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Bridges Program

The goal of Bridge ProgramLink opens in a new window's is to sequentially bridge the gap between the initial skills of individuals and what they need to enter and succeed in postsecondary education and career-path employment.

Setup an Illinois workNet Workforce Professionals account

To access the password protected resources on the Illinois workNet® web site, you will need to set up a Workforce Professionals account.

Follow these steps to create a Workforce Professionals account and add your site to Illinois workNet so your site will display when individuals search for a location and services.

Step 1: Check to see if your site is already in the Illinois workNet.

  • Go http://www.illinoisworknet.com/vos_portal/ql/WPPAccount.htm
  • Click on the area of the map where your office is located.
  • If you do not already have a workforce professionals account, select your organization from the list and complete the required fields.
  • Once the information has been verified, you will be given access to the Workforce Professionals pathway.

Step 2: If your organization is not listed, follow the next few steps to add your location to Illinois workNet. By completing the following steps, you will set up your location in Illinois workNet and set up an Illinois workNet Workforce Professionals pathway account at the same

  • Go to http://www.illinoisworknet.com/vos_portal/advisors/en/admin/SiteAddRequest.htm and select option one.
  • Click on the area of the map where your office is located.
  • Determine whether your site is an access or dissemination site, complete the required fields to set up an account and add your location to the site management database.
  • Once the information has been verified, the site will be approved and you will be given access to the Workforce Professionals pathway.

Core Elements

Bridge programs assist students in obtaining the necessary academic, employability, and technical skills through three required components - contextualized instruction, career development, and support services. Required elements include:

  • Contextualized instruction that integrates basic reading, math, and language skills and industry/occupation knowledge.
  • Career development that includes career exploration, career planning within a career area, and understanding the world of work (specific elements depend upon the level of the bridge program and on whether participants are already incumbent workers in the specific field).
  • Transition services that provide students with the information and assistance they need to successfully navigate the process of moving from adult education or remedial coursework to credit or occupational programs. Services may include (as needed and available) academic advising, tutoring, study skills, coaching, and referrals to individual support services, e.g., transportation and child care.

    Note: Career development and transition services should take into account the needs of those low-income adults who will need to find related work as they progress in their education and career paths.


Bridge programs are designed for adults 16 years and older, who:

  • Have reading and math levels at or above the 6th grade through pre-college level or
  • English language proficiency at or above the low-intermediate ESL level
  • May or may not have a high school credential
  • May or may not be an incumbent worker

Specific eligibility requirements will depend upon the type of provider offering the bridge program and program requirements.

Program Design Options

A bridge program may be designed as 1) a single course (for students at higher reading and math levels) that moves students directly into credit-bearing courses, with the aim of eliminating the need for remediation or
2) a series of courses, in which students first complete a lower-level bridge course that prepares them to enter a non-credit or credit occupational course or program that leads to an entry-level job. In this case, the student can stop out for needed work/income and return to a higher-level bridge course without having to repeat content.

The bridge program must prepare students to enter credit-bearing courses and programs within one of the 16 nationally recognized career clusters (see: http://www.careertech.org/career-clusters/glance/at-a-glance.html External link opens in a new window). That is, the course content must contain the knowledge and skills common for entry-level occupations within a broad cluster (e.g. health sciences, manufacturing, information technology, etc.). This curriculum design element exposes the student to career information and to information about the skills and knowledge required by a broad range of occupational options within a cluster. The bridge program must be of sufficient duration and intensity to produce these transition results.

Education and Training Providers (and partnerships):
Bridge programs may be provided by: (1) an Illinois Community College Board-approved and funded adult education program *; (2) the credit or non-credit department(s) of a community college; and (3) community-based organizations or other types of provider that offer non-credit workforce training.

Bridge programs may be offered by a single entity (e.g., a community-based organization or a community college) or by a partnership (e.g., a community-based organization and a community college). Regardless of the provider, they:

  • May provide opportunities to earn college credit (such as through escrow credit accounts)
  • May offer dual enrollment in credit and non-credit programs
  • May offer a multi-level program that moves people from an adult education course offered by one provider to a non-credit occupational course offered by the same or another provider.

All bridge program providers will use pre-skill assessments consistent with program requirements to place students into the appropriate courses as well as post-skill assessments to measure progress, and all providers will use data tracking systems to collect and analyze key information about bridge program participants and graduates.

* ICCB-approved adult education providers currently include community-based organizations, community colleges, regional offices of education, public school districts, the Illinois Department of Corrections, and a university.


  1. Higher number of low-income working adults enroll in postsecondary education
  2. Bridge program graduates who enroll in credit programs will succeed in their courses.
  1. Higher proportion of low-income working adults attain degrees and/or certificates
  2. Higher proportion of Adult Basic Education (ABE)/GED, English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL), Adult Secondary Education (ASE), and developmental/remedial adult learners transition into and completion of associates degrees and/or certificates
  3. Increases in earnings and job quality for low-income adults engaged in career pathways work

Documents for Download


The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) Career Pathways Toolkit External link opens in a new window - CLASP has released Funding Career Pathways and Career Pathway Bridges: A Federal Policy Toolkit for States to help interagency state teams identify and use federal resources to develop career pathways and career pathway bridges for adults and out-of-school youth. The toolkit also will help states identify and address policy barriers to using federal resources for career pathways and bridges.

The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) Toolkit on Using Federal Funds for Integrated Service Delivery External link opens in a new window - The CLASP toolkit is designed to aid state and local policymakers, program operators and advocates identify federal funding streams that can be used to support integrated service delivery.

The Joyce Foundation Illinois Shifting Gears External link opens in a new window - The Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) and its partners launched the Shifting Gears Initiative (SG) in 2007 to develop a state policy agenda that expands training and education opportunities for low-skilled adults.

OCCRL Illinois Shifting Gears Evaluation External link opens in a new window - Illinois’ Shifting Gears initiative is aimed at implementing policy changes that support bridge programs that help adult learners transition to postsecondary educational opportunities and provide training and credentials to enter the workforce in high-demand middle skill jobs.

ERIC Illinois Shifting Gears Evaluation External link opens in a new window - Illinois Shifting Gears is a multilevel initiative that has simultaneously created bridge programs in the field and altered state policy to facilitate the creation of more programs in the future.
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