April 26, 2023
Community colleges play a critical role in helping people connect to careers. After the Great Recession, community colleges emerged as the workforce and economic development institution filling the gaps left by traditional higher education for non-degree career education, meeting the needs of local employers and communities for emerging skills.
The pandemic upended the labor market, creating a new set of unprecedented challenges in economic structures such as supply chains, public health, and technology use. Community colleges continued to play a critical role in helping both students and employers weather these changes. Now, three years after the onset of the pandemic, we find ourselves with a labor market that bears a strong resemblance to that of the pre-pandemic period - with low unemployment and a large number of unfilled positions
To build a more equitable post-pandemic economy, we need to accelerate the development of high-quality, affordable workforce programs at community colleges that lead directly to quality jobs and careers. We must change colleges' structures, policies, and practices to offer and strengthen these programs. Colleges know that offering these programs is important but they struggle to finance such programs, build the capacity to use data in effective ways, and systematically align workforce development to sector-based economic development strategies.
Empowering Community Colleges in Becoming Workforce Exemplars
Over the past three years, through our Lumina Foundation-sponsored New Models of Career Preparation project, we developed a quality framework for non-degree community college programs that focused on equity, affordability, stackability, completion, and the quality of the job for which the program was preparing students, including offering a family-sustaining wage.
We then worked directly with 12 colleges in two sequential rounds of research to identify program and institutional-level policies and practices that lead to quality non-degree programs.
In New Models cohort one, we studied what goes into creating different kinds of quality non-degree workforce programs from manufacturing bootcamps, non-credit and credit-bearing certificates, certification preparation programs, apprenticeships, and microcredentials. Then, in New Models cohort two, we broadened our research to study the institutional factors that enable community colleges to excel at offering non-degree workforce programs.
The New Models project resulted in numerous blogs, articles, and presentations and three sequential briefs packed with actionable ideas to help community college leaders better plan, deliver, and use data to improve non-degree programs. In addition, we produced two special reports evaluating how these programs can be funded and supported through state and federal policy.
Now in order to help community colleges maximize the quality and impact of their workforce offerings, we are pleased to join forces with Lumina Foundation once more to operationalize the takeaways of the New Models for Career Preparation project.
In the next few months, New America will launch an application of interest for community colleges to join the national Community College Workforce Transformation & Implementation Cohort which will offer college leaders a platform to identify and implement institutional policy and practice innovations in three categories over the next two years:
- Aligning Workforce Development with Equitable Economic & Community Development
- Modernizing College-Wide Data Infrastructure to Achieve Equitable Workforce Priorities
- Developing College-level Financing Strategies to Fund the Implementation of Workforce Priorities & Address Equity
Through a networked learning process and technical assistance, the cohort will work with national experts and one another to make institutional changes that lead to concrete improvements in enrollment, persistence, and employment outcomes for workforce students.
Today, we are pleased to announce a national Advisory Committee to support the cohort:
- Jacalyn Askin, Principal, Askin Consulting and Fellow, National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO)
- Kathy Booth, Project Director, Educational Data and Policy, WestEd
- Naomi Boyer, Executive Director, Digital Transformation, Education Design Lab
- Rebecca Butler, Executive Vice President, Columbus State Community College
- Mildred Coyne, Senior Vice President, Workforce Education & Innovation, Broward College
- Francesca Carpenter, Director, Equity Initiatives, Achieving the Dream
- Benjamin Gamboa, Associate Dean of Career Education, MiraCosta College
- Tess Henthorne, Senior Program Manager, College Excellence Program Aspen Institute
- Shalin Jyotishi, Fellow, Center on Education & Labor at New America and Senior Program Manager, Burning Glass Institute
- Ian Roark, Vice-Chancellor, Workforce Development, Pima Community College
- Karen VanDerhoof, Vice President for Business and Finance, County College of Morris
We know that simply creating resources is not enough. True change comes from connecting resources to college leaders, providing technical assistance, and nurturing relationships among college leaders trying to improve workforce education.
We look forward to working to turn ideas into action and improve workforce outcomes for community college students. If you are interested in learning more sign-up for our Ed & Labor Bulletin newsletter to be alerted of the application of interest and related opportunities.
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