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Have You Heard about the Sector Strategies and Career Pathways Academy?

by Virginia Department of Education staff

Virginia received a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to cross-train practitioners from the workforce development partner agencies on sector strategies and career pathways. This will facilitate collaboration of regional networks of colleagues on workforce development initiatives with common understandings and goals to offer high-quality career pathways programming responsive to labor market opportunities in every region of the Commonwealth.

See the key definitions for this work in the sidebar. These definitions drive the work of the Academy and regional initiatives that arise from it.


Sector strategies are partnerships of employers within one industry that bring government, education, training, economic development, labor, and community organizations together to focus on the workforce needs of an industry within a regional labor market. At the state level, they are policies and investments that support the development of local sector partnerships.


A career pathways system is a series of connected education and training programs and support services that enables individuals to secure employment within a specific industry or occupational sector and to advance over time to successively higher levels of education or employment in that sector. Each step on a career pathway is designed explicitly to prepare for the next level of employment and education.

Career pathways programming is not new to adult education; both local and regional programs have been implementing pathway programs for various occupational tracks and cohorts for several years. However, implementing career pathways as the new service delivery norm for all workforce clients could bring great benefits. When students receive career pathway services from day one, they can experience meaningful career awareness and exploration opportunities; more explicit, seamless, and efficient course-taking sequences; and access to the supportive services they need to persist and complete education and training. When students understand how to earn and stack credentials to advance in a field, they can set near- and long-term goals and plan further education and training.

A sector strategy approach brings together many employers in a single industry, such as all the health care providers in a region, to discuss the current and future workforce needs and training plans. Pairing career pathways with sector strategies allows regional workforce partners to address in a proactive manner both the supply and demand sides of a regional economy.

The Academy is a blended learning model, combining in-person regional events with online self-paced courses and workgroups. Certain online courses are required for successful completion, but there are also elective online courses available so that participants may choose those that are the most applicable to their work. Participants who successfully complete the Academy requirements will earn a 26-hour SSCPA Certificate of Completion.

The first of the Academy cohorts will convene in May and June, beginning with the Foundations events and continuing with online learning components to earn badges and Certificates of Completion. A second wave of training will be offered in September and October. Ask your local and/or regional program manager about your program’s participation in the Academy and watch for opportunities to get involved.

Every adult education class should be considered part of a career pathway and offer learners opportunities to prepare for future education, training, and employment. Explore the featured links to find career pathways resources curated by VALRC.

This article was prepared by the staff of the Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education.

Featured Resources on Career Pathways

VALRC’s Career Pathways Page


This page features reports, training resources, and planning tools for developing and implementing career pathways programs.

VALRC’s Integrated Education and Training Blueprint Site


The Integrated Education and Training (IET) blueprint is based on the PluggedInVA model, a career pathways program that integrates academic and occupational training content through co-enrollment in adult education programs and postsecondary education and training. The site contains a map of IET programs in Virginia, a technical assistance roadmap, instructional career pathways materials for all skill levels, and resources for partnering with our WIOA partners and with employers.

Virginia Career Works


This is an online one-stop shop for information, policies, toolkits, and partner resources for building career pathways systems that are responsive to local industry needs.

The Employability Skills Framework


The Employability Skills Framework is a comprehensive resource for information and tools to inform the instruction and assessment of employability skills. Employability skills are general skills that are necessary for success in the labor market at all employment levels and in all sectors and have a number of names—soft skills, workforce readiness skills, career readiness skills. Check out the Employability Skills Checklist to support the integration of workplace readiness activities into adult education instruction.