Career Pathways in Chicago, Houston, and Miami: Key Features and Support Services Among Adult Education Providers

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Dr. Esther Prins, Professor, Lifelong Learning and Adult Education Program at Penn State, is Co-Director of the Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy and the Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy. Her research interests include adult and family literacy and critical, sociocultural approaches to adult education. She was PI for a 3-year Institute of Education Sciences grant on career pathways (2015-2018).


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Dr. Carol Clymer is a Research Associate in the College of Education at Penn State University and Co-Director of the Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy and the Goodling Institute for Research in Family LiteracyDr. Clymer has 40 years of experience implementing and evaluating programs to improve the education and employment prospects of low-income and/or low-skilled individuals. As a Senior Program Director at Public/Private Venturesshe participated in the design and implementation of professional development projects and large-scale evaluations and outcomes studies related to performance benchmarking, employment retention, sectoral employment, out-of-school youth, and college access. As the Director of Literacy and Workforce Development at El Paso Community College, her work focused on adult education, workplace, and family literacy. She has also authored numerous publications including a guide to implementing IETs. 

The findings of an in-depth research study conducted by Dr. Esther Prins and Dr. Carol Clymer are presented in the article, "Career Pathways in Chicago, Houston, and Miami: Key Features and Support Services Among Adult Education Providers." The article underscores the importance of providing comprehensive support services to help adult learners address the cognitive and material burden of poverty. The article also addresses the gaps in many of the current career pathway models to help guide adult educators' decisions about how to design and implement career pathway programs so that adults are better prepared for postsecondary education and employment.

"Funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, the project included researchers at the Institute for the Study of Adult Literacy at Penn State and partners at the Chicago Citywide Literacy Coalition, Houston Center for Literacy, and Miami-Dade County Public Schools. The purpose of the project was to map the landscape of CP in these cities. This article uses survey data to describe salient features of CP across the cities and then uses qualitative focus group and case study data to analyze support services in greater detail. We selected this programmatic feature because it cuts across all case study sites and because the findings suggest it was crucial for helping students access and persist in CP programs. We argue that mental bandwidth is a useful way of conceptualizing how wraparound supports minimize the cognitive load of poverty, thereby expanding adult learners’ ability to focus on their studies."