In 2011, The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) invested $2 Billion in the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) initiative to improve the efficacy of post-secondary traditional, online, and hybrid workforce training programs. The foundation of the investment was an understanding that the nation’s community colleges, while providing supposed “access” to largely underserved student populations through open enrollment policies, they were not providing effective and meaningful access. The vast majority of students at these institutions do not complete their programs. They acquire significant debt but ultimately do not meet labor market needs.
Over 700 educational institutions deployed TAACCCT investments making incremental shifts in practices and curricula and sought systemic changes in how access would be provided throughout the life cycle of a student’s experience. These shifts often involved new ways of collaborating across sector and agency lines to engage education, private industry, and the DOL at national and state levels and lead to dramatically improved outcomes for community college students.
California State University’s SkillsCommons, the world’s largest repository of open and free online, hybrid, and traditional educational and workforce development materials, identified several of the most promising systemic innovations and created the SkillsCommons Field Guide of TAACCCT Innovations: The Gallery Edition. The Field Guide is a collection of online training resources designed to enable access-oriented innovations to be adapted, adopted and scaled for a variety of users. This Field Guide nomination is based on: (1) the recognition that these paradigm shifts were approaches that could likely be adapted effectively in other communities, (2) the recognition that these practices were unlikely to be broadcast widely by any other entity, and (3) how the nominee effectively packaged and enhanced these, sometimes complex, best practices in a manner that encouraged adoption and adaption. The intention of the Field Guide is to assist community colleges in providing better access and lowering costs for students seeking education and training in high-demand labor market arenas.
In order to tell the stories of access-oriented promising practices of the $2 billion U.S. DOL TAACCCT initiative, CSU SkillsCommons created the SkillsCommons Field Guide of TAACCCT Innovations: The Gallery Edition which aggregates stories and resources associated with systems-level shifts in how education approaches workforce pipeline development. By creating and revising new open educational resources (OER) face-to-face, online, and hybrid content to augment existing best practice resources, education changed the playing field in workforce development. The Field Guide captures 30 of these innovative practices designed to radically change community colleges and/or state systems and packages those innovations in a format that makes adoption and adaptation by others at no or low costs. The goal is to provide leaders and practitioners of workforce development programs with brief descriptions and easy-to-use materials that can be adopted and adapted for local purposes and programs thus increasing access and success rates for students.
Through a multi-pronged process, nominations were vetted and targeted innovations with quantifiable impacts on student success that held promise for replication and scale. Representatives from a third of the top-ranked innovations were invited to participate in video interviews designed to tell easily-digestible stories of the innovations. This collection of five-minute conversations help audiences understand the significance the innovations hold for students and provides specifics regarding how the innovations can be adapted into different contexts. SkillsCommons worked with promising practice nominees to collect resources that would aid others in replicating the innovations. The SkillsCommons Field Guide of TAACCCT Innovations: Gallery Edition was created to showcase and widely share this collection of free and open, traditional, hybrid, and online offerings of workforce development innovations. In-depth descriptions of specific innovations are included the "Pillars" section of this application. http://support.skillscommons.org/showcases/field-guide/.
Each innovation showcased within the Field Guide was rigorously vetted through a multi-pronged selection process. Specific methodology is included in an attached document herein. Third party reviews and formal reporting associated with each project's efforts can be found on SkillsCommons, and links to this collection and its showcase are provided below.
Project Outcomes Showcase: http://support.skillscommons.org/showcases/outcomes/
Third Party Reviews: https://www.skillscommons.org/discover?filtertype=type&filter_relational...
The demographic served by the nation’s community colleges varies from that of four-year institutions. Many current or potential community college students live in remote areas without easy access to educational and training opportunities. They may be faced with barriers like housing and food insecurity, access-to-childcare, unreliable transportation, and unsupportive social networks. Many students are considered first generation, are working full or part-time, and are supporting families. The typical community college student is older than their traditional four-year college counterpart. These demographic combinations can create barriers to access throughout the academic pursuit leading to abysmal college completion rates that hover near 20% (150% of time).
Barriers are exacerbated by the lack of comprehensive data about the return-on-investment of postsecondary workforce development programs. Students generally enter programs with little access to information about their likelihood of completion, knowledge of the associated job market, and the true costs of attendance. The result is that many community college students incur significant debt to enter programs that will not increase their financial circumstances in the near term. Offering a collection of vetted innovations and their resources allows educational institutions to scale and thus more cheaply and effectively serve student needs granting greater access to a broader population.
Numerous TAACCCT grantees (states, regions, systems) identified novel ways to dramatically improve access by addressing these challenges through cross-agency partnerships. For instance, the Ohio TechNet project’s chosen innovation included a strategic scheduling strategy to allow students to obtain stackable credentials faster and simultaneously. Strategic scheduling helped to meet the needs of the students by allowing them to receive a short-term certificate in one semester. Scheduling 20-25 hours a week for 16 weeks provides a student 18 credit hours per semester.
In Wisconsin, the C3BC project created new bioscience industry recognized credentials and courses built on the development of an employer-driven skills standard. To help educators incorporate the C3BC Medical Device Skill Standards into their curricula and labs, the Medical Device Hub created Courses-in-a-Box materials collection in collaboration with industry subject-matter experts. The Learning Technologies hubs focused on removing barriers to student learning through the design of modularized and ﬂexible learning experiences that could be widely disseminated to college educators and students.
The Missouri MOWINS project created an unusual and successful practice of building partnerships designed to connect longitudinal data between educational and labor systems. The coupling of student data with labor market data enables institutions, systems, and educational programs to share exacting data on how much an average graduate in a specific career track is likely to earn in the labor market over time. For example, the Missouri project created an online, interactive site allowing program candidates the opportunity to better understand labor market needs. This understanding can lead to accelerated completion rates and an improve local economy. The Field Guide provide a template for how this process can be achieved in other states. This level of data sharing is now being replicated in states like Montana.
Many TAACCCT projects adopted “Workforce Navigators” positions designed to help students navigate services within both their state’s DOL (e.g. disability services, food stamps, job placement services, etc.) and educational systems (e.g. tutoring, financial aid, academic advising, etc.). Using online and face-to-face methodology, navigators help dramatically increase: (1) the number of labor-clients entering postsecondary education in high-demand occupations; (2) student retention rates; (3) completion rates; and (4) job placement rates. There is also significant evidence that these positions pay for themselves through increased enrollment. The Field Guide not only highlights the success of these positions but showcases a comprehensive, online, 11-hour, self-guided workforce navigator training available to any interested in increasing student access in these ways.
Had SkillsCommons not curated this tool, these example innovations and their associated resources likely would have remained regional secrets or, at best, other communities would have had to recreate the resources that enabled these innovations to bear fruit. Eliminating or reducing start-up time can be key to reducing costs and increasing access and success rates for students.
The SkillsCommons Field Guide of TAACCCT Innovations: The Gallery Edition resources, contacts and stories therein are free and openly available. Materials can be converted for various learning management systems. The associated resources have been reviewed by subject matter experts and are readily downloadable and 508 compliant. They can be found on SkillsCommons.org, now considered to be the world’s largest repository of workforce development OER. Educational institutions, workforce boards, and training organizations can adopt, adapt, and customize the innovations thus lowering the costs of online and hybrid implementation and delivery of instruction.
The SkillsCommons Field Guide of TAACCCT Innovations: The Gallery Edition was developed by CSU SkillsCommons, and no costs are associated with users accessing the vetted resources. Implementation of the ideas connected to the resources will vary based upon local implementation strategies.
Downloadable Field Guide: http://support.skillscommons.org/showcases/field-guide/
TAACCCT Overview: https://www.doleta.gov/taaccct/
Third Party Reviews: http://support.skillscommons.org/showcases/outcomes/