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CAEL Pathways Blog

Career Pathways Maps and Virtual Mentors Help Adult Learners Chart Their Success in South Central Pennsylvania’s IT Sector

SCPa Works (South Central Workforce Development Board), based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, serves eight counties in the south-central region of the state. Founded in 2003, the 501(c)(3) oversees six PA CareerLink® sites and investments of nearly $14 million annually to support employment and training programs.

In June of last year, CAEL began partnering with SCPa Works to support the South Central Pennsylvania NextGen Information Technology Industry Partnership (TechConnect). SCPa Works established the partnership to represent regional IT interests and align their diverse but complementary missions to better address workforce challenges and opportunities. TechConnect’s partners, which number more than 150, represent employers, educators, economic developers, state agencies, and community-based organizations.

There are more than 1,000 IT job openings per month in SCPa Works’ region. They offer good entry-point wages while also anchoring rewarding career pathways. But despite their quantity and quality, lack of access and even awareness among adult learners are challenges that have prevented the region from realizing the full potential of its growing IT sector. 

Jesse McCree, CEO of SCPa Works, cites four main reasons for this. The first two pertain to time and money. Many adults find the commitment daunting, especially those currently employed or in a caregiving role. A lack of training information and career choices means some candidates are not even aware of the opportunities. Conversely, too much information can be a problem, at least absent career choice certainty. 

“The education and workforce development systems can be complex and difficult to navigate, especially for individuals who may not have much experience with them,” said McCree. “There may be numerous requirements, regulations, and procedures to follow, which can be overwhelming for learners.”

That’s why TechConnect aggregates a wealth of resources for individual job seekers. Job seekers are  the ultimate beneficiaries of SCPa Works’ collaboration with local businesses and industries to create tailored training programs that lead to direct employment opportunities. 

To support this project, CAEL created customized career pathway maps for the top-five technology occupations. “Career Pathways are the link between learning and work,” said Laura Heller, CAEL’s senior director of initiatives. “Our methodology prioritizes the capacity to confidently guide adult learners and job seekers to family-sustaining, in-demand careers in the respective regions.”

Career pathway maps support job seekers by raising awareness of not only rewarding career destinations but of the shortest training routes to those jobs. They also plot the resources needed to complete them, connecting the dots that form the most direct line between where adult learners are and where they want to go.

A unique feature of the pathways is a short-video lineup of workers employed within key pathway professions; these videos make the content more relatable, further encouraging job seekers. The virtual mentors provide real-life examples of how people from a diverse background realized their career goals.

With a seamless user experience critical to the career pathways mapping model, CAEL designed each pathway element to integrate visually and informationally with the TechConnect website. The CAEL career pathways maps figure prominently in plans to promote the website, and, more importantly, the work it does. From March through June, SCPa Works will participate in a Junior Achievement virtual career fair, anticipating that 8,000 to 12,000 middle school and high school students will visit the site to view videos and explore the career pathways maps.

CAEL performs similar career pathways mapping work throughout the country, customized for each region’s workforce needs. Information on such partnerships is available by contacting Doug Heckman, VP of Partnerships, at dheckman@cael.org

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