A Sustainable Workforce Starts With You

More and More States Offer Multiple Career Paths

First Lady Michelle Obama appears in a new public service announcement aimed at promoting higher education to the youth of America. In the video, Mrs. Obama and Saturday Night Live's Jay Pharoah sing:

"If you wanna fly jets, you should go to college. Reach high and cash checks, fill your head with knowledge.

If you wanna watch paint don't go to college.

But, for everything else you should go to college."

You can watch the video below:

Mrs. Obama turns in a pretty good performance, honestly. But, the emphasis might be slightly misplaced. The well-intentioned video stresses the importance of four-year advanced degrees. While it doesn't shut the door on certification programs and other higher education options available to those who seek high-paying careers, it could leave one with the impression that a four-year degree is the only acceptable path.

Earlier this month, the National Conference of State Legislatures released this report on career pathway programs that states and local governments are implementing.

“Career pathways programs aim to improve the education and earnings of low-skilled adults by providing well-articulated training steps tailored to the local job market and accompanied by guidance and other supports,” the NCSL said. “The programs also emphasize assessment, academic and non-academic supports that adults need to complete their programs, and connections to employers.”

Here are some of the key components of a career pathways program:

    • A series of clearly defined and connected levels of education that build upon one other and lead to successively higher credentials and employment opportunities in growing occupations.
    • Multiple entry and exit points.
    • Comprehensive and intensive interventions to address the learning and life challenges facing adults.
    • Strong connections to the local labor market and employer needs.

At community colleges in Texas like Brazosport College, various programs are helping students break the cycle of poverty and earn competitive salaries.

Anne Bartlett, Brazosport’s Vice President of Industry and Community Resources recently told Construction Citizen “We're taking folks who've been on welfare and now they have this awesome job." She said it is "a life transformational thing that is helping our community as a whole because we're putting more people into the situation where they can be good citizens.”

The Jumpstart program is one way the demands of industry are being met. Art Longoria, Project Manager for grants associated with the program, said the initiative has come a long way since it began about two years ago. “We’ve got it down to a science now,” Longoria said with a smile.

The nine-week program allows students who truly apply themselves to quickly become pipefitter helpers, millwright helpers, or electrical helpers. “We train folks who qualify under the grant requirements which are pretty strict,” Longoria said.

Our full coverage of community college programs in Southeast Texas can be found here.

In addition to community colleges, training for various careers is available from organizations like Neighborhood Centers and Community Family Centers. For much more information on careers in the skilled trades, check out Construction Citizen's Craft Careers Section.