Career Pathways


Students and a teacherPolicymakers are developing numerous strategies that link postsecondary education to the workforce needs of current and future economies. Legislators are increasingly recognizing the value of postsecondary education institutions and programs preparing students for high-demand skills and careers.

States have pursued a variety of options to build these workforce connections including: closer collaboration with industry, increased use and development of apprenticeship programs, expansion of credentials of value, and recognition of credit for prior learning.

NCSL has closely tracked each of these topics in recent years. Each webpage below provides specific descriptions and details of state policy enactments pertaining to each topic.

Workforce Development

States are increasingly looking to expand education programs that focus on workforce development in both secondary and postsecondary education. In post-secondary education these efforts include efforts to align investments with industry needs as well as engaging industry and employers. 

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Long popular in Europe, apprenticeship programs have become more common in the US as a proven approach to prepare workers for careers, while simultaneously meeting the needs of businesses. Using the “learn-while-you-earn” model, apprenticeship programs offer numerous benefits to both businesses and students.

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Credentials of Value

Credential programs that offer industry-wide, transferable recognition of skills or mastery have expanded to cover a range of career fields. Credential programs are often far shorter and significantly cheaper than traditional degree programs, providing advantages to adult learners. 

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Credit for Prior Learning

To save students both time and money, states are also developing policies that allow students to earn college credit for knowledge and skills gained outside of the classroom. US military veterans can often use skills, knowledge and certifications acquired while in service to shorten their time to attain a degree or credential.

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Additional Resources