The career pathway maps developed by the WIC iterated upon those originally developed by the Career Pathways Task Force, a group of public and private sector partners tasked with identifying educational and training opportunities to help more DC residents enter and progress in the workforce. The career pathway maps are tools that help individuals explore available opportunities in the District’s high-demand industries; they also serve as a tool for professionals in education, workforce development, and human resources, as they support jobseekers and employees in choosing among the opportunities that interest them. The career pathway maps include information about credentials, labor market value, and wages relevant to the local context.
In August and September of 2021, the DC Workforce Investment Council (WIC) held a series of focus groups with employers and workforce system partners to review, validate, and update career pathway maps in the District of Columbia’s six high-demand industries:
- Business Administration and Information Technology
- Law Enforcement and Security
The goal of these focus groups was to receive feedback to enhance and strengthen the content of the career pathway maps, particularly considering changes in the workforce resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Between 5-12 employers attended each of the six industry focus groups, and 60 representatives attended three focus groups held with workforce system partners, including District agencies and community-based organizations.
Highlights of the feedback received during these focus groups includes:
- Employers noted labor shortages due to the pandemic in all six industries.
- Employers emphasized the importance of on-the-job training as a way for jobseekers to gain meaningful work experience beyond certification requirements.
- There was a strong desire to ensure maps emphasize upward mobility options for entry-level jobs across industries.
- There was a desire to see important positions that either act as bridges to other positions or represent alternative entry points into the pathways.
- Minimum wage salaries are not sustainable for the rising cost of living in DC; low salaries lead to qualified candidates leaving DC in search of lower costs of living.
- Employers and workforce partners emphasized the importance of training providers ensuring that their programs closely align with business’s hiring needs.
- Longer-term training programs can deter or hinder residents from entering the workforce or a particular industry.
- Many employers and workforce partners identified challenges encountered by jobseekers due to failed background checks and/or drug tests required for training or employment.
- Employers emphasized the importance of “core” skills such as strong verbal and written communication, digital literacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving.
- Supportive services, especially childcare and transportation, are critical to support jobseekers and employees, particularly as the region recovers from the pandemic.
- Employers noted that greater education on COVID-19 precautions, risks, and safety measures are needed for employees; many employees continue to express concerns about returning to in-person work.