An initiative of Greater Twin Cities United Way that began in 2015, Career Academies partners with school districts, post-secondary institutions and employers to offer students real-world career experiences and college credit.

Reshaping How Minnesota Prepares Students for Their Futures

Career Academies empowers graduates with in-demand skills and credentials that meet the workforce needs of local businesses and strengthen Minnesota’s future talent pool.

We provide funding, coaching and training, and peer-to-peer networks that support and bring together career pathways leaders from communities to share best practices to help students succeed. 

Our Impact In the First Five Years

of students enrolled in programs were people of color
$3 million
saved in tuition by accessing college credits early
increase in hourly wages for Career Academies students
3+ days
of school attended on average, resulting in 24 more hours of instruction per student each year

What is a Career Pathway?

Career pathways are a sequence of educational and work experiences aligned with high-wage, high-demand career fields that include access to college credit, rigorous and relevant coursework, and related work experiences. 

Career pathways open doors to diverse industries, allowing students to delve into many career possibilities. Working hand-in-hand with Minnesota employers, Career Academies builds tailored programs that directly address the specific needs and job opportunities within each local community.

These programs span a wide range of fields, including but not limited to: 

  • Business, Management and Administration 
  • Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources 
  • Arts, Communications and Information Systems  
  • Human Services and Education  
  • Health Science Technology  
  • Engineering, Manufacturing and Technology 
  • Automotive  

Career Pathways in Action

  • Two students practice putting socks on a model patient

    Creating the Next Generation of Educators

    "As superintendent, my goal is not higher percentages on a state report. What truly matters is that more students graduate with the skills they need to succeed in life after high school and beyond."
    - Dr. Joe Gothard, St. Paul Public School Superintendent
    With support from Career Academies, Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) grew standalone career pathways programs into a district-wide program where all students have access to career-focused curriculum; college-level, industry-aligned credit; and related work experience.
  • Shaping a Skilled Health Care Workforce

    “Our goal here…is to make sure each student has access to advanced and rigorous coursework. We want to make sure students are college and career ready before they exit the doors of our high school.”
    - LaNisha Paddock, St. Louis Park High School Principal
    St. Louis Park High School partnered with Career Academies to launch a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program in 2021. Students take a college-level course that provides professional training to become CNAs and jump-start a career in health care. It's an innovative way to address the severe health care worker shortage while helping students gain real-world experience and earn competitive wages.
    Watch Video
  • Investing in Youth Success

    “I am the first one in my family to attend college. These classes have cut out a lot of costs and opened opportunities for me to take a minor, go attend more school, and have less stress about credits and what I’m going to pay. It just made it more accessible for me.”
    - Rosie Melgoza, Worthington High School Class of 2021
    In 2018, Career Academies partnered with the Southwest Initiative Foundation to bring more opportunities to students in rural Minnesota. For student Rosie Melgoza, the ability to take courses through Worthington High School’s Medical Career Pathway was crucial – and through her job at a local nursing home, she got to apply what she learned in the real world.
    Watch Video


Career Academies programs across Minnesota have connected employer partners, school districts and post-secondary institutions, benefiting more than 20,000 students.

Career Academies Leadership

Liz Williams portrait

Liz Williams

Senior Program Officer, Career Academies

Through Career Academies, Liz Williams collaborates with school districts and partners to reimagine school systems as a catalyst for community wealth building. Liz works closely with our partners in southwestern Minnesota and SPPS. Before United Way, Liz worked at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center where she led initiatives with charter school authorization and STEM career pathways. She has taught and worked in both urban and rural communities in New Mexico and Minnesota and is a licensed teacher. Liz received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota and her master’s degree in education policy and management from Harvard University. 

Der Yang headshot

Der Yang

Program Manager, Career Academies

Der Yang supports the strategy and leads the day-to-day execution of Career Academies. She works closely with our grantees providing the necessary support to ensure overall success from programming to evaluation. She has over a decade of experience leading enterprise programs, most recently with Ameriprise Financial. Her passion is centered on equipping individuals and communities with resources to achieve optimal success while disrupting traditional systems. Der received her bachelor’s degree from St. Catherine University and her master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

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