Building a Better Workforce Community College

Insights from the New America’s Workforce Transformation Cohort
Blog Post
Map of the workforce transformation cohort colleges
Illustration by Fabio Murgia
May 23, 2024

In July 2023, we announced New America’s Workforce Transformation Cohort, consisting of 15 community colleges across the country taking steps to improve their ability to provide high-quality workforce programs to their communities.

Almost a year later, we wanted to share the projects each college is focused on. They are working to improve in one or more of the following areas: Data Collection & Use, Better Aligning Programs with the Local Economy, and Finance.

These colleges represent 12 states and a mix of rural, suburban, and urban communities. They educate over 181,000 students with the smallest serving around 2,000 students and the largest over 34,000. Four are Hispanic-serving institutions.

The innovations these colleges are implementing provide a window into how community colleges across the country are looking to strengthen workforce programs. It also illustrates how colleges are experimenting with new policies to ensure workforce students access and succeed in programs leading to strong employment outcomes.

Data Collection & Use

Six of the Workforce Transformation Cohort colleges are working on strengthening their non-credit data collection and tools for using that data both internally and externally. Colleges are working to leverage institutional and state resources to improve their data on non-credit programs and students including building capacity around data on the outcomes of graduates. They are also creating data dashboards so they can use their non-credit and credit data for program and support services improvement, case-making for additional resources to policymakers, recruitment of graduates back to programs, and alignment to labor market needs.

  • Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College. The college is accessing outcomes information for their non-credit students by setting up systems to 1) track and survey graduates, 2) access & apply UI wage records for analysis, and 3) leverage Lightcast for effective decision-making.
  • Central New Mexico Community College. CNM is focused on identifying replicable models, strategies, and best practices for collecting outcomes data for its non-credit and credit learners that address short-term targets and facilitate longitudinal studies. The college has actively engaged in outcome data strategies for years, including a crossmatch with Unemployment Insurance wage records and graduate/completer surveys. This new phase aims to significantly enhance and expand the existing work, providing a more comprehensive picture of learner outcomes and trajectories.
  • Louisiana Delta Community College. LDCC is focusing on data collection and creating a new dashboard to include credit and non-credit programs. There is a particular interest in collecting and evaluating data for industry-based certifications.
  • Santa Ana College Community College. The college is creating a data dashboard that will allow the team to gain greater insight into Career Education program metrics, such as disaggregated enrollment, course success, program completion, and post-program employment data. The team will leverage data to make improved Career Education funding decisions on campus and to measure impact.
  • Cuyahoga Community College. Tri-C is strategically expanding the collection of non-credit data and creating dashboards to visualize the data, including outcomes.

Better Aligning Programs with the Local Economy

Four colleges are more effectively aligning outreach efforts and existing programs with the economic development and workforce training needs of their communities. That work includes embedding industry-recognized certifications, demonstrating economic impact, revamping how the college works with the Chamber, and working to connect to displaced workers. Six colleges are creating new programs or better connecting non-credit and credit programs. The new programs range from apprenticeships to contextualized English as a second language (ESL) programs to new entrepreneurship programming. Colleges are also streamlining non-credit to credit transitions.

Improving and Partnering for Economic Development

  • Rockland Community College (SUNY). The RCC team will develop an Impact Framework for Workforce Development. The Impact Framework will be an internal tool that includes learner outcomes, industry impact, and institutional outcomes.
  • Lorain County Community College. LCCC’s Fast Track to Employment certificates were launched in 2019, offering a collection of short-term credentials using the College’s existing credit-based curriculum. Fast Tracks, completed in as little as 16 weeks, expanded access to LCCC especially among previously disconnected populations and in the wake of the pandemic’s economic disruptions. LCCC leveraged involvement in the cohort to establish design principles for its Fast Track programs moving forward, and set goals to support students’ pursuit of advanced credentials at LCCC.
  • Community College of Aurora. CCA is connecting to economic development by working on supporting employers hiring without social security numbers and revamping their economic development strategy with the Chamber of Commerce. They are also partnering with many different community and industry partners to find ways to navigate employment for their immigrant and refugee students. Those partners include Chambers of Commerce, City Council members, Economic Development, K-12 partners, The Office of New Americans, industry partners in different sectors, and workforce development centers across the state.
  • Linn-Benton Community College. LBCC is developing the “President's Advisory Councils” to focus on high-demand, high-wage career sectors in the region. These sectors will be prioritized based on labor market demand, competitive wages, and employment opportunities. The advisory councils will unite leaders from regional industries to discuss workforce needs and upcoming technological and operational changes.

New Programs

  • Community College of Aurora. The college is developing a series of what they call vocational ESL programs in health care, construction, and IT. They are also creating new contract training modules around communications and leadership skills and strengthening their employer partnerships.
  • Greenfield Community College. GCC is developing several apprenticeship programs for the first time, including pre-apprenticeship pathways. These initial forays are focused on the manufacturing and healthcare industry sectors.
  • Marion Technical College. Marion Tech is relaunching The FORGE program, which includes non-credit business and competition to help students establish their own small business or nonprofit. Through curriculum updates, mentorship program development, and enhanced outreach efforts, this project equips local participants with enhanced entrepreneurship and business management skills, strengthening the local workforce's capabilities and competitiveness.

Non-Credit to Credit Alignment

  • National Park College. NPC aims to convert non-credit enrollment to credit enrollment by improving student pathways through data collection, improved communication strategies, and the recognition of prior learning.
  • Tompkins Cortland Community College. The college is creating pathways for students in identified non-credit classes to receive college credit. A key feature of the work is the development of a classroom co-placement model for credit and non-credit students. The rationale for exploring this model is to provide more accessible pathways for adult, working students in high-needs, high-demand skill areas such as electrical technology and construction. The goal is to create a model that maintains the academic rigor of the courses while creating alternative pathways for students to access workforce training.
  • BridgeValley Community and Technical College. The college is building non-credit to credit pathways in the newly reorganized academic departments that now include non-credit for the first time. They are also improving their entrepreneurship program by integrating business administration classes and adding credit for prior learning blocks.


Many colleges in the cohort, like Central New Mexico Community College and Greenfield Community College, are leveraging new data and programming to generate resources for the college but three colleges are undertaking projects focused primarily on financing high-quality workforce programs. The colleges are working to improve their infrastructure to take advantage of local, state, and federal resources while also creating new funding structures.

  • BridgeValley Community and Technical College. In light of a reorganization that placed non-credit under each division instead of centralizing it, the college is working to strengthen the functioning of its non-credit programs by sharing how to design a non-credit program to maximize state tuition subsidies and exploring the creation of a shared services model to support non-credit programs across the college.
  • Ocean County College. OCC is leveraging resources to provide equitable workforce solutions to learners by removing financial barriers. Paying for workforce programs is a challenge, especially for Black, Latino, and low-income students. The team would like to leverage resources on campus and within the county with equity as the central focus.
  • Cuyahoga Community College. Tri-C is creating an investment fund to build capacity for priority activities and seed program startup expenses for new college initiatives that may not be anticipated in the current year’s budget. The college is also learning new ways to fund capacity building and capital equipment purchases that are not eligible for existing funding streams.

Do you know of or work at a college that is doing amazing work in these areas that would inform the colleges in our cohort? Have you helped colleges strengthen their workforce programs? Please let me know here.