FEBRUARY 4, 2014

Workers are increasingly enrolling in classes in hopes of improving their earnings. Too often, information about education opportunities is unclear, resources are insufficient, and no good decision-making support is available. As a result, workers enter into programs with no clear labor market relevance or have trouble navigating the education system and program options. Such missteps are difficult enough for well-supported and technologically-savvy consumers – they can be entirely derailing for lower-income adults who can least afford the lost time and money.

Our working concept paper, Career Navigation in a Volatile Labor Market, explores how organizations and communities can build better infrastructures to support workers as they navigate education opportunities.

Good career navigation is a blend of supports that provide and make sense of information about work and learning, based on the assumption that decisions about learning should naturally be informed by data about work, and vice versa. Such supports reflect a set of competencies – a network of supports and information – that are unlikely to be found in one individual or organization. Instead, we argue that communities must plan and build a set of integrated career navigation competencies that reflect both “high tech” and “high touch” supports towards helping workers make symbiotic, practical work and learning choices.

Such competencies are far more likely to be feasibly demonstrated by a network of intentionally integrated resources, rather than one person serving all functions. Because such competencies require diverse skill sets and information access, we maintain the needed infrastructure is most effective when built across agencies and institutions who can be intentional about a unified approach.

Organizations and/or communities can begin implementation of a robust career navigation infrastructure by doing the following:

  • Identify and build a network of trusted partners across organizations (educational institutions, CBOs, employers, One-Stops, etc.) that reflect expertise in these core competencies;
  • Document the use of “high tech” career navigation tools that are already available, including their successes and gaps in support;
  • Obtain feedback from workers attempting to navigate and make good choices in their local context of educational options and determine areas of strength and weakness from their perspective;
  • Inventory the competencies already available and well-established in the local community, the reach and resources of these organizations, and opportunities to strengthen connections and close gaps in serving working learners.

Download Career Navigation in a Volatile Labor Market. To further explore how to build robust career navigation infrastructure in your organization or community, please contact Holly Parker at


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