Welfare Peer TA Network Promising Pathways Podcast – Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative


I’m Karon Rosa with the Arkansas Career
Pathways Initiative. The initiative
in Arkansas is a partnership between Arkansas Department
of Higher Education and Department
of Workforce Services. I will represent
and tell you about the program at the 2-year colleges
in Arkansas, and Elroy Willoughby
is the representative from Department
of Workforce Services, and he will share with you
the eligibility criteria and the funding
for the initiative. The Arkansas Department
of Higher Ed. actually receives the grant from Department
of Workforce Services. We then sub-grant to 25 sites,
all of the 2-year colleges. Within each of those colleges
we have built an initiative that serves students
with tuition, childcare, transportation, all of
the barriers for students. In the 7 years that
we’ve had the initiative, we’ve learned a lot. Actually, the client was not
someone we expected to serve. When we wrote the proposal,
we thought we were going to be delivering a program
to 18- to 24-year-olds. Our students–the
characteristics of our students, have been interesting to us. Actually, they’re 31-year-olds,
single-parent mothers. A lot of them
are single-parent mothers. We’ve served over 22,000,
enrolled over 22,000, and we have issued over 20,000
credentials, certificates, or degrees in the program. At the colleges, the programs
that are offered by law– we’re a legislative
mandate at 514– and it says that we serve
students who will be employed in high-demand,
higher-wage programs. We did a gap analysis and
identified what would be in demand in Arkansas,
and that would be Allied Health. So about half of our
students, more than half, are enrolled
in Allied Health. The other half
is split between business– some type of business
administration– and a technical career. It may be welding.
It may be avionics. We are–the student population
is made up of 90% female, and I’m going to let Elroy
tell you just a little bit. People are always interested in what is your
eligibility criteria when we start talking
about our students. Thank you, Dr. Rosa. Again, my name
is Elroy Willoughby. I’m with the Arkansas Department
of Workforce Services. We’re so happy that
we had the opportunity to partner with Dr. Rosa and our Arkansas Department
of Higher Education. We found that many of our
low-income citizens did not have sufficient access
to post-secondary education. In that instance, the Arkansas
Career Pathways Initiative grew out of that,
and we began to partner with our Higher Education
State Department, as well as our 25 2-year
and vocational/educational institutions around
the State of Arkansas. To be eligible for the
Career Pathways Program, you have to be TANF-eligible
because we are utilizing our Federal Temporary Assistance for
Needy Families Program dollars, and also you have to be
a parent of a child. One of the things
that we’ve found, that often times our low-income
individuals did not have the access or the
motivation or the support to pursue post-secondary
education. Through our network of local
offices across the State, we are able to
assist our low-income and our TANF recipients in
getting an idea of what they want to do for their careers. Not only do we assist them
in determining what they want to do, we also offer them
the appropriate support and motivation to do it. Through our
partnership with Dr. Rosa, we are also able to identify
not only their needs and their goals, but also
identify some of those gaps, be it skill gaps
or educational gaps, that will help them
be successful. Dr. Rosa, would you like
to talk a little bit about the skill gaps? Yes, Elroy. I think that one of the
most rewarding things about this initiative has been
the unintended consequences or findings that we’ve had. And in addressing skill gaps,
we have put in a program that is unique and can be
used for fast-track Dev Ed. We’ve been recognized for
this program nationally also. We do–instead of a Compass
test for college entrance, we do a Compass diagnostics, and if the student is in
math, low just in fractions, we address that. It’s a 31-year-old, and they
may not have used fractions but may not be level
in every math level that they’ve been using. So we have
purchased software. We used some of the
one-time money to set up small computer labs
that are not intimidating. We then use a facilitator
and take them through a computer program that
may address only fractions. At the end of that short period,
we let the student re-test rather than spending
a semester in a Dev Ed. class and using up all
of your Federal aid. We have used
a facilitator, smaller labs, and some computer programs
that address that. And so, consequently,
we’ve been recognized for what we call
our fast-track Dev Ed. in that, Elroy. And, of course,
the students don’t wear out. It’s a shorter timeframe. Our nontraditional
students are impatient. They’re ready to go
into college or to re-test, so we’ve used that
successfully within the program. The surprising statistic
that we have on our students is we thought we would be
serving a lot of GED students, a lot of students who
had not finished high school. Most of our students,
as I said, are 31 years of age, and in all of the years that
our third-party evaluators looked at our data, they also have
a year of college. So, again, we’re
serving an invisible person in the community that’s not
being recruited traditionally by the 2-year college
that’s working at the Quik Stop or working at a factory. We have very high scores
on the NCLEX test, on the GED test some
of the highest in the State, and they are, in Arkansas,
the large pool of people that could be developed
into a workforce. As a State, we do a
good job of completing GEDs, completing high school,
but the student in there that’s 31, is not being
recruited, and I think that’s the thing that our college
presidents have learned. If this money goes away, I think
one of the sustainables will be the person in the community
that becomes invisible and that is not
being recruited. And all we need to do
as an agency and, of course, using the funds from TANF, is to address those
barriers of childcare, transportation,
how do I pay my tuition, and the case management
that we’ve learned from Department
of Workforce Services. You all always had
case managers following a client all the way through to make
sure they were successful, and we have replicated that
at the 2-year college, and we have case managers
that follow a student from entry into the
program or enrollment all the way through to bridging
them with an employer. And that’s a very
important point, Dr. Rosa. Due to the fact that
our Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program
is time limited and more so in
the State of Arkansas– we have a 24-month limit– so it is very important that
we diagnose our students, identify those gaps–both
educationally and skill gaps– and try to address
those in as fast a fashion as we possibly can. Again, we are dealing
with adult students, nontraditional students who,
in my parlance, life happens
for them every day. So they need a little bit of
help, a little bit of assistance to make it just above that
notch where they go from on-government assistance
into self-sufficiency and into careers. Elroy, we call it the
tyranny of the moment. They not only have homework to
do for one of the first times, they also have to work to be
eligible, so they have a job. They have children. They have
transportation problems. They have
motivational problems. You know, so they have
all of those things. And we say that
our students live in the tyranny of the moment,
and so we try to assist them with not only
educational barriers, but also some of
the emotional barriers at the same time. The interesting thing is that
our Higher Ed. presidents are now won over because
another unintended consequence that we were hoping for
but we were not real sure of, is when we matched our
data of the Pathway students to the database at Higher Ed. We had a 10-point
higher success rate of very hard-to-serve
nontraditional students, and it has–every year that
we have measured the data, it stayed that way. So I think this is a pattern
that can be replicated. I think it’s one that
needs a lot of attention even in other–
Higher Fd. institutions that do not have Career Pathways
because the model works. It’s, again,
the case management, and it’s providing
those fast-track Dev Ed. It’s addressing the
barriers within your State or within your region. And our barriers are different
in all the local areas. We are in very rural Arkansas
that has no transit system, and then we’re in the
Delta area of Arkansas, and we actually let
those program directors and the president
take that grant money and address the barriers that
they need in the local area. And we appreciate the
partnership that you all have trusted us enough
to let us do that with it. We subcontract,
and then we work daily with those program managers
to make sure if it’s more transportation money
they need on their budget. It’s not a
cookie-cutter program. We’ve actually let them address
that just like we let them address the jobs that
are needed in the workforce that’s needed in their area. Dr. Rosa, you know,
we’ve talked so much about the Career Pathways Initiative. Would you be willing
to share one of our student success stories
with our audience, please? That is another thing that
we’ve learned with this program, that pictures tell
more than one story. They tell a lot of stories. When Secretary Sebelius
came to Little Rock to visit our program, we
actually sought out a student– and, again,
our students are busy; we never get to prep
them–and an employer. We had Brittany Turner,
a young Hispanic lady tell Secretary Sebelius
and the entire room that she started
as a dish washer. She was pregnant at
the age of 16, had no idea– but was a 4-point student,
didn’t know how she was gonna make it
through school. Her scholarship money ran out
before she finished as a CNA. She ran into
the Pathways director, and the Pathways director said,
“Brittany, I can help you.” Brittany started at the same
employer where she is now as a dish washer,
and is now in the RN program. She told about having her home
paid for, raising her child, adopting some other children
that were in the family, and having, she said,
two vehicles paid for, and gave all of the
thanks and the praise to the local Pathways
program there at the college in Pulaski County. And your board had her last–
a couple of weeks ago, and she told the same
story to the board, and I didn’t see
a dry eye in the room. So those stories like
that certainly have given us the attention that we
need from your board, and just–it shows us the
strength of the partnership. It really is evidence that
this program is working. And I think that’s a
great testimony to the fact that you can get
previously silo, Federal and State
organizations and agencies, to work together,
that we can have more of those success stories like Brittany’s. Because I don’t know
that she would’ve found your local office. I worked in
Higher Ed. for years, and I would tell students
that they could get assistance, but I really didn’t
know the linkage. The other thing that we’ve done,
another unintended consequence, is we have a great network
in our local communities of resources that are documented
and linked for the students because we in Higher Ed.
would tell ’em about Pell Grants or something
that we knew about. But we have been forced to
know where the T offices are, where the DHS offices are, and I think that that is another
resource that was unintended in the beginning and is a great
strength for these communities, a sustainable community
at this point in time. Absolutely. And one other thing,
I think, has come out of the Career
Pathways Initiative. You talked about
the partnerships between Department
of Workforce Services and Department
of Higher Education. We also have our
Department of Human Services, as well as our
Department of Education in our Workforce
Investment Act programs, so we have a lot
of collaborations that are going on, both officially and
unofficially, that have come out of the Arkansas Career
Pathways Initiative. I think partnerships can
only strengthen initiatives, especially when
we start talking it out. Resources in a State where
the poverty level is so high and the education
level is so low, I think that the only way
that we’re going to make the needle move is to use
the–strengthen initiatives with partnerships because
alone we never have enough. Hi, I’m Lisa Washington-Thomas, the Branch Chief for the
Technical Assistance Branch in the Office
of Family Assistance. I want to thank you for watching
our video brought to you by the U.S. Department of
Health and Human Services, Administration for
Children and Families, Office of Family Assistance.

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