VIDEO - Career Pathways, One Year Later

Event - January 2016

VIDEO - Career Pathways, One Year Later

On Tuesday, December 15, 2015, the Center for an Urban Future and NYU Wagner convened a forum on realizing the promise of Career Pathways, the city's new approach to workforce development.

Tags: economic opportunity workforce development human capital higher education youth community colleges skills crisis employers

On December 15, 2015, the Center for an Urban Future (CUF) and NYU Wagner convened a symposium to reflect on the first year of Career Pathways, New York City’s new approach to workforce development. The event featured a keynote speech by Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, and brought together civic and nonprofit leaders, policymakers, and workforce development practitioners for a high-profile panel discussion. Panelists included: Katy Gaul-Stigge, Executive Director, NYC Office of Workforce Development; David Bolotsky, Founder & CEO, UncommonGoods; Pat Jenny, Vice President for Grants, New York Community Trust; Sharon Sewell-Fairman, Executive Director, Workforce Professionals Training Institute; Julie Shapiro, Executive Director, The Door; and Christian González Rivera, Senior Researcher, Center for an Urban Future (moderator).

Timed to take place roughly one year after Mayor de Blasio launched Career Pathways, the symposium was designed to reflect on the early successes of Career Pathways, discuss the challenges that remain and explore what additional steps should be taken in the months ahead to realize the very ambitious vision set forth by Career Pathways.



Introductions and Keynote, featuring featuring Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen with NYU Wagner's Neil Kleiman and Center for an Urban Future's Gifford Miller and Jonathan Bowles:



Panel Discussion, featuring Katy Gaul-Stigge, Executive Director, NYC Office of Workforce Development; David Bolotsky, Founder & CEO, UncommonGoods; Patricia Jenny, Vice President for Grants, New York Community Trust; Sharon Sewell-Fairman, Executive Director, Workforce Professionals Training Institute; and Julie Shapiro, Executive Director, The Door.


Summary & Take-aways

Keynote and Panel

Deputy Mayor Glen kicked off the event by framing Career Pathways as a key component of the de Blasio Administration’s efforts to tackle income inequality. She highlighted many of the city’s investments in workforce development: doubling the funding for sector-based training programs and CUNY ASAP, scaling two Industry Partnerships and laying the groundwork for four more by the end of 2016, and creating HireNYC, the largest targeted hiring program in the nation.

The panel delved deeper into the achievements of the first year of Career Pathways and the challenges that lay ahead. All the panelists agreed that one of the biggest accomplishments of Career Pathways so far has been to create an unprecedented level of cohesion among city agencies, workforce funders, and providers. Julie Shapiro, the executive director of The Door, one of the city’s largest providers of youth workforce development services and a pioneer in youth-focused bridge programs commented that, “I have been doing this work in the city for 20 years and it really feels like this is a different moment where there is cooperation among agencies and shared language and values.”

One of the areas of shared values that the panel discussed was finding pathways for young people and people with low literacy levels. Young people need time to explore their career options and decide what industries they will pursue, while people with low literacy levels often do not make the cut for training programs that can get them the skills they need to be more competitive in the labor force. The panelists pointed to the need for the city to invest in new bridge programs to serve those populations, scale up existing programs that work, and ensure that young people in particular are engaged in pre-bridge career exploration programs that will help them find their career path.

The panelists also pointed out that the biggest challenges include meaningfully engaging employers through Industry Partnerships and ensuring that providers have the technical and financial capacity to run programs under Career Pathways. Katy Gaul-Stigge of the Mayor’s Office for Workforce Development emphasized that getting the Industry Partnerships to be effective engines of change in the workforce system will involve getting the right employers at the table. Meanwhile, David Bolotsky of UncommonGoods recommended that the city make it simpler for employers to navigate the set of services that the city has available. “I’m more informed than the average businessperson about what the city has to offer,” he said. “But let’s figure out how to make it simpler for employers and jobseekers to take advantage of the great intentions in this room.”

Sharon Sewell of WPTI reminded the audience that ensuring that community-based organizations (CBOs) are at the table and that they have the capacity to do the work is essential. She pointed out that organizations that are able to blend public and private dollars have most flexibility to deliver the services that jobseekers need, and recommended that the Mayor’s Office of Workforce Development consolidate funding streams in order to give CBOs a better shot at getting the resources they need to run effective programs.

Strategy Sessions

The event concluded with table discussions to collect feedback and ideas from attendees that would inform how the de Blasio administration proceeds with the second year of Career Pathways. The strategy session, which were facilitated by CUF Board member Blake Foote and CUF senior researcher Tom Hilliard, were organized into seven groups, each discussing an important topic related to Career Pathways. Several key themes emerged in group recommendations, including:

  • Workforce development staff need to develop multiple, flexible skills sets in the emerging paradigm, including expertise in target sectors, holistic approaches to working with customers, long-term planning and case management of clients, and collecting and measuring outcome data.
  • On the customer side, attendees identified a need for flexible program options, such as wrap-around services, financial literacy, mentorship, and skills training, coordinated through a case management approach.
  • Providers also need assistance in developing a more proactive relationship with employers, who will only remain engaged to the extent that the city’s workforce services save them time or money.
  • It is important to work with employers to learn what skills and credentials they value, how to encourage them to support some skills and credentials more, and whether demonstrating competencies might substitute for certain credentials in the hiring process.

See below for additional insights from the breakout groups.

CUF & Career Pathways

The forum built upon the Center for an Urban Future’s ongoing research about the importance of expanding NYC’s workforce development to be more focused on building the skills of the local workforce—and not simply on  placing New Yorkers into jobs. In Green Light for Career Pathways in NYC, we put forth four specific ideas for making lasting cultural changes toward a career-focused workforce system. In Fulfilling the Promise of the Jobs for New Yorkers Task Force, we focused on how to overcome the implementation and governance hurdles that could prevent the city from moving forward with the Career Pathways. In 2014, our Bridging the Disconnect report explored how to revamp city services to tackle New York’s youth unemployment crisis. And over the past year, we released ongoing commentaries urging local policymakers to invest in adult education and to strengthen the City University of New York’s role as a workforce development provider.


 Ideas from Breakout Groups

The event concluded with breakout groups with attendees to collect input on several challenges facing NYC’s workforce development system. Below are the ideas from each group.

Connecting jobseekers with limited skills to career pathways

  • Better assessment of skills outside of high school equivalencies. Are we talking about literacy, or work-specific skills? What other skills can we work with?
  • Work with employers to see the value of different skills and credentials. What skills do employers value, and how do we get them to value some things they don’t value currently?
  • Employer involvement in defining competencies vs. skills vs. credentials needed to do a job. Maybe a worker is competent at the job even if they don’t have the diploma or cert.
  • Transparency about who’s involved in building bridge programs, and bringing all the stakeholders to the table as we start building skills for jobseekers.

Building capacity and nurturing skills in the workforce development field

  • Many staff are generalists focused on rapid attachment. Staff need training to become experts in target sectors.
  • Staff need to learn how to address their customers holistically – listen to where customer is, build knowledge of evidence-based practices and trauma-informed practices.
  • Build knowledge of other programs/services and how to refer to one another.
  • Learn to shift from immediate next step to long-term planning. Learn to train staff to talk about to long-term planning (including appropriate steps for life stability), including education/training and government assessment.
  • Elevate the workforce development field itself by creating career pathways in our field. That would attract people to the field. We also need to elevate salaries to build professionalism.

Establishing effective employer partnerships in a sectoral context

  • Engaging the proper employer leadership, which varies from sector to sector
  • Use experience of workforce professionals operating in these sectors, such as workforce one leaders.
  • Make accessible for employers in a way that saves them time or money, e.g, create software that enables them to prescreen applicants.

Exploring internship, apprenticeship and other competency-based workforce strategies

  • Paid internships set up young people for future success. But there must be realistic expectations for after the internship.
  • Measure skills gained, not just job entry.
  • Mentoring opportunities, e.g., through career counselors. Provide opportunities for young people to be mentored throughout the internship.

Building partnerships between workforce, postsecondary and adult education fields

  • Create physical and conceptual spaces for connecting partners between adult education, postsecondary and workforce, so that clients know what programs they can take advantage of.
  • Make postsecondary transition funding available to adult education programs, so that clients will have different pathways to take toward a postsecondary education. The city can also create a clearinghouse matching jobs and skills to credit-bearing and non-credit-bearing postsecondary programs. The clients can make decisions about what pathways they want to take.

Collecting and using data for continuous improvement and accountability

  • Create common definitions, inputs and outputs that are established and standardized across all sectors, and which are then shared throughout city and state to compare and have baseline. This would allow for innovation and differences across all sectors.  
  • Investigate and assess options for data collection, including a unified data system or connected data systems that talk to each other and overall design and usability of data collection systems, and how we can make it easier for already overburdened staff to collect and share the data.
  • Training and capacity building for collecting, measuring and sharing data and outcomes

Serving youth through work-based learning and industry partnerships

  • Extending time to produce intended outcomes, e.g., 2 months vs. 6 months training programs, based on the need that is assessed for each student.
  • Flexible program options
    • Assess and honor need for wrap-around services
    • Comprehensive financial literacy and financial support
    • Establishing relationship with key adult mentor/advocate
    • Youth need more skills training (soft and hard) in order to be successful in the workforce, coaching and mentoring
    • Coaching or guidance around working with young adults
  • Case management and support services, including integrated tracking of students across programs.