Family Economic Mobility Toolkit

Exploring Career Pathways

Career pathways can take the guesswork for parents out of planning for their education and employment goals by:

  • Helping parents identify jobs they would like to apply for by showing how current job choices connect to long-term career goals.
  • Clearly identifying the next steps in a career, including what education, training, or experience is needed to reach the next level.
  • Helping parents sort through the wide range of education and training options.
  • Ensuring that time and money spent on education and training lead to meaningful credentials or degrees and employment.

Career pathways also support Head Start families to get jobs that have employment capital. Employment capital describes resources other than pay that help people stay in jobs and build assets, such as:

  • Job benefits: sick time, retirement savings, insurance
  • Job flexibility: flextime, options for work schedules
  • Consistent work: dependable hours that allow families to budget, arrange for child care, and plan for activities other than work.[1]

When looking for ways to connect families to educational opportunities, explore job training options and sources of career information. Since Head Start staff are familiar with family members’ strengths and skills, they are uniquely positioned to discuss career pathways with families, set career-related goals, and make referrals that are well-matched to career-related services.

Ideas for Action

1. Explore career interests.

Career assessments ask questions about skills, strengths, and interests, then show a list of potential careers that is based on the answers provided. Staff can invite parents to take a career assessment and discuss the results together.

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  • "Are there any careers you’ve been curious about?”
  • “What have you enjoyed about jobs you’ve worked in the past? What would you not want to do again?”

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2. Research specific careers.

Learning more about a career of interest helps families dive deeper into next steps. Staff can support families in assessing the alignment between a specific career and their skills, interests and long-term goals.

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  • “What are you really good at that could help you in this career?”
  • “What additional skills or training do you need to pursue this career?”

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3. Build a career plan.

Staff can help families determine what steps they need to take to get to their desired career. Staff can also provide resources on career pathways, training and education programs, and applying for jobs.

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  • “What will you need to do to land a job in your ideal career?”
  • "How can I support you in achieving this goal?”

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4. Learn about the cliff effect of earning higher wages.

Staff can help families learn about how an increase in wages would impact their eligibility for benefits and services, as they work toward their economic goals. Alongside families, staff can research requirements for receiving benefits and the conditions that could reduce or stop benefits altogether so that career choices are intentional and informed.

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5. Identify potential barriers to employment.

Staff can support families in considering what barriers they may face in pursuing employment or entering a career, and build strategies for addressing them. Discussions may include the need for child care and/or transportation, access to a computer and the internet, and language barriers.

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Support families in pursuing career pathways within Head Start programs.

If families are interested in early childhood education careers, programs can support families in career pathways within their own program. Personnel policies, 45 CFR §1302.90(b)(6) requires programs “to consider current and former program parents for employment vacancies for which such parents apply and are qualified.” Programs can provide volunteer opportunities, create training programs, and share career opportunities within the program. Dive deeper into program planning.

Support families in pursuing career pathways in family services or social work.

For families that are interested in family services or social work careers, Head Start training and technical assistance experts have assembled a database of certificates and credentials that families can explore.

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Learn More with These Resources