’re working on. Look for Don at Booth 37 at the conference!

While the concept of career pathways has existing for a long time, numerous national and regional economic and social realities have made career pathways even more relevant and important today.

A career pathway is defined as “a well-articulated sequence of quality education and training programs, work-based learning experiences, and supportive services that develop youth and adults’ core academic, technical and employability skills; provide them with continuous education, training; place them in high-demand, high-opportunity jobs; and enable advancement to successively higher levels of education and employment in a given industry sector or occupation.”

While many of the information elements and their related connections from this definition already exist in XAP’s career and education exploration and planning tools, we realized that one key component was missing: a clear and easy to use option for students and adults to explore a specific career pathway. In collaboration with our partners at College In Colorado (Colorado Department of Higher Education) and the Colorado Workforce Development Council, XAP has embarked on this initiative.

The challenge as we saw it was trying to present all of the valuable and connected information that is inherent in a career pathway in a usable and relevant format. We have seen many examples from across the nation where well-intentioned efforts have produced complicated career pathway maps at both the state and regional level by trying to cram as much of the relevant information as possible onto a one-page PDF. Too often, unfortunately, the result of trying to visually represent a coherent sequence of careers, educational programs, skill requirements, on-ramps, off-ramps, and support services leads to an online document that fails to meet the required outreach and marketing needs of career pathway programs.

I heard the same story multiple times in my research. To paraphrase: “We did just what the toolkit told us to do. We brought employers together from the industry to have them identify their high-demand skill and competency needs. We aligned our community college programs to address these needs. We aligned our high school programs of study with the community college programs. But now that the pathway is in existence, the pipeline is not full enough to meet industry needs. What did we miss?”

If students and adults are unaware of the career pathway or unable to see its relevance or potential to their personal interests and needs without additional advisement services, the marketing and outreach aspect of the career pathways program can be the weak link.

Based on this feedback, as well as legislation driving our Colorado clients that recognized this outreach need, we have been designing and building a career pathways module that will help students and adults explore a career pathway at their own pace without being overwhelmed by the related information.

Google Maps has been one of our design inspirations. Our career pathways module is similar in that it provides an overview of the career pathway structure (like the street map in Google Maps) showing the careers and related connections, but then lets the student or adult drill into the pathway and walk through it (like Street View in Google Maps) to explore the details related to each career on the pathway, including the education and training requirements at each level.

The career pathways module will display a pathway unique to a region, or display regional differences in career needs and education and training opportunities on a state pathway. It starts with a visual career pathway map overview, and then students can explore, discover, and request details on elements of interest.

The rendering of the career pathway is data-driven using collected pathway data and integrating existing sources such as LMI and ETPL web-based data systems or other state and regional data links.  There are supports for on-ramps and off-ramps, and information is presented to achieve understanding without the need for labor market information and industry experience.

It is very exciting to see it coming together. We feel that it will bring a unique presentation and experience for career pathway outreach and marketing to students and adults.

The new career pathways module will be available integrated into XAP’s career and education planning products or available as a separate solution to enhance other existing career planning resources. It supports both self-serve and classroom implementation models.

Our broader career pathways initiative has the career pathways module complemented by profile microsites of high-demand industries, a new employer module for showcasing employment and work-based learning opportunities, as well as upcoming employability skills and enhanced dual enrollment activities.

If an engaging way to explore and discover your career pathways can benefit your students, adult learners, or clients, and aligns with your career pathway program objectives, contact XAP at 800-281-1168 to learn more about our innovative solution.

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