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"Recession-proof" pathways to careers

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Career Pathways, now a national initiative, began as a prototype at Madison Area Technical College. The idea is that people actually own their credentials and own their talent. When people have skill sets for an industry rather than a specific job, they can move up into better jobs and from company to company. They might even become "recession-proof."
In Madison, career pathway initiatives are being developed to reach kids in the high school and post-secondary education systems and assist them in career development training outside of the traditional framework of higher education.
Since the recession, the skills companies need have changed rapidly, and traditional entry-level jobs, which a person could once obtain with just a high school education, now demand a more specific skill set than what a high school or even college education provides.

So Madison College, along with many area technical colleges, worked with faculty and businesses to identify skills that can be stacked to put a person on a career path. Students can't always see ahead to an Associate's or Bachelor's degree, but may find it easier to commit to one or two courses that will build them up and move them towards a specific career path.
Increasingly, more young students enrolling in Madison College don't see the relevance of taking English or math courses. This career pathway education structure becomes more of an applied learning method, with classes geared towards a healthcare or manufacturing environment, for example. Students can then work in a technical area while earning academic credentials.
Breaking down a two-year Associate's degree program and having multiple entrance and exit points for students, as well as creating packages of competencies in industry and career areas, allows students to obtain their education and skills training in chunks and come back even when they're working. Once they build up four "chunks" they've earned an Associate's degree; it's a direct link to a four-year degree that is more accessible.
This platform also helps when moving people inside of companies.

"There is a huge labor shortage right now," says Turina Bakken, Associate Vice President of Learner Success at Madison College. "We really have to concentrate on growing our own and moving people through companies and across companies."
They are very careful about making sure students don't have to "back up," and keep people moving forward in a credential or degree program.
Writer: Nicole Rupersburg
Sources: Turina Bakken, Associate Vice President of Learner Success at Madison College and Pat Schramm, Executive Director of the Workforce Development of South Central Wisconsin
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