Massachusetts Community Colleges Workforce Development Transformation Agenda
Transformation Project to Improve the Delivery of Training and Education at Western Massachusetts’ Community Colleges
The US Department of Labor has awarded $20 million to 15 Massachusetts Community Colleges to transform the community college workforce development agenda. Among the 15 are 4 local colleges: Springfield Technical Community College; Holyoke Community College; Greenfield Community College; and Berkshire Community College. These funds will be used to fundamentally change the way community colleges in Massachusetts interact with each other, the workforce development system, public agencies, leading industry groups, leaders of government and private industries in order to transform the delivery of education and training for workers who are eligible under the Trade Adjustment Assistance Act (TAA); unemployed and underemployed adult workers; and other adults who are not currently college ready.
Industry Sectors Key
The grant was designed to focus on key industry sectors that reflect the strategic economic development plan of the Commonwealth: Health Care; Life Sciences and Biotechnology; Information Technology; Clean Energy; Advanced Manufacturing; and Financial Services and Entrepreneurship. Each community college has selected academic pathways with certificate and degree options through which to offer new education and training pathways for targeted students.
The Transformation Project will provide an enhanced pipeline of supports and activities from the moment the customer is notified of their layoff, to their completion of education/training, to their achievement of a new job or career, benefiting both the individual and the Commonwealth.
A broad range of employee partners and stakeholders have been identified including local partners: Baystate Health, the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, Berkshire County Regional Employment Board, Franklin Hampshire Regional Employment Board, FutureWork One-Stop Career Center, CareerPoint One-Stop Career Center, BerkshireWorks and Franklin Hampshire Career Centers.
The Transformation Project is modeled after the Breaking Through Initiative, a nationally recognized model which helps low skilled adults acquire skills necessary to succeed in postsecondary education and attain credentials. Best practices of this model include:
- Compressing course material to accelerate learning
- Contextualizing content and customizing delivery of remediation to meet individual student needs
- Providing coaches to connect students with support services in the college and the community
- Providing training programs in shorter sections to meet individual and employer needs
Project have been established to mirror that success across the state.
- Priority #1: Accelerate progress for adults who are not college ready.
- Priority #2: Improve retention and achievement rates and/or reduce time to completion of industry recognized credentials, certificates and degrees.
- Priority #3: Build programs that meet industry needs, including developing career pathways.
- Priority #4: Strengthen online and technology-enabled learning.
Building on best practices, community colleges will develop, expand or enhance accelerated ABE, ESOL and developmental education courses through the development of industry-contextualized curriculums, “Boot Camps,” learning communities, modular curriculum or similar modalities, including expanded use of on-line instruction to expedite course completion.
Through the Transformation Project, community colleges will provide a networked case management strategy that integrates student support services provided by college and Career Center staff. A College and Career Navigator and “Achievement Coach” will be available to participating students. The College and Career Navigator will serve as a system liaison for students; ensure cross-communication is occurring at each step between the colleges and career centers; support regional synchronized outreach and recruitment; and maintain a presence both at the college and career center. The Achievement Coach will connect with the Navigator and provide academic and personal supports within the college environment.
In addition, industry teams will develop and implement state-wide curriculum for education and career training pathways that aligns competencies from basic skills to the associate degree level in the six aforementioned high growth industry sectors.
The funding of the Transformation Project comes at a critical time. Over the last decade, millions of U. S. jobs requiring a high school diploma or less were permanently lost due to automation and overseas competition. Analysts anticipate that two-thirds of jobs in the next decade will demand some college education, leaving undereducated citizens with few options for employment. Massachusetts is expected to lead the nation in job openings requiring college degrees in the next decade. The Transformation Project seeks to better prepare workers for the knowledge-based economy in a more user friendly manner.