Community Colleges Work to Enhance Future Workforce
Published: November 04, 2019

A new ACE paper explores how community college and university leaders, policymakers, and industry partners can enhance their institution's mission to ensure that no level of education is a dead end, and that each educational offering makes students more competitive for employment.

Community colleges serve more than 40 percent of U.S. undergraduates. The brief, “Preparing the Workforce in Today's Community Colleges," outlines the two main functions of community college workforce education: 1) credit-based career and technical education (CTE) and 2) noncredit community college education.

Considering credit-based CTE and noncredit education as the primary delivery mechanisms, the brief explores three current movements relevant to how community colleges deliver workforce education.

Apprenticeships offer an “earn and learn" approach to gaining skills specific to an employer's needs, and as a strategy have gained traction with more than 30 percent growth in the past decade.

Associate of applied science (AAS) articulation is an avenue for career-focused community college students to continue their education toward a baccalaureate degree seamlessly. The authors explain, however, that students face setbacks as they work toward a degree, including the loss of earned credits upon transfer.

Credit for prior learning is particularly relevant for community colleges and students to earn college credit for prior training that may have occurred while in the military, workplace, or other settings.

The brief outlines four strategic implications to enhance the workforce development mission of community colleges:

  1. Provide equitable opportunities for students in CTE.
  2. Build AAS transfer pathways.
  3. Advance ties with industry through apprenticeships.
  4. Consider organizational culture when awarding credit for prior learning and implementing noncredit-to-credit articulation.

The paper is authored by Mark M. D'Amico, associate professor of higher education and chair of the Department of Educational Leadership at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte; Cameron M. Sublett, senior research associate at WestEd; and James E. Bartlett II, associate professor of community college leadership and senior research scholar with the Belk Center for Community College Leadership and Research at North Carolina State University.

Click here to read the full paper. It is the second in a series focused on community colleges—you can read the first brief, “Enabling Faculty-Led Student Success at Community Colleges," by clicking here.