Launched in 2007, the Career Advancement Academies are designed to enable underserved Californians – typically first in their families to attend college, low-income, or from communities of color – to enroll in higher education and adjust to emerging and evolving workforce and industry needs. Specifically, CAAs aim to increase the supply of middle skill workers by targeting under-prepared young adults (ages 18-30) whose low basic skills in reading, writing, and mathematics shut them out of post-secondary education and high-wage jobs. CAAs support students through a holistic set of interventions to build the foundational skills needed to complete post-secondary education and enter careers.
CAAs are intended as instigators of institutional change. Rather than creating new infrastructures, CAAs seek to rework the system for delivering career education by integrating it into existing services. As such, the CAAs are not a “model” replicated uniformly across colleges, but rather a framework of common elements that provides each college the space for innovation in its interpretation and implementation.
Career Advancement Academies combine technical training and basic skills content into contextualized instruction, so that students acquire basic skills in a format relevant to their careers of interest. The CAA framework groups students in learning cohorts, provides them with intensive supports, and facilitates their career transitions. In combination, these elements build pipelines – or pathways – for students, leading from CAA programs to careers and/or continued higher education.
CLP conceptualized the Career Advancement Academy (CAA) framework and worked with the California Community College Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO) to launch the statewide CAA initiative, designed to provide more structured educational experiences for students facing multiple barriers to postsecondary education. Early on, CLP forged a public/private partnership with the CCCCO and California philanthropic organizations— including the James Irvine Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Walter S. Johnson Foundation and the Bay Area Workforce Funding Collaborative—to support capacity building and coordination for the overall CAA initiative. CLP has played a critical role in coordinating and advancing the CAA initiative, supporting colleges to implement CAAs, building a statewide community of practice, documenting the work and working closely with the evaluators to improve the initiative over time.