Community College Partnership’s Instructional Impacts

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SRI Education and partners conducted a 6-year study of community college-employer collaboration to improve the design and delivery of workforce education programming. 

Inclusive STEM high schools can be defined as open-enrollment schools with a strong focus on preparing underrepresented students (e.g., African Americans, Hispanics, females, and students from low-income families) for advanced STEM education studies and careers. Previous research showed that many students, especially among those from underrepresented groups, did not complete the right courses in high school to be prepared for a STEM major in college. 

In the United States, headlines regularly described the “skills gap” between what employers want and what workers can do. Historically, closing this gap relied on an informal system of community college workforce educators meeting occasionally with industry advisory panels. However, the disruptive forces of global job competition and the rise of the knowledge economy catalyzed a decade of experimentation into new forms of collaboration between employers and college educators. The result was a set of more active approaches to employer-college partnership that aimed to restructure and accelerate the U.S. workforce education system. 

To date, evaluation of these innovative partnerships has focused on productivity metrics. While measures of how many instructional materials were developed and how many students were enrolled, certified, and employed, are important, to truly accelerate and deepen workforce education reform across the U.S., more knowledge is needed. 

To address this knowledge gap, SRI Education developed the Workforce Education Implementation Evaluation (WEIE) framework with funding from the National Science Foundation. The WEIE framework provides a set of tools that can be used by researchers, evaluators, and practitioners to measure the key qualities of employer-college partnership implementation.

It includes tools for: 

  • Understanding regional labor market needs 
  • Planning and monitoring the quality of employer-college collaborations 
  • Improving the quality of the instructional programming to prepare students to have transferable workforce skills 

The WEIE goal is to engage more funders, researchers, practitioners, and evaluators in building a deeper and more democratic understanding of practice in the workforce development field. The WEIE framework’s core elements—the research brief, toolkit, and links to published research—are available on this website. 

The work focused on the following objectives: 

  1. Describe partnership strategies
  2. Characterize approaches for aligning workforce programs with local labor market demands 
  3.  Characterize approaches to designing and delivering workforce instruction
  4. Create an implementation evaluation framework to inform future research into workforce education partnerships and programming 
  5. Disseminate usable tools and materials for partnership building and workforce-integrated instruction 

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under award number 0903331. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. 

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