Developing Seattle's Workforce

By 2020, there will be 750,000 new jobs available in Seattle. These are good jobs with good wages requiring a two-year associate's degree or less. For low-income workers and communities of color, however, there are significant barriers to accessing these jobs. The Office of Economic Development is breaking down these barriers with Pathways to Careers.

In 2010, we formed a partnership with Seattle Colleges (formerly known as Seattle Community Colleges) to identify the barriers to college completion - everything from childcare and transportation needs to better work-based training - and built an integrated network of community and business partners to overcome them.


Pathways to Careers brings together a network of partners to ensure Seattle residents get the education and training they need to be ready for - and get - high quality jobs. We're growing the talent we have to strengthen the economy we want.


Pathways to Careers is building a world-class system of professional education and training by delivering better teaching, integrated support from partners, and new retention strategies for at-risk students. 

  • Seattle Colleges is offering new foundational courses in four high-growth industries: manufacturing, logistics, business technology and health care.
  • Community-based organizations, such as Seattle Jobs Initiative, know the points at which our students are most likely to drop out of school. WIth this knowlege they are partnering with colleges and providing targeted services to keep students enrolled for a full year (45 credits) of college. Research shows getting to one year of college creates the tipping point for low-income individuals to attain self-sufficiency.
  • Prospective students that are facing additional barriers take 'bridge' classes that prepare them for career pathways in college. Through interdepartmental partnerships with the City's Human Services and Immigrant and Refugee Affairs departments to develop these 'bridge' programs, OED has helped acquire additional funding  not previously available to bring specific assistance to these special populations, like the formerly incarcerated through the Career Bridge program, and English Learners through the Ready to Work program.
  • Our workforce navigators connect students with in-depth employer exposure, so students know exactly what employers are looking for in an employee. Businesses including The Boeing Company and Vigor Marine help design curriculum to ensure student credentials meet industry needs. Current programs include the Aerospace Composite Technology program and the Harbor Island Training Center.


  • Strong industry partnerships (Manufacturing and Logistics)
  • High completion and job placement (our Industrial Manufacturing Academy has doubled student completion rates, and over 80% move along their career path upon graduation)
  • Career navigators imbedded in all programs
  • Math and English imbedded in classroom content
  • Mandatory student orientation
  • Steady amount of national interest in our program as a model from organizations including Opportunity Nation, Aspen Institute, American Community College Trustees, National League of Cities.
  • Workforce Education is now better coordinated district-wide
  • City and College leadership coordinating on workforce education strategies


We know we're having an impact, and we're working to accelerate and grow this approach - to more closely align our partners, better use the money in the system we have, and create the streamlining and efficiencies we need.

Pathways to Careers is building the right approach to career training with the right people. We know what works to get low-income residents on a path to good jobs in Seattle, and are seeing results. We will continue to better align our resources to make sure no one is left behind and that our Seattle businesses have the skilled workers they need to grow.