Aug. 23, 2021
Over the past decade, millions of Americans without a college degree emerged from the Great Recession in jobs that were low-wage, insecure, and lacked benefits like paid leave, and COVID-19 made matters much worse.
People who were in low-quality, tenuous jobs were especially hurt by massive layoffs resulting from the shock of the pandemic - especially women and people of color. Meanwhile, employers were forced to embrace digitalization to survive in the quarantine era, and many accelerated work augmentation and automation. Both trends are requiring new skills of workers to keep their jobs or obtain new ones.
Now, as the economy recovers, many of the low-wage jobs are increasing pay to $15 an hour and adding much-needed benefits packages. But workers, especially those who lost the most income during the pandemic, have been keen to upskill, so they can secure even better jobs and more secure careers.
But at the same time, we have seen a paradoxical and chilling drop in enrollment in community colleges.
Interest in shorter, more affordable non-degree education and training programs continue to grow in demand and supply. But many non-degree, short-term programs lead to unemployment, underemployment, or poverty wages even in skilled occupations.
Community colleges are the nation’s economic mobility engine, and by expanding access and improving the quality of their non-degree workforce programs, they could be the key to attracting students back while meeting employers’ and the nation’s economic and equity needs.
Non-degree programs at community colleges could be key for workers to emerge from COVID in living-wage sustaining careers, but only if they’re of quality.
Enter our project: Right before the pandemic struck, we partnered with the Lumina Foundation to launch New Models for Career Preparation, a project that aims to unpack the replicable and scalable principles that go into creating high-quality, non-degree programs at community colleges.
We conducted more than a year of research and funded six community colleges with specific high-quality, non-degree programs. Our goal is to reverse engineer these models and see what makes them tick in terms of financing, design, and strategy.
Now, we aim to augment our program-level research and storytelling by funding a second cohort of community colleges that are leaders in workforce development to understand the institutional factors that help a community college offer these critical workforce pathways.
Six colleges will receive $50,000 grants to support their workforce needs while joining our national research and storytelling effort to help community colleges elevate the visibility and maximize the impact of their workforce programs.
Learn more and apply today: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QPTXS39
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