Illinois Pathways: Improving Education, Workforce, and Economic Development Coordination to Build More Effective STEM Talent Pipelines

Illinois Pathways, funded through Race to the Top, was recently launched by Governor Quinn to support P–20 education and workforce training systems that enable learners to explore their academic and career interests in STEM fields. In addition, Illinois Pathways is set to launch the first STEM Learning Exchanges later this year, a new and innovative network of statewide public-private partnerships organized by career cluster that work to coordinate planning and investment to support local STEM programs. Join a panel of State of Illinois agency representatives and the Illinois Business Roundtable to learn more about this new and important initiative and how it will be implemented throughout Illinois.

As Illinois’ economy continues to recover, it is critically important to understand how our economy is both growing and changing. More importantly, we need to make sure our education system is supporting students in developing the skills and knowledge that will ensure they are competitive in a 21st century economy. We know that the majority of job opportunities in the future will require some level of college education or training. As part of this effort, the State of Illinois’ P–20 Council has established a goal to increase the proportion of Illinoisans with high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by the year 2025. Illinois Pathways supports the increase of credential attainment aligned to the state’s economic development objectives.

Illinois Pathways, funded through Race to the Top, is a new and innovative State of Illinois-led STEM education initiative designed to support college and career readiness for all students. Coordinated through a partnership between the State of Illinois’ education and economic development agencies, Illinois Pathways supports local programs that empower students to explore their academic and career interests in STEM fields while also supporting new statewide, public-private partnerships known as Learning Exchanges that better coordinate investments, resources and planning for those programs.

As part of Illinois Pathways, the Illinois State Board of Education, the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the Illinois Community College Board, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the Illinois Department of Employment Security, and the Illinois Student Assistance Commission created the IPIC through a landmark intergovernmental agreement to support education and workforce pathways for youth and adults aligned to the state’s economic development objectives. Illinois Pathways is intended to improve education, workforce, and economic development coordination in order to build more effective talent pipelines throughout the state in critical STEM fields. As part of the IPIC, each state agency is committed to aligning its programs and policies to support STEM talent pipelines across education and workforce systems.

The Illinois Pathways initiative proposes a new and innovative approach to increasing credential attainment by supporting two strategies: (1) better support education and training systems to enable learners to explore their academic and career interests in STEM fields, and (2) improve coordination of public and private investment, including business and industry, in supporting the development of a workforce that can be competitive in tomorrow’s economy.

To that end, the Illinois Pathways initiative is utilizing federal Race to the Top funds to support high schools in implementing career pathway and program of study models in cooperation with their postsecondary and workforce partners. These programs will provide opportunities for students to explore careers in STEM fields; develop academic, employability, and technical skills; and connect to a wide range of work-based learning opportunities.

In addition, Race to the Top funding is being utilized to seed new and innovative statewide public-private partnerships, called Learning Exchanges, for each of these targeted STEM sectors. These statewide Learning Exchanges will coordinate with regional networks to aggregate curricular resources, assessment tools, professional development systems, work-based learning opportunities, and to support performance evaluation across the P–20 education and workforce system.

As Illinois continues to grow its economy, it is important that we leverage new and innovative public-private partnerships that span P–20 education and workforce systems and provide access to career pathway opportunities for youth and adults to explore their academic and career interests, develop their skills, access employment, and grow their careers.

Documented Results
Illinois Pathways supports the scale-up of Programs of Study in critical STEM fields. Programs of Study are currently implemented through Career and Technical Education programs approved by the Illinois State Board of Education and the Illinois Community College Board. The Office of Community College Research and Leadership and the National Research Center for Career and Technical Education have both studied Programs of Study implementation and have consistently found that they have proven effective in increasing student achievement and relevance as well as improving transitions to postsecondary education and employment. Links to both organizations and their research findings can be found below under “For More Information.”

Potential Applications
Programs of Study are designed to improve access for underrepresented populations in STEM fields, including women, minority, low-income, and disabled populations. Central to Programs of Study is personalization and the ability to empower learners to explore programs and opportunities aligned to their academic and career interests. To accomplish this goal, Programs of Study are designed to utilize a diverse delivery network leveraging life-wide learning communities, including K–12 schools, regional center of education, community colleges, universities, virtual schools, and other assets to expand academic and career exploration opportunities for students. STEM Learning Exchanges are organized to increase access to resources and partnerships for educators and learners by achieving economies of scale for a network of Program of Study in a STEM field. By reducing the transaction cost among education partners and employers they will expand access to opportunities in STEM education.

For More Information