Career Pathways Have Been a Major Success in Delaware—How Can We Make them Even Better?

September 22nd, 2023

Category: Postsecondary Success

At a Glance...

-Delaware Pathways is once again featured in a national case study: Scaling Opportunity, published by Bellwether Education Partners. The report notes keys to Delaware’s success, including our ability to bring partners together and scale ideas statewide.
-The case study also focuses on innovative approaches happening in Delaware, like starting earlier in middle grades, building a strong coalition of partners, and offering access to rigorous pathways that provide access to college credit and industry credentials to students in pathways.
-The case study recommends a few areas for Delaware to focus next, including improving its data systems, expanding access and equity, and beefing up its work-based learning options.

Delaware and its system of career pathways are the subject of a new case study presented by Bellwether Education Partners, Inc.

As we’ve written here before, Delaware Pathways has been recognized as one of the best systems in the country at preparing young people for life after graduation. Other states have looked to Delaware to learn lessons for their own students, particularly around, as Bellwether points out in Scaling Opportunity:

  • Delaware’s steadfast public-private partnerships
  • A clear vision, effective plan, and strong leadership
  • “Braided” funding strategy to maximize public and private funds
  • Alignment between programs and workforce needs
  • Rigor, flexibility, and support throughout program
  • Design and implementation


The variety of stakeholders and their partners was not just a demonstration of goodwill in Delaware, but offered tangible strategic implications. This cooperation opened up sources of funding that might have been closed to a single entity, and engaged folks who might not have otherwise been brought to the table.Scaling Opportunity

Those keys to success have enabled Delaware to enroll nearly half of all its high school students—over 23,000 of them—in a career pathway. Nearly a decade into Delaware Pathways’ implementation, student participation in the program has increased rapidly, and the programs of study have expanded from just one to over 20.

Delaware Pathways link education and workforce development efforts for youth and provide opportunities for youth to gain work experiences aligned with their career goals through a series of high-quality education programs that link to postsecondary education and careers. Programs and supports are available across Delaware’s local education agencies and a statewide workforce intermediary.

The intent is not to pigeonhole students into a single career, but to help them make more informed choices about what they want to do next.

Students have felt the positive impacts of this approach in tangible ways: Since 2018, Delaware saw:

  • A 6.6-percent increase in students enrolled in advanced coursework
  • A 17.4-percent increase in dual enrollment participation
  • A nearly 13-percent increase in seniors earning industry credentials


While Pathways’ success is well documented, stakeholders are beginning to emerge with a vision for its immediate future.

As Scaling Opportunity points out, Delaware Pathways is at a crucial, post-COVID inflection point similar to its inception in 2014, in the wake of the Great Recession.

We know there are employee shortages across every sector—from our core “enabling” sectors like education and healthcare—to our emerging, high-growth sectors like IT and advanced manufacturing.

But after the seismic shifts that COVID-19 wrought, here are a few key issue areas that Bellwether suggested Delaware could advance further:

  • Refresh Pathways’ governance model by reconvening relevant stakeholders more often and considering ways to bring in other stakeholders, such as parents or students.
  • Develop a renewed vision for Delaware Pathways and draft an accompanying strategic plan focused on program sustainability and accessibility.
  • Systematize ongoing data efforts to integrate data collection, analysis, and reporting, as well as program iteration, into an annual cycle.
  • Address disparities in equitable access and completion rates using the data gathered. And,
  • Expand access to work-based learning by providing more information and advising for students while involving employers more deeply.


Read Scaling Opportunity: A Case Study on Delaware Pathways here, and check out the companion Policy Playbook for Effective Statewide Career Pathways Programs here.

To engage more deeply with Delaware Pathways, explore their website. Ready to engage with students and schools, or offer work-based learning opportunities? Visit the Delaware Office of Work-Based Learning.

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Paul Herdman



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