Illinois is engaged in various programmatic areas to develop career pathway systems at the state and regional level. The State is an active participant in the national movement to empower learners to explore, progress through, and transition from high quality, structured career pathway systems into rewarding careers that are powered by critical growth areas. In 2011, Illinois launched the Illinois Pathways initiative, which was designed around strategies that align State resources and support regions to create career pathway systems that reflect the labor market needs of their communities. This initiative provided the foundation for regional work on Workforce, Innovation, and Opportunity Act (WIOA) regional planning, community economic development planning across the state, and crucial public-private partnerships to drive employer engagement with young people.
Illinois is also a state member of the Pathways to Prosperity Network, which is an innovative community of states and regions that are leading a national college and career pathways movement through a peer-to-peer learning and collaboration framework.
EdSystems has consistently been part of the Career Pathway System design and development since 2012. Since 2012, EdSystems has supported and coordinated the collective activities of the STEM Learning Exchanges, acting as a backbone support for these partnerships. We work with regions across the state through the Illinois 60 by 25 Network to coordinate their participation in industry driven activities and have partnered with multiple industry leaders under the umbrella of Illinois Pathways to submit federal and private funding applications, including the successful application to the American Apprenticeship Initiative. In the course of our work in legislative, policy development, community development, and youth workforce activities, we strive to align these project spaces under a Career Pathways umbrella, working with partners to reduce duplication and overlap in these efforts.
Since 2012, EdSystems has also worked closely with the Illinois State Board of Education to manage Illinois’ Pathways to Prosperity Network membership and works closely with state and national partners to ensure that Illinois is an active participant in a national conversation on creating better education and employment outcomes for all Illinois learners.
EdSystems, in partnership with Women Employed, and the Center for Governmental Studies at Northern Illinois University, is undertaking a landscape scan of Progressive Pathway Programs in the Chicago region through the support of the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance (CWFA). CWFA recently joined with several education funders to create the Pro Path Fund to advance a shared interest in promoting the development of a Chicagoland education and workforce system with a seamless transition from secondary to post-secondary programs. Progressive Pathways allow individuals to alternate between and combine periods of education/training and employment, and thereby progressively build toward college and career success over an extended period of time. The Pro Path Fund’s first project is the landscape scan of Progressive Pathway Programs in the Chicago region, in order to establish a baseline of the universe of these programs.
EdSystems has serves as the lead for the ProPath project team.
In the initial phase, EdSystems and the project team worked with a ProPath Advisory Board to craft a threshold definition of quality career pathway program elements based on existing definitions in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the Alliance for Quality Career Pathways Framework, and others. Utilizing a variety of state and private data sources, EdSystems has developed an inclusive master list of programs in the greater Chicagoland region. Based on the threshold definition, the team developed an extensive survey that was sent to all programs in that listing to gather more in-depth descriptive data to assess the practices and quality of this broad range of programs. The project team has also conducted several subregional meetings to engage a spectrum of stakeholders in the project and gather additional descriptive data about existing programs and practices, as well as the broader career pathways system in the Chicagoland region.
The ProPath Landscape Scan is the first comprehensive inventory of career pathway programs of its kind. Ultimately, the project team will provide an extensive analysis of the types of career pathway programs in the region; their profile in the aggregate, by sector, and by population served; the capacity of programs to meet current and projected needs (based on labor market projections in the WIOA Unified State Plan); potential gaps between industry need and available resources; and information on program marketing and outreach. Further, the final project will include recommendations for how information from the scan can be used by State agencies, funders, local program administrators, community-based organizations, counselors, parents, and young adults, and will include a plan for future replication and updates.
The Illinois Science and Technology Coalition (ISTI) is a STEM focused non-profit that provides programs and partnerships to connect companies with classrooms. As part of their work, ISTI has worked closely with public and private partners to develop STEM Challenges, which offer Illinois high schools students the opportunity to investigate and solve problems that are relevant to Illinois industry. ISTI works with industry partners to customize each project to reflect a current and authentic research problem and spark student interest in R&D careers. These STEM Challenges are designed to teach the critical skills inherent in problem solving and STEM concepts by exposing students to R&D applications beyond the classroom. They also enable students and teachers to build relationships with Illinois industry and STEM professionals.
STEM Challenge projects have addressed food safety, technology, aerospace and defense, health, environmental sustainability and behavioral economics.
Since 2013, EdSystems has partnered with ISTI as part of the STEM Learning Exchange effort. Recently, EdSystems and ISTI, sponsored by the Joyce Foundation, have partnered to design, develop, and implement a STEM Challenge grant for Illinois 60 by 25 Communities. This grant is focused on the development of an intermediary at the community level that can connect with industry leaders in order to support a goal of developing industry mentors through the Mentor Matching Engine , bringing new STEM Challenges to new high schools, and strengthening the connection between schools and the business community at the local level. EdSystems works closely with members at the community level to ensure that these programs are aligned with other initiatives they are engaged in through the Illinois 60 by 25 Network.
Information Technology has been recognized as a core industry sector that is crucial to Illinois’ future economic growth and CompTIA is one of the core partners in this effort. In 2013, CompTIA was named as the organization to lead the Illinois Information Technology STEM Learning Exchange, and has been working closely with public and private partners since then to advance the development of career pathway systems in IT for all learners.
The IT Learning Exchange has developed multiple learning platforms for both students and educators through its free of charge delivery of Raspberry Pi app development programs for youth and professional development sessions for teachers. The Exchange has been also been heavily involved in the development and implementation of work-based learning in the IT sector through the Early College STEM Schools. They have developed an innovative work-based learning model based on a rethinking of the 4Ps of internships: Pay, Place, Person, and Project.
Since 2013, EdSystems has partnered with CompTIA and the Illinois IT Learning Exchange in the development of the IT Learning Exchange and in coordinating the Exchange with other statewide efforts in Career Pathway System development. In October 2015, we partnered with the Exchange to host the IT Work-Based Learning workshop for communities in the Illinois 60 by 25 Network. This workshop was focused on the development of community level resources to build IT career pathway systems with a high emphasis on innovative work-based learning solutions for the IT sector. In early 2016, EdSystems secured additional funds from the Illinois Department of Employment Security to provide additional resources for the successful professional development and student app competitions using the Raspberry PI platform. EdSystems has worked closely with communities in the Illinois 60 by 25 Network to support a wide range of these opportunities for all Illinois residents.
In Spring 2015, the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association worked in concert with the German American Chamber of Commerce, Harper College, and CICESS (Central Illinois Center of Excellence in Secure Software), and EdSystems to develop the Illinois Advanced Apprenticeship Consortium (IAAC). In September 2015, IAAC was awarded a $3.9 million grant from the Department of Labor for its application in the American Apprenticeship Initiative. The initiative lays out specific criteria in the development of apprenticeship programs that are agreed to by consortia members. IAAC programs will:
Target middle to high-skill occupations;
Be employer driven;
Use industry-defined competencies, standardized curriculum framework and company training materials, and a common industry certification;
Include a comprehensive examination;
Offer apprentices an economically feasible program structure that leads to an associate’s degree and industry certifications;
Involve close cooperation between college and employer to alternate classroom training and on-the-job learning at short intervals; and
Align with both (i) regional, sector-based career pathway systems that provide on-ramps to IAAC apprenticeships, particularly for under-represented populations, and (ii) bachelor’s degree programs for apprenticeship completers.
EdSystems partnered with the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association to write the successful American Apprenticeship Initiative application and has worked consistently with the IAAC Steering Committee to develop the roll out of these programs. Additionally, in their role in connection to other career pathway efforts across the state, EdSystems is spearheading the pre-apprenticeship program LEAP (Leaders in Excellence in Apprenticeship Preparation) Initiative, that will be rolled out in concert with other Youth Workforce Development initiatives throughout the state in 2017.