Frequently asked questions

Next Career Pathways is an Itasca Area Schools Collaborative (IASC) program. Next Career Pathways are offered in all IASC high schools: Nashwauk-Keewatin, Greenway, Grand Rapids, Deer River, Hill City, Northland-Remer, Floodwood, and Bigfork.

Next Career Pathways are intended for 9-12th grade students. Some programming is available to 7-8th grade students as well.

The Next Career Pathways program team includes educators – Administrators, Counselors, and Teachers-  from all eight high schools and the local community colleges (Itasca Community College, Hibbing Community College, and Mesabi Range Community College), program support staff, and local business and industry professionals from Itasca Area communities.

Itasca Area Schools have defined criteria for Next Career Pathways.

Next Career Pathways must:

  1. Increase learning opportunities for students through partnership across multiple districts in IASC
  2. Be aligned to a higher education partner program
  3. Be supported and designed with industry representatives.
  • Through partnering across Itasca Area Schools, students have more access to career pathway courses and are not limited to career development opportunities based on where they go to school. Through partnering on shared courses and programming and designing career pathways with cross-representative teams we are better positioned to have a broader, regional impact on students and communities. By going together, we can go further. 
  • Next Career Pathways are designed to create seamless transitions to post-secondary partner programs. Career Pathways often include for-college-credit courses that transfer into the local community college programs and many courses and career pathway activities are led by college faculty. This relationship-building supports students as they begin to navigate their college and career planning.
  • Lastly, career pathways are designed with industry partners. This ensures that programming design is aligned to and informed by industry needs. Each Career Pathway convenes a group of industry professionals to provide feedback on career pathway development and discuss ways for students to gain industry experiences with our partners. These industry advisory groups are constantly growing and new members are always welcome. Through frequent networking, Next Career Pathways is able to be more agile and responsive to the needs of the community.

What is the goal of the next career pathways?

The goal of Next Career Pathways is to allow all students to explore career options to inspire hope and curiosity, provide relevant experiences and intentional opportunities to students that will allow them to imagine a future vision of themselves, and give hands-on learning partnered with colleges and industries so students can excel in their futures and unleash endless possibilities. 

  • Locally, statewide, and nationally many career sectors face an extreme skilled workforce shortage and the number of employees entering these sectors is not meeting the demand for current needs or future growth. In addition to that, there exists misperceptions in Northeastern Minnesota about the availability, or lack-thereof, of quality, living-wage jobs. 
  • Next Career Pathways provides learning opportunities to students to explore in-demand careers that exist in northern Minnesota and beyond. The intent is that with more career development activities combined with frequent exposure to local businesses and industries needing to attract and retain talent, students will, first, feel supported in building their future career identities and second, know that there are great career options and a supportive network for them in their own backyards should they choose to live and work here.
  • Next Career Pathways provides coursework that provides relevant experiences, which build students’ skills for success. Courses include industry-standard-based competencies so students are learning a foundational set of skills that will prepare them for college and career. 
  • Next Career Pathways partners across districts, with colleges, and local businesses to create high-quality, hands-on learning opportunities for students to experience the career field themselves creating self-confidence and a support network that will help them excel in their futures.

When the career pathways initiative first formed in 2016, the original focus was exclusively on 11th and 12th-grade courses and experiences that would provide hands-on learning for students within a career field. Through many conversations between educators, industry leaders, parents, and students it occurred to program leadership that the career pathway student experience needed to start much earlier. Instead of a focus on the “end of the journey” opportunities for students, we also needed to be intentional about allowing them to explore younger and build experience sooner. Out of this, the criteria for student experience in the career pathways and a model for Next Career Pathways programming was developed.


As a part of IASC Next Career Pathways, Students will:

  • Have the skills necessary for any type of post-secondary experience or career.
  • Obtain firsthand on-the-job experience.
  • Gain the professional skills necessary to be successful (as informed by industry and MDE’s
  • Career and College Readiness Guide).
  • Know the vocabulary of the industry.
  • Develop personal connections within business and industry, including professional networks.
  • Have a career plan.
  • Benefit from IASC’s Career Pathway identity and brand recognition.
  • Establish a future identity and sense of belonging.

IASC Next Career Pathways Model:

  • 7-9th Grade Career Seminar: Career Exploration curriculum units embedded in 7-9th grade advisories, courses, and registration planning events that offer activities around career planning and exposure to business and industry to help build awareness of the career pathway opportunities as they are entering high school.


  • 9-10th Grade Gateway Courses: Introductory courses to the Career Pathway that teach students about the occupation options within that career field, include more focused interactions with business and industry within that sector, and guidance from counselors and instructors on career pathway planning for high school and beyond. 


  • 9-12th Grade Core Courses: Academic and Elective courses that build foundational skillsets for the Career Pathway and include opportunities for industry-based projects with Career Pathway Partners. Core courses may be opportunities for college credit and may count towards the Minnesota graduation requirements depending on the course and student eligibility. 


  • 11-12th Grade Capstone Courses or Experiences: Hands-on, real-world coursework and experiences for students to work directly with business and industry in order to gain perspective on the career field and gain experience that will benefit them as they move on to college and the workforce. Capstones may be courses offered within the schools that provide students with applied learning experiences and the opportunity to earn certifications relevant to their Career Pathway; Work-Based Learning experiences where students work directly with a Career Pathway Partner business as an intern and earn high school credit and wages within their school day; job shadowing and volunteering experiences that meet criteria through the Career Pathway Program can also count as Capstones. 


Each Career Pathway’s design begins by mapping out the current offerings within Itasca area schools and how they fit within the Gateway, Core, Capstone model. Wherever a gap in student experience may exist, efforts are made to create opportunities for student learning. The partnerships across IASC schools are key in this because specific courses that may not be feasible to offer in every individual district, can be shared across districts through virtual learning and allowing students to travel to the course-offering high schools. 

In addition to making courses accessible to all learners, each career pathway is cross-mapped with the partner higher education program. Courses and experiences that are typical for the college portion of career training for a specific sector are identified and a high school appropriate preparatory class is also defined. For example, a Healthcare bound student will likely take a series of Human Anatomy courses in their college program. So, the high school Healthcare Career Pathway also requires the Human Anatomy series as part of the student experience.

Industry partners are also heavily involved in providing input on what experiences students could and should have in high school as a part of the career pathway. Many times, industry partners will inform educators on best practices for training or recommendations for industry-standard equipment.

In order to complete a Career Pathway, a student must complete the required courses included in a career pathway. The required courses are consistent with the Gateway, Core, Capstone model for each pathway and include the most critical components for a well-rounded student journey through a career pathway. Each career pathway has, on average, 2 credits worth of required elective courses or about 4 semester-long courses that students can take between 9-12th grade. Career Pathways also include courses that may count as graduation requirements in the core subject areas and career pathways also include recommended courses for students who would like to explore further within a career field.

From 7-12th grade, students participate in college and career readiness programming with their teachers and counselors. Through these activities, students can take career interest and personality assessments, speak with local professionals, tour colleges and businesses and more. All of these activities and exposures are meant to get students thinking about their own futures.

Every year between January and March, students are able to register for their next year’s courses at their local high schools. Students and parents can meet with counselors and teachers to discuss career pathway course options. Counselors work with students to make a plan for completing the career pathway courses prior to graduation. Also, if a student wishes to change courses they can visit their counselor prior to the start of each new semester.

Students can start and stop a career pathway at any time. Students may not be able to drop out of a class until the semester change but they are free to change their career pathway plans. Career pathways are flexible enough to allow students to start and finish all requirements up until their senior year. It’s worth noting that even if a student may not complete all the required courses of a career pathway, the career pathway experiences themselves are extremely valuable. If a student decides at the last moment they want to try a career pathway, we are happy to support them in any way possible.

In addition, throughout the year – at any time – a student can set their own Career Pathway Goal on the UR Turn app. Students can visit app.urturn.org to set their goals and monitor their progress towards career pathway completion.

Our Itasca Area School students are required to complete 23 to 25 credits between 9-12th grade in Math, English, Social Studies, Science, Physician Education and Health, Art, Technology, Careers, and General Electives.

Career Pathways include courses that count as graduation requirements either in the “core” subject areas or the “electives”. Itasca area schools require, on average, 7 of those 23-25 to be in the general elective category.

A 9th through 12th-grade student has the opportunity to take 28 total credits in their high school experience. Between the 7 required general electives and the opportunity to take an additional 5 credits beyond the required 23 for high school graduation, a student has PLENTY of room to try more than one career pathway. Students can also be in a career pathway and participate in college-in-the-schools (CIS) courses to prepare for college and/or students can be a career pathway student and a band or choir student! There is plenty of room for students to explore all of their interests. Students and parents should work with their local counselor’s office to discuss scheduling and course planning.

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Partner with Next Career Pathways to give relevant  experiences and intentional opportunities to local students  that will inspire curiosity and  hope for a future right here in the greater Itasca area. Together, we are the change for our communities. Together, we can unleash endless possibilities. There are so many ways to work with us!