In preparation for an Institute of Education Sciences study of whether training improves the effectiveness of career navigators, Mathematica collaborated with experts to explore the role of career navigators in adult education programs, the competencies they need to be successful, considerations for hiring and supporting them, and features and formats of a promising model of training. Career navigators are staff who help learners identify the skills and education needed to support their career goals, and address challenges that learners may face. They are an increasingly common staff position, and career navigation services are a component of some effective program strategies that research has found help learners make educational progress and improve their employment prospects. Adult education program leaders and practitioners can use the expert advice and guidance in this new brief to develop job descriptions that attract the right candidates, make informed decisions about how to support those in this role, and select training that supports the development of career navigator competencies.
This brief describes how career navigators are expected to provide a wide variety of services, including career planning, exploration, and counseling; educational planning; support to navigate systems; learner skill building; and job search readiness and placement. To carry out these roles successfully, career navigators need four key competencies:
- Knowledge of the adult learner population and skills for working with learners
- Knowledge of available career pathways and skills to help learners make informed decisions
- Knowledge of learner skills that can lead to success and skills to support learners’ skill-building
- Knowledge of resources available to learners and skills to build and maintain strong partnerships
According to Mathematica Principal Researcher, Julie Bruch, “When considering how to build the knowledge that navigators need to support adult learner success, we need to think about both the structure of the training and the needs of the navigators themselves. Do trainings facilitate learning and engagement? Are they appropriate for navigators’ background experience, their organizational context, and the types of learners they will serve?”
An ongoing Mathematica study, the Connecting Adults to Success (CATS) study, builds on this expert advice and guidance about the role of career navigators in supporting adult learners along their education and employment pathways (see https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/projects/evaluation/pathways_evidence.asp). The CATS study will test whether providing navigators with training aligned with the key activities and competencies identified in the brief leads to improvements in learners’ education, employment, and earnings outcomes.