In 2015, the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance came together with a number of education funders to advance a shared interest in promoting the development of a Chicagoland education and workforce system with a seamless transition from secondary to post-secondary programs. The Pro Path fund was created to provide a seamless transition by expanding the universe of transparent and accessible post-secondary programs. Progressive Pathways to Postsecondary Success allows individuals to alternate between and combine periods of education/training and employment, progressively building toward college and career success.

Progressive Pathway Programs are good options for people graduating high school but not going straight into a degree program. Through a combination of both learning and work opportunities, participants can gain both career advancement and eventually complete a college degree. Vocational training, stackable credential programs and apprenticeships are all great examples of Progressive Pathway Programs.

The Pro Path Fund aims to be part of changing the “college for all” mindset, replacing it with the vision of a well-connected and transparent education/training and career pathway system with multiple entry points and multiple exit points for all, as described by the Alliance for Quality Career Pathways.

The initial Pro Path investments worked to understand the nature of the challenge by supporting two main projects:

These projects revealed three major gaps where Chicagoland’s “Pro Path System” is failing:

  • An Information Gap – not enough quality information about Pro Path programs;
  • A Systems Gap – a lack of accessible systems through which young adults and guides can get information about Pro Path programs, and;
  • A Guidance Gap – not enough guides with the capacity to effectively help young adults find, access and succeed with Pro Path programs

Now the Pro Path Fund has entered a stage where its investments are designed to close these gaps with three project areas:

  1. For the Information Gap the Fund is working with Education Systems Center to standardize the collection of program-level data for career pathway programs across funding streams, eventually creating a Combined Program File of all Pro Path Programs in the region.
  2. For the Systems Gap the Fund is working with YI Advisors to take stock of the capacity and potential of current systems and make recommendations for future investment.
  1. For the Guidance Gap the Fund has worked with Chicago Public Schools to enlist Chicago Jobs Council and Youth Guidance to overhaul the College and Career Advising Credential, and infuse it with a Pro Path ethos, as opposed to the “college-for-all” ethos it had previously.

Chicagoland CareerPathways Online Directory

Are you a young adult who is uncertain that a four-year college degree program is right for you right now? A four-year degree is one way to prepare for a career, but it is not the only way. The Chicagoland CareerPathways directory will point you to programs that provide on-ramps to rewarding careers, and let you begin earning money in two years or less (often much less).

Throughout this directory, you’ll see the term “progressive pathway” (or ProPath for short).

These programs can help you get started on a pathway so that you can make progress toward achieving a rewarding career.

There are multiple opportunities to explore including community college certificate programs, paid training, or a combination of work and classes — including many that let you earn industry recognized credentials or college credit. Many pathways can also be a step toward an eventual four-year degree.

For more information, contact CWFA’s Deputy Director, Adrian Esquivel at

Additional Funders