How Wisconsin can meet demand for skilled workers and support economic growth

The future of higher education in America must include adult career pathways, according to Morna Foy, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS). Foy recently spoke on Blogtalkradio about the importance of adult career pathways to potential students and employers.

“This is the future of higher education in this country,” Foy said. “Career pathways allow people to come into careers at different points and move along to increase skills and compensation.” She went so far as to say the concept is “an evolution and transformation in education that is crucial to (Wisconsin’s) economic success going forward.”

Wisconsin, and other states, need skilled adults to fill current openings. Too many adults lack the skills and training to fill technical jobs. These individuals need the specific education and training programs that help them meet the demand. Career pathways are Wisconsin’s strategy for structuring postsecondary education so that more adults develop the skills and earn the credentials needed for these high-demand, technical occupations.

In the podcast interview, Foy explained the career pathways model of breaking college degrees into smaller “chunks” so students can attain industry-driven credentials in a shorter amount of time, put their new skills to work and continue on for further education. This type of education can be more encouraging if students know the class work applies directly to a career. Developing these programs and curriculum requires input from local employers. It also requires that employers partner with colleges in identifying the ideal candidates for these programs and making commitments toward their continuing education.

Without a high school diploma Enisael Aguilera was repairing shipping pallets to support his wife and three children. While working to pass the GED exam, Aguilera learned about the many opportunities and good pay in welding, so he pursued it. Waukesha County Technical College offers a Metal Fabrication Technical Diploma and a related career pathway.

In the Metal Fabrication Welding class, a basic education teacher and an occupational instructor combined efforts to help Aguilera complete the course, earn a certificate and get a job as a finish welder. He started out making $14.00 per hour and soon earned a raise to $15.70 per hour. With this success under his belt, Aguilera wants to finish the GED and take more welding classes to earn the diploma. He is following Foy’s vision of an adult career pathway.

Career pathways benefit business, workers and communities. Everyone benefits from this effort toward developing a skilled, versatile workforce earning higher wages.

For more information about career pathways in the Wisconsin Technical College System visit our introduction to Career Pathways or https://www.wicareerpathways.org.