Supporting Systems Change Through Career Pathways Programs

One of Washington STEM’s central goals is to develop an equitable system for postsecondary credential attainment for Washingtonians, especially for students of color, young women, students from low-income households, and students living in rural areas. But how exactly does systems change happen?



Systems change happens through partnership, collaboration, and action across a wide set of partners at the state, regional, and local levels. It takes collaborators across education, community, business, and government to make big change possible. Career Connect Washington (CCW) is a good example of systems change in action. CCW is a statewide network of partners positioned to create rich, career-connected learning experiences for students in every corner of Washington.

The Origins of Career Connect Washington

Having spent several years developing a regional network system and a career-connected learning continuum, Washington STEM, in partnership with the State Workforce Board, was eager to host Governor Jay Inslee’s 2017 Career Connected Learning Summit. At the event, we shared our collective vision for career-connected learning and highlighted 21 programs from the Washington STEM-led Learning Lab research project. This showcased both the immense interest in career-connected learning throughout the state and across sectors and also pointed to some of the challenges we are tackling. With so many companies, public agencies, and nonprofits involved, there needed to be a stronger organizing force – to build the foundation and expand in an equitable manner. Later that year, Governor Inslee invited Washington education and workforce leaders to Switzerland to see what a model youth apprenticeship system looks like and to explore how that system could be adapted for Washington students and employers. It was a formative experience for participants and influenced our collective work to create educational and career opportunities that include certificates and apprenticeships, along with 2-year and 4-year degrees. Inslee then appointed Maud Daudon to lead this coalition, which has now built hundreds of programs and supported networks throughout the state to power CCW.

In the following two years, Washington STEM, our STEM Network partners, educators, business leaders, and community members continued to advocate for Career Connect Washington (CCW) as a state-funded system that would invest in training for Washington students for Washington jobs. This led to the successful passage of legislation (HB 2158), which officially established CCW as a systemic approach to creating meaningful, high-quality educational experiences that lead to family-wage jobs for Washington students through a state-wide system of CCW regional networks.

Our Partnership Today

Career Connect Washington (CCW) continues to evolve as a statewide systemic movement supported by state resources and agencies, regional Networks, labor, employers, K-12 and higher education, and community-based organizations. CCW’s 10-year vision anticipates that every young adult in Washington will have multiple pathways toward economic self-sufficiency and fulfilment, strengthened by a comprehensive state-wide system for career connected learning. Washington STEM has been a close partner for each step of CCW’s development – from sitting on the statewide team, designing data and measurement efforts, and supporting the CCW Networks & program developers, to developing and implementing equity strategies.

Looking to the Future

Washington STEM has helped to shape and design Career Connect Washington (CCW), and our role will likely continue to grow. We are confident that CCW’s emerging focus on communities and students furthest from opportunity is the right direction for the initiative; it’s the reason that we are committed to being a big part of this ecosystem.

In addition to the work we have done since CCW’s inception, Washington STEM continues to play a significant role in the statewide initiative today. We believe that CCW is one of the best ways to support students on a path to economic security, and it offers employers a way to meet their growing talent needs.

The goals and strategies of CCW are well-aligned with Washington STEM’s, particularly as CCW refines their focus on students furthest from educational justice. Today, our organization remains heavily involved through a variety of functions.

Our Work with Career Connect Washington Continues

  • Washington STEM staff sit on the Career Connect Washington Statewide Team, which guides the development of overall strategies, state policies, and outcome measurements.
  • Washington STEM leads the development and integration of an equity focus to authentically engage communities of color in the initiative.
  • Washington STEM provides partnership support to nine Regional Career Connect Washington Networks which overlap with STEM Networks.
  • We provide partnership support to Program Intermediaries who are developing and scaling regional industry focused career connected learning programs.
  • Washington STEM leads the data and measurement aspects of Career Connect Washington, working to ensure that the initiative is designed to serve priority populations, and that it prioritizes career pathways in growing and high demand sectors both regionally and statewide.

To learn more about Washington STEM’s work with Career Connect Washington and other programs, visit our Career Pathways landing page. Or visit the Career Connect Washington website to explore the many career-connected learning opportunities available to Washington’s students.