• City Colleges of Chicago
  • Chicagoland Workforce Funders Alliance
  • Chicagoland CareerPathways
Managing Director of Pathways & Operations
Managing Director of Policy & Programs

Middle-Skills Pathways in Chicago

Middle-skill occupations have historically served as an on-ramp to the middle class. In today’s economy, however, there is a crippling skills gap across industry sectors. Research by the National Skills Coalition finds that for Illinoisians, “A majority of jobs (52%) require skills training beyond a high school, but not a four-year degree. But too few of Illinois’s workers — just 41% — have had access to the skills training necessary to fill these in-demand careers.” Given current education and degree production, there is a gap between the workforce that has this level of education and the number of jobs that require it. Local research points to opportunities for greater systems alignment and information to help close this gap. In Phase 1 of Pro Path, an initiative supported by the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance in collaboration with local education funders, EdSystems and the project team found two particularly relevant challenges: a lack of consistent language and quality information about programs and systems, as well as opportunities for better program delivery and alignment across the system. Stakeholders deeply engaged in the project indicated that essential to the success of individuals trying to navigate the system and enter into quality jobs would be to enhance programmatic information sources and ensure that programs are more easily navigable and stackable.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic’s broad impacts on employment, it is even more essential to ensure that Chicago’s education and training systems are aligned to evolving labor market demand and enable individuals to efficiently obtain quality middle-skills certifications and credentials to succeed in the labor market. Further, transparency and quality information about these programs will enable individuals throughout the region to identify opportunities that are an appropriate match and fit for their interests and goals.

Our Role

To determine how education and workforce partners can advance middle-skills pathways in Chicago, Education Systems Center is conducting a deep landscape analysis of existing pathways that lead to industry credentials and degrees associated with priority occupations. Since this project’s launch in 2020, we have completed eleven analyses for the following sectors:

Work is now underway on supporting the operationalizing of our recommendations and incorporating analyses into the Chicagoland CareerPathways website.

This project is designed to:

  • Inform those involved with system design and implementation
  • Identify policy barriers to effective program progressions for populations of focus
  • Connect to the Chicagoland Workforce Funders Alliance Progressive Pathways initiative
  • Inform employer engagement strategies
  • Inform the funding community of gaps and strategic investment opportunities

Project Resources

The Latest


Performance-Based Assessment Showcase

At the Performance-Based Assessment Design Cohort Showcase on May 18, 2023, we were able to hear the teachers talk about their projects and the process of creating them, and see up close how performance-based assessments can be used across disciplines and with students from a range of backgrounds with a variety of characteristics.

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Community College Pathway Equity and Currency

To help encourage learners to complete the rigorous requirements and earn the College and Career Pathway Endorsement (CCPE) opportunity, as well as matriculate into postsecondary pathways, EdSystems is supporting the development of equity-centered strategies alongside incentives or currency that will help students and their families.

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I-WIN Events

Supporting Young Women in Manufacturing

On Tuesday, May 23, 10–11 a.m., learn about best practices, community models, and resources for supporting young women to pursue experiences in manufacturing. This session will also share insights and feedback gathered from female high school and college students on what they want to see in these efforts.

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I-WIN Events

Regional Team-Based Challenges

On May 9, leaders from Ridgewood High School, Triton College, Waubonsee Community College, and Elgin Community College shared how they are hosting regional team-based challenges in education, manufacturing, and health sciences.

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