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Chapter VI: statewide bridge program support.

This guide describes how to build a bridge program locally, from the ground up. In addition, state and local policy support of such programs can help individual programs succeed and go to scale. Policy support can take the form of focusing state agency resources on bridge program and career pathway development, funding pilot programs, offering technical assistance, developing evaluation standards, and developing state legislation, among others. This chapter describes statewide implementation efforts under way in four states: Washington, Kentucky, Ohio, and Arkansas.

In Washington State, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges (SBCTC) is supporting joint efforts by adult basic skills and occupational technical faculty and staff to build "integrated instruction" programs designed to prepare basic skills students to enter and succeed in occupational certificate and degree programs (see Integrated Instruction Guidelines excerpt on p. 31). The SBCTC is supporting pilots at ten of the system's 34 colleges with funding from the Federal Perkins and Adult Basic Education (WIA Title II) programs, and the state enrollment formula. (One of these pilot programs, the Child Development Associate Program at Tacoma Community College, is profiled on pp 100-101). The SBCTC staff is tracking both the educational and labor-market outcomes of students in the integrated instruction programs. The staff is also studying the full costs of such programs, which are initially more expensive than regular courses because they are jointly developed and co-taught by basic-skills and occupational faculty, in order to assess the cost-benefit of the integrated approach.

In launching this work, the SBCTC was motivated by a study conducted by the Washington State Training and Education Coordinating Board showing that, by itself, adult basic education has little net impact on students' wages in the short and long terms, and only a modest impact on rates of employment. (15) However, students who took basic skills courses concurrently with vocational training enjoyed a boost in both quarterly earnings and average rates of employment. A more recent study by the SBCTC showed that adult students who enter one of Washington State's community or technical colleges with at most a high school diploma need to take at least one year of college-level courses and earn at least an occupational certificate to achieve a significant earnings advantage over those with a high school education. (16)

The SBCTC has on several occasions convened staff and faculty in adult basic skills, workforce education (called occupational programs in Washington State), and student services from all colleges in its system to discuss how they can work together to support educational and career advancement by students, particularly those who come unprepared for college. The SBCTC has encouraged colleges to link these integration programs and the occupational programs to which they lead to the regional workforce and economic development activities of the state's "skills panels." These panels, comprised of representatives from industry, analyze labor-market demand and identify opportunities for career pathways within sectors experiencing high demand. Thus, the SBCTC is seeking to ensure that such integrated bridge instruction leads to careers in the state's regional labor markets.

The SBCTC is also trying to provide fiscal incentives to create stronger ties between adult basic skills and occupational programs. The SBCTC currently provides funding for integrated instruction under its "WorkFirst" welfare-to-work contracts. The "council" that represents lead staff and faculty from adult basic-skills programs from each college in the system is advocating to the SBCTC and the colleges' presidents that, in future requests for proposals for Perkins, high-demand job training, and other occupational programs, funding should be set aside for integrated instruction. (For more information, please contact Tina Bloomer, Director, Student Achievement Project, Washington State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, (360) 704-4325,

The Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) is encouraging its colleges to develop bridge programs as part of a larger, system-wide effort to foster the creation of educational pathways to careers in fields of importance to the regions its districts serve. KCTCS has awarded funding to its 16 districts to build career pathways in selected industry sectors. (Madisonville Community College, profiled on pp. 108-109, is one of the districts receiving this funding.) Because KCTCS is emphasizing the potential of career pathways to help low-skilled adults and youth enter and succeed in postsecondary career education, all of the colleges are expected to integrate a remedial bridge component into their career pathways and to ensure that all students in pathways programs receive remediation as needed, whether it is through developmental education or adult basic education. KCTCS is encouraging colleges to involve degree program faculty from both occupational and liberal arts in the career pathway work as well as staff from adult basic skills, developmental education, and non-credit workforce development.

As part of the career pathway work, KCTCS is seeking to develop a feasible way to modularize curricula (and also fractionalize the credit offered) in both bridge and college-level instruction to allow the creation of programs that are responsive to the schedules of working students and the skills needs of employers. Like the staff of the Washington State Community and Technical College System, the KCTCS staff is putting in place a mechanism for evaluating the efficacy of career pathways to enable students to complete credentials, secure jobs in fields related to their training, and pursue further education. A key focus of this evaluation will be on the extent to which students in adult literacy programs are able to advance to and succeed in occupational certificate and degree programs. (For more information, please contact Shauna King-Simms, Director of Adult Education Partnerships and Transitions, Kentucky Community and Technical College System, (859) 256-3301,

In Ohio, the KnowledgeWorks Foundation is spearheading the development of career pathways as a strategy for addressing the fact that nearly a million working-age adults in the state can be classified as working poor. KnowledgeWorks is using its own funds, supplemented with grants from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and the Governor's Workforce Policy Board, to support the development of career pathway plans by colleges and other partners in 12 regions of the state and the actual implementation of pathways in six of them. (One participating program is the Greater Cincinnati Health Professions Academy, profiled on pp. 106-107.) In promoting the career pathways approach, KnowledgeWorks is seeking to cultivate clear connections among programs within the state community and technical colleges, as well as between these two-year colleges and the state's adult career-technical schools and adult basic literacy programs. The latter two serve individuals who tend to be from poorer families than the average community or technical college student. As it is, few students go on from the adult literacy or career-technical programs to college-level programs at the community and technical colleges.

KnowledgeWorks has organized a stakeholder group comprised of leaders from the various educational sectors, community groups, and employers to advocate for state policies supportive of career pathways. This approach of working both on the ground through the regional planning and implementation efforts and at the state policy level has succeeded in shaping the discussion at the local and state levels about how to promote educational and economic advancement, particularly for disadvantaged youth and adults. (For more information, please contact Brett Visger, Program Director, College and Career Access Program, KnowledgeWorks Foundation, (513) 929-1118,

In Arkansas, the Department of Higher Education (ADHE) has recently secured substantial funding from the state's welfare agency to strengthen welfare recipients' access to and success in postsecondary education. The ADHE is promoting the career pathway approach to its community and technical colleges as a promising strategy for helping welfare recipients enter and succeed in college and prepare for careers. Because the focus is on welfare recipients and other low-income individuals, many of whom are unprepared for college, building bridge programs will be a key emphasis of the Arkansas career pathway initiative. This initiative is looking to the bridge development work of Southeastern Arkansas College and the Southern Good Faith Fund, profiled on pp. 112-113. Following the lead of Kentucky and Ohio, the ADHE plans to use TANF funds to better connect existing programs through curriculum development and alignment, coordination of partners, and other capacity-building activities, rather than to create new special programs for TANF clients, which can stigmatize participants and are likely to disappear when the dedicated funding ends. The ADHE is also considering adopting Kentucky's Ready to Work program model in which counselors are assigned to ensure that TANF clients receive the wrap-around support services they need to complete their programs. (For more information, please contact Doug Miller, Director, Career Pathways, Arkansas Department of Higher Education, (501) 371-2035,

While differing in their particulars, these statewide efforts share the goal of creating better connections and transitions among educational programs and between those programs and the labor market. Each state is promoting the development of bridge programs to provide the critical first steps toward a career pathway for educationally disadvantaged adults. To ensure that these efforts are sustained, the agencies involved are seeking to integrate bridge programs into the mainstream of statewide education and workforce-development practice and to offer more dedicated support tied to established funding streams.

Toni Henle, Women Employed Institute

Davis Jenkins, University of Illinois at Chicago Great Cities Institute

Whitney Smith, Chicago Jobs Council
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Publication:Bridges to Careers for Low-Skilled Adults: A Program Development Guide
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Previous Article:Chapter V: bridge program evaluation and continuous improvement.
Next Article:Chapter VII: program profiles.

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