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whats possible Wade Henderson

Bridging Education to Career Pathways to Improve Access and Opportunity

December 8, 2021

Postsecondary education helps us accomplish many things: building an engaged citizenry, supporting societal advances in health, technology and humanities, and helping individuals reach their potential. But for most students and their families, there is a major central goal: preparing for a career path that leads to a good job. However, not all postsecondary education pathways lead directly to that outcome, and some can be difficult to navigate, leaving students in a great deal of debt that can take years, or even decades, to clear. These challenges are exacerbated for nontraditional students or those from disadvantaged groups.

One possible solution is the development of strong career pathways. The career pathways movement seeks to ensure that the education students select will lead to that good job. Four hallmarks of career pathways include aligned, connected programs, multiple entry and exit points, a focus on career and employer engagement, and the provision of support services that promote student progress and completion.

ETS Research & Development examines careers in this context. Furthermore, we examine careers using a “Getting In, Getting Through, Getting Out and Getting On” framework that zooms in on key moments in career pathways, while considering the broader context in which pathways occur. Critically, we seek to understand how programs can provide that bridge between students and employers, ensuring that their credentials lead to greater opportunities for their graduates.

Some highlights of our work:

Research framework and approach

Haviland, S., & Robbins, S. Career and technical education as a conduit for skilled technical careers: A targeted research review and framework for future research. ETS Research Report Series.

Haviland, S., Olivera-Aguilar, M., Robbins, S., & Liu, L. (2021, Feb 19). Career and technical education (CTE) poised to respond to our Covid-19 economy. ETS Open Notes.

Kirsch, K., Sands, A., Robbins, S., Goodman, M., & Tannebaum, R. (2021). Buttressing the middle: A case for reskilling and upskilling America’s middle-skill workers in the 21st century. ETS Research Report, ETS Center for Research on Human Capital and Education.​


Student decision making.

Olivera-Aguilar, M., Roohr, K. C., Robbins, S. B., McCulla, L., & Bochenek, J. L., (2021). Technical careers in a time of crisis: Perception of essential career paths in a sample of young adults in NYC. Career and Technical Education Series, Educational Testing Service Research Notes.

Cho-Baker, S., & Olivera-Aguilar, M. (in press). Career and technical education latent pathways in young adulthood: Demographic and socioeconomic precursors and career outcomes. The Career and Technical Education Research.


Program design and labor market alignment.

Haviland, S., Robbins, S., Kirova, D., Bochenek, J. L., & Fishtein, D. (in press). Non-credit Career and Technical Community College Programs as a Bridge to Employers: Report on NYC Study. ETS Research Report Series.

Training programs to level the playing field.

Robbins, S., Belur, V., Li, K., & Lynch, J. (in press). Use of mobile enabled technology to promote essential skill development as co-curricular activity for adult learners. COABE Journal.


Training programs to assist with college and workplace success:

Haviland, S. B., Robbins, S., Belur, V., Cherfrere, G., & Klieger, D. (2021). Improving workforce readiness skills among adult learners through new technologies: Lessons from two schools. Metropolitan Universities32(1), 35–53. DOI: 10.18060/23884.

Sara Haviland is a research scientist at ETS. Steve Robbins is a principal research scientist at ETS.