In 2002, the Ford Foundation selected the Kentucky Community & Technical College System (KCTCS) to participate in its "Community College Bridges to Opportunity Initiative". The "Bridges Hypotheses" was developed by the Ford Foundation to address the fact that separation of remedial, workforce, and academic missions fails to promote economic and academic advancement for disadvantaged students. It also suggests that public policy reinforces this separation and changes in public policy can foster improved mission integration.
All of Kentucky's key stakeholders were deeply engaged in the implementation and institutionalization of strategically designed state education policy initiatives including:
- Kentucky Education Reform Act, 1990
- Kentucky Post-secondary Improvement Act, 1997
- Adult Education Reform, 2000
- Early Childhood Education Reform 2000
KCTCS embraced the Career Pathways model as a strategy for achieving this mission integration. In October 2003, KCTCS issued a Request for Proposals to its 16 college districts and co-hosted a joint (Kentucky-Ohio) technical assistance conference with the Knowledgeworks Foundation. All KCTCS colleges were represented at the conference by Career Pathways Teams and were provided technical assistance from national experts in the beginning stages of their Pathways development. All 16 districts responded with two-year implementation plans and budget requests totaling $3,517,791 with $4,027,606 of in-kind support from employers, agency partners, and federal grants. KCTCS has approved 17 pathways projects which target services for over 1200 new and incumbent workers.
In 2004, KCTCS was awarded continued support from the Ford Foundation to support the Career Pathways initiatives at the 16 college districts, providing funds for curriculum and articulation work, data collection and accountability, trainings, policy development, and technical support. In 2005, KCTCS secured the grant from the Ford Foundation to support Career Pathways.
In 2006, many of the KCTCS colleges are concluding their original two-year initial pilot and are working towards sustainability and capacity building. Many colleges are developing new initiatives and/or expanding existing efforts to integrate Career Pathways in additional program areas and other career sectors. Others are building upon and expanding their projects to serve more students and employers. The result of these efforts is evidence of the mission integration and systemic transformation sought by both KCTCS and the Ford Foundation.