Career pathways programs enjoy broad, bipartisan support as a way to give more young people the skills they need to thrive in today’s workforce. But getting these programs off the ground can be difficult. Quickly scaling them to reach a critical mass of students and sustaining those efforts over nearly 10 years is almost unheard of — except in Delaware.
The Delaware Pathways Program is recognized as an exemplar among career pathways programs across the country. Its programming includes both high school and advanced coursework, work-based learning experiences, and industry-recognized credentials that prepare students for middle-or high-skill careers. The program has grown from serving less than 1% of Delaware high school students in the 2014-15 school year to over 50% in 2021-22.
We interviewed 19 stakeholders — including Delaware Pathways visionaries, researchers, nonprofit intermediaries, higher education leaders, national contributors, and K-12 administrators at the state, district, and school levels — to explore the evolution of Delaware Pathways. In our new publication, Scaling Opportunity: A Case Study on Delaware Pathways, we offer the lessons learned from these interviews, as well as policy recommendations for Delaware leaders as they embark on the next phase of Delaware Pathways.
In our accompanying playbook, Scaling Opportunity: A Policy Playbook for Effective Statewide Career Pathways Programs, we use those lessons learned to identify seven key moves that helped make Delaware’s program successful and scalable, and that policymakers and advocates in other states can use to grow their own career pathways programs:
- Align on and Articulate a Vision
- Build and Sustain Key Partnerships
- Get Creative With Funding
- Ensure That Programs Are High Quality and Easy to Implement
- Commit to Intentional and Substantive Data Collection to Assess Impact and Improve Practice
- Create Accountability Around Equity
- Communicate the Value of Pathways Programs to Employers