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Career Pathways Fast Track Programs: Connecting Jobseekers and Employers with Industry-Specific Boot Camps

Kimberly Glenn - Director ·

What is a boot camp?

A boot camp is a fast track, industry-specific training program that enhances jobseekers’ skills to prepare them for employment in high-growth industries such as construction, manufacturing, healthcare, hospitality or customer service. In communities across the United States, boot camps are being welcomed and endorsed by workforce boards, industry partnerships, educational institutions, and employers.

What kind of life skills and employability training do boot camps offer to jobseekers?

Boot camps offer a unique, coordinated, and sustained effort to boost the skills of the thousands of underemployed and unemployed citizens who need:

  1. Basic skills in reading, writing and math
  2. Employability skills
  3. Resources for social service organizations or programs

Employability skills come up as a top request from employers in all industries across the country, which is why our boot camps emphasize these skills in the curriculum daily. Employability skills employers are seeking include:

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Communication, Teamwork, Conflict Resolution, Time Management, Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, Workplace Professionalism, Positive Attitude, Networking, Growth Mindset

Each boot camp explores multiple industry-specific career pathways for High-Priority Occupations (HPOs) in targeted regions. These fast track programs – usually 2-6 weeks in duration – incorporate contextualized employability skills and Adult Basic Education (ABE) instruction, in addition to industry-recognized certifications such as OSHA 10 and CPR/First Aid.

Which industries most often offer boot camps?

Boot camps can be created and customized for any industry, job or skill. Career ladders and lattices within each industries’ pathways are explored in detail, while high-demand jobs in the geographical location of the boot camp are emphasized. Industries include:

What is an IET and how does it differ from a boot camp?

Some of our boot camps can be categorized as Integrated Education and Training (IET).

An IET program must include the following three components:

  1. Adult education and literacy activities
  2. Workforce preparation activities
  3. Workforce training

In addition, as part of a career pathway, the design of an IET program should support the local and state workforce development board plans as required under WIOA.

How is a boot camp or IET designed and implemented?

Boot camp curricula are designed in partnership with local workforce development boards (WDBs), industry partnerships, employers, and technical skills training providers. Each program is vetted and approved to ensure it adheres to the WDBs guidelines and sufficiently prepares jobseekers to not only get a job in the industry, but keep one.

While some programs serve as a traditional IET program, other programs focus on basic skills enhancement—ensuring participants have the minimum basic skills necessary for success in the targeted industry.

Boot camps are a great way to help strengthen the economy by providing employability skills to jobseekers preparing for an internship or employment in a job related to their career pathway. A qualified Instructor assesses the candidates, teaches the IET or boot camp, and post-tests each student to validate training success. The goals of the program are for all participants to demonstrate an increase in foundational skills, receive certification if applicable, and ultimately receive a job offer in a related field that leads to long-term employment.

Programs can include:

  • Career Exploration
  • Contextualized Reading, Writing, Math, and Technology Skills
  • Contextualized Employability Skills
  • Job Search/Retention
  • Panel/Guest Speakers
  • Capstone Projects
  • Career Counseling and Supportive Services

Upon completion of the boot camp, participants should:

  • Be confident that the targeted industry is the right fit for them
  • Have knowledge of the culture and environment they are entering
  • Understand career pathway options
  • Have strong employability skills
  • Show gains in reading, writing, math and technology skills

Pre- and post-training tests are conducted to clearly show the success of the training and new skills trainees have gained. Several options are available:

  • TABE:the Test for Adult Basic Education (TABE) is a diagnostic test used to determine a person's skill levels and aptitudes in reading, math, and English.
  • CASAS: stands for Comprehensive Adult Student Assessment Systems. It assesses basic skills for youth and adults, and measures learner progress on a standardized scale that ranges from the lowest literacy skills to high school exit and transition to postsecondary education and training.
  • WorkKeys®: measures foundational skills required for workplace success, and measurement of workplace skills that can affect job performance.
  • Skilldex is a custom software assessment tool often utilized for more detailed insights into industry-specific skills.

Where do we find trainees who are eligible to participate?

Boot camps are open to those who are unemployed or underemployed, who lack a high school diploma or are basic skills deficient, and exhibit an interest in increasing their foundational and occupational skill levels. An Outreach Coordinator is typically tasked with promoting the program across the region. The outreach professional targets Adult Education programs, local One-Stops, Head Start programs, community colleges, and other community agencies. The Outreach Coordinator often schedules and hosts at least one orientation session, inviting potential participants who can ask questions and learn more about the boot camp and its career pathways.

What are the requirements/qualifications for boot camps?

Requirements vary and are based on local employer feedback. Common requirements include TABE testing (minimum levels set by employers) and drug testing. Additional requirements may include achieving minimum threshold scores on the Bennet Mechanical Comprehension Test.

How important is employer engagement in the success of boot camps?

Employer engagement in boot camps is critical in its success and that of the participants. Employers contribute to the boot camp in a number of ways including:

  • Setting minimum participation requirements based on hiring standards
  • Identifying high priority occupations the boot camp should target
  • Validating the curriculum
  • Providing guest speakers
  • Offering site tours
  • Committing to interviewing boot camp graduates
  • Providing internships
  • Hiring graduates directly or through an OJT program

Who are the stakeholders and how do you get started?

Boot camps are often organized by multiple stakeholders in a region who all share a common goal of helping to train and employ jobseekers. Some examples of common stakeholders who fund and organize boot camps include local workforce development boards, industry partnership organizations, local employers, local social service agencies, and industry-specific training providers. If you’re interested in organizing a boot camp or have any questions, send us an email.