Q&A with Luke Rhine of Delaware Pathways

The Delaware Pathways program is a Delaware Department of Education initiative that works with educators, students, and employers to progress our state’s economic growth and overall development. They recently benefited from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) which provides national direct relief to Americans and their families. The act was signed into law in March of 2021 by President Biden with the goal to provide direct relief to Americans and their families. This stabilizes and boosts the economy in each state.

The trickle down effect from ARPA has significantly impacted the development of Delaware’s upcoming workforce generation. It’s Time sat down with Luke Rhine, Associate Secretary of Workforce Support at the Delaware Department of Education to chat about these upcoming initiatives and the future of Delaware’s homegrown workforce.

Q: Can you tell us about the Delaware Pathways program and your role? 

Luke: Delaware Pathways is an education-to-employment partnership, connecting young people and employers. The program currently serves more than 55 percent of all youth in grades 9 to 12 offering young people the opportunity to earn college credit, industry recognized credentials, and relevant work experiences through in-demand career pathways. The program centers student identity and empowerment within the context of a high-quality education system, caring community partners, and dedicated employer network. 

My role is about coordination, partner support, and growth.  A couple areas of growth include:

  • Work to expand the state’s Registered Apprenticeship system. This occurs through youth apprenticeship models  focused on serving ages 16-24. We also include young adults who are and are not in the labor market.  

For youth in high school it means that they will finish their high school diploma while simultaneously enrolled in postsecondary education and compensated, on-the-job training.

For young adults, it means that they have a streamlined pathway into the registered apprenticeship system through pre-apprenticeship and trade extension programs offered through the Adult Divisions of Delaware’s Technical School Systems. And there is no cost for the employer or the student to participate in the state registered apprenticeship system. In fact, apprenticeship is one of the best ways that a person can get paid to continue their education! 

  • Expand credential and degree opportunities for youth and adult learners through Delaware’s postsecondary system. 

In terms of expanded postsecondary credential and degree opportunities, our state is incredibly fortunate.  This past year the Governor and State Legislature took unprecedented action to expand access to high-quality and affordable postsecondary education opportunities.  Individually these bills are amazing, but collectively they set Delaware apart from the rest of the country. These scholarships include: 

  • SEED+ Scholarship: Provides full tuition for up to 10 semesters at Delaware Technical Community College plus one additional year toward a Bachelor’s degree program.  The scholarship can be applied towards the completion of an Associate Degree or Industry Credential/Certificate program (100+ hours).  Students must be a Delaware resident and have graduated from a Delaware High School in any year or completed a GED in Delaware.  
  • Inspire Scholarship: Provides full tuition for four years at Delaware State University.  Students must have a 2.75 high school GPA and enroll immediately after graduating.
  • FAST Scholarship: Provides tuition up to $10,000 for eligible individuals to pursue an approved non-credit certificate program that leads to an industry recognized credential or skills training.  Students must be recent high school graduates. More information is coming soon!
  • Elevate Delaware: supports employers with less than 51 employees to upskill their incumbent workforce.  Program provides up to $10,000 to individuals for approved non-credit certificate programs.

Q: How does the recent American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) positively impact Delaware Pathways? 

In October 2021, Governor Carney announced a $50 million-dollar investment in Delaware’s workforce system. The announcement included a $15.8 million-dollar public/private partnership to expand the Delaware Pathways program! The State of Delaware has invested $8.3 million in the Pathways expansion and the remaining private capital was provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Walton Foundation, and the ASA Foundation. These funds support workforce development in healthcare, IT, finance, and engineering. The investments expand employer-driven apprenticeship programs, like those mentioned above, that allow Delawareans to “earn and learn” in high-growth, high-wage industries.  The expansion also extends the Pathways program into Delaware middle schools to reach more than 6,000 students.  

Q: What are the most popular pathways taken by Delaware Students? 

Our most popular pathways are in healthcare, education, and hospitality. Agriculture, business, construction, information technology, and STEM are also very popular.  Overall, student interest is reflective of our economy. And it is amazing to see the tens of thousands of young people who work each day to improve themselves, develop skills, and work towards their education and career goals.  

Q: What is a new project/initiative that you are most excited about for Pathways? 

A critical learning from the last years of work is that too many students arrive in high school without a sense of self as it relates to their community, school, and their future occupational identity. Moreover, Delaware is a state with school choice, emphasizing the transition from middle to high school as a crucial decision point for students and families.  

We are beginning work in middle schools to ensure that youth exiting 8th grade are ready for high school. This is by already having exposure to Career & Technical Education (CTE), academic, and social-emotional (SEL) programming that is equity-centered and inspires student identity and a path to postsecondary success! 

Luke Rhine, Associate Secretary of Workforce Support at the Delaware Department of Education

Q: Why is the Delaware Pathways program crucial to the workforce development of our city and state? 

Access to talent is the number one thing I hear about from employers. This has been true over time, but particularly true as we evolve beyond Covid. Specifically, employers want access to people who are willing to learn and grow. And for that growth to occur we need to ensure that our workforce is educated, people have meaningful work experiences, and that our communities are supported. We try to replicate that model of education, experience, and support in our work.  

Talent development is both a short- and long-term game. We need to be responsive to the immediate needs of employers, while also understanding the economic trajectory of our state and regional economies. Blurring the lines between our k12, postsecondary education, and workforce systems just makes sense. It helps to solve both the short- and long-term economic needs of employers and it helps people and communities.

Q: How can Delawareans help support and get involved with Delaware Pathways?

There are two things. 

First, if you are an employer, consider sponsoring a young person in an internship.  Or think about creating a registered apprenticeship program. Work experience is the number one factor in career success. Additionally, how we recruit talent needs to be much more deliberate, particularly focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as economic shifts due to automation and globalization. 

Second, if you are a parent or involved in the community, talk with young people about their future career and what types of education is required to get there. Not every job requires a Bachelor’s degree. In fact, only 32% of jobs in the State of Delaware require a Bachelor’s degree. As parents and advisors to young people, we need to be much more aware of the various types of education and training that are available. In other words, to be successful, ALL young people will need some type of postsecondary credential, not EVERYONE will need a Bachelor’s degree at age 22.  

Learn more about Delaware Pathways from their website, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

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