Arkansas Career Pathways Initiative: How TANF can support skills for low-income parents, and how policymakers can help

Source: Brooke DeRenzis and Kermit Kaleba, National Skills Coalition, October 2016

….This issue brief highlights Arkansas’ Career Pathways Initiative (CPI) as an example of a successful state policy that helps low-income parents earn in-demand credentials. CPI combines adult education and postsecondary training with critical supports like case management, child care and transportation assistance, and help with the costs of tuition, books, supplies, and testing fees. CPI is a critical strategy for expanding economic opportunity in Arkansas, which is one of only six states with a poverty rate at 18 percent or more. Since 2005, CPI has used the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant to provide support services for more than 30,000 qualifying students enrolled in occupational programs at the state’s community and technical colleges. Despite the significant academic and employment barriers facing many participants, CPI students have achieved impressive outcomes: more than half of all CPI enrollees obtained at least one postsecondary credential or degree, compared to just twenty-four percent of non-CPI participants, and CPI participants earned $3,100 more per year than TANF recipients who were not enrolled in CPI programs.

The issue brief provides a short overview of the history and structure of the Arkansas CPI program, including key action steps that state policymakers, advocates, and other stakeholders can consider as they seek to develop similar programs. The brief also highlights key federal policy challenges that impact states’ ability to serve low-income jobseekers, and provides recommendations for changes that Congress should consider in 2017 and beyond…..