Institute for Economic and Racial Equity

Facilitating Advancement through Workforce Development

Passport for Career Advancement

For many low-income job seekers, publicly funded workforce development centers are the first step to a job in healthcare. Federally funded career pathways programs, such as PACE and HPOG, provide these centers with the resources they need to counsel people into program funded employment focused training and education programs, and often provide a range of services including child support, expenses for course materials and exam fees, and transportation allowances to help them complete their programs. They also typically offer employment preparation and support during the job search period. Occasionally they provide a few months of follow-up job transition support, however, too few focus on long-term sustainable advancement.

The current workforce development system takes a short-term approach to long-term goal attainment; a job that provides economic security and stability. Most career pathway programs focus on getting participants into their first job in healthcare with a promised vision of a future pathway to meet their employment goals. While this IS an important first step, the system is not designed to provide a foundation or to foster a sustainable, high-quality career. In healthcare, this often means that low-income healthcare workers who enter the field for better jobs and opportunities to advance end up in difficult, contingent, and low-quality work and often leave the healthcare field entirely. This proves a waste of their own time investment and federal dollars. Healthcare employees don’t leave because they are not motivated. Our research shows that they leave because opportunities for advancement and quality work are not materializing.

IERE’s collaboration with the Health CareeRx Academy at the Workplace in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and JVS in Boston, Massachusetts sought to address one part of this challenge. This team developed and piloted a new curriculum focused on preparing jobseekers for advancement titled “Passport to Career Advancement”. This curriculum includes active and engaged career counseling to ensure support through their training and into the beginning of their career, five workshops tooled to help people plan for advancement and overcome obstacles that they might face along their path with materials and detailed facilitators’ guides, as well as innovative and interesting teaching methods to engage participants in new ways.

Learn about the curriculum and the framework behind it.

Four workshops are in-person, and one is online.

  1. Navigating the Road Through your Health Career
  2. Starting a New Job
  3. Making Your Employer Work for You
  4. The Better Job Workshop
  5. Setting and Meeting Goals (online)

It starts and ends with real people…

In developing the curriculum, IERE staff went to HPOG participants and asked them to describe their career paths, the barriers they faced, and what they did to overcome those barriers. These conversations were used to create the fictional stories of six women – Sully, Tanya, Ester, Siyara, Geeta and Nancy – who start their careers in entry level positions and advance to meet their goals, even if those weren't’t the goals they started out with.

Woven into the important detail-oriented information presented through the curriculum, such as information about wages, duties, benefits, and workplaces, these 6 women ground the larger concepts into the reality of “now”. Participants follow these women as they move through their careers, face barriers, navigate unfair workplace practices, negotiate for new schedules and raises, and veer-off and get back on the road to career advancement.

Participants also get a chance to act out these stories in the Burnout boardgame. In the game, participants play as these characters as they manage time, training, family and work responsibilities amidst the ups and downs of life as they work to meet their career advancement goals.

logo for career advancement boardgameOn the first day of the curriculum, participants hear two women speak about their own experiences advancing in the health field:

One Day at a Time: Robin's Health Career Advancement Story

"I Gotta Get There": Nicole's Health Career Advancement Story

Basing this curriculum in the advancement stories of real women helps ground it and make the challenges and successes more real for people who may be just starting their health career journey. Over the course of the Navigating the Road though Your Career, participants tell their own stories about their priorities and goals, as well as the challenges they faced and the challenges they may face in the future. This helps prepare them to plan their own advancement roadmaps, which is done at the end of the very first workshop and revisited with career counselors on a regular basis afterwards.

Filling Real Gaps in Knowledge

The Passport to Career Advancement curriculum focuses on filling real gaps in knowledge that entry-level healthcare workers have. The first workshop, Navigating the Road Through Your Health Career includes information on the roles, wages, and training and certification requirements for entry-, mid- and high-level healthcare roles, and highlights the differences in practices, benefits, and operations in the four most common workplaces that healthcare workers operate in: Home Health Organizations, Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Facilities, and Hospitals.

In later workshops, participants learn about workplace operation and resources. Starting a New Job provides important on beginning a job that people starting their careers might not understand, such as comparing offer letters, filling out tax and immigration forms, interpreting paystubs and more.

Making Your Employer Work for You focuses on employer-based benefits, advancement pathways, and resources. This workshop aims to reduce the tension that employees may feel when going to HR about the benefits, protections, and internal labor markets they may be entitled to.

Breaking the Big Jumps into Small Steps

Another primary feature of the Passport to Career Advancement is the detailed planning it asks participants to do. While participants set an overall course to their goal job in Navigating the Road Through Your Career, they refine their plan and set the small steps to get to the next step in their careers in the Better Job Workshop and Setting Goals and Navigating Barriers.

The Better Job Workshop focuses on concrete steps that participants who already have jobs can take to either make their current job better or manage applying for new jobs. The workshop begins by asking participants to identify how they define a better job and what specific characteristics they want out of a new job. Then, participants identify the fears and anxieties that they have about applying for jobs or negotiating for better working conditions. Participants are walked through three important pieces to advancement – timing, preparation, and communication, and have a chance to walk through the steps to help a fictional character get a schedule that works better for her life. Finally, participants are talked through strategies to help get a new job while working and how their later resumes are different from their first.

The online course, Setting Goals and Navigating Barriers, hones in on providing specific strategies and walking participants step-by-step through meeting shorter-term goals. It includes tools for deep planning, staying accountable, assessing progress and goals, and rewarding oneself for meeting goals.

Learn more about our work in Career and Opportunity Pathways :