Courses to Employment: Community College-Nonprofit Partnership Approaches to Serving Low-Income Adults - Discussion Transcript - Workforce Competitiveness Discussion List

Courses to Employment: Community College-Nonprofit Partnership Approaches to Serving Low-Income Adults

December 5 - 9, 2011

Discussion Transcription/Summary

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From 2008 through 2011, the Aspen Institute Workforce Strategies Initiative (AspenWSI) conducted Courses to Employment (C2E), a demonstration project designed to explore the role that community college-nonprofit partnerships can play in providing the unique supports and services low-income adults need to succeed in a college program, and eventually attach to and succeed in the labor market. Funded by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, C2E investigated six partnerships, studying the challenges adult learners face in community college, strategies and services different partnerships employ to address these challenges, roles and responsibilities of partners, program funding and costs, role of industry partners, and student outcomes. In this online discussion, researchers from AspenWSI and workforce development professionals representing the C2E partnerships will facilitate and discuss these partnerships and findings from this demonstration project.


Maureen Conway is Executive Director of the Economic Opportunities Program (EOP) and the Director of EOP's Workforce Strategies Initiative (WSI). As director of the Workforce Strategies Initiative, she is responsible for leading a team of researchers and consultants in a variety of initiatives to identify and advance strategies that help low-income Americans gain ground in today's labor market. Under her guidance, AspenWSI has grown and expanded its activities to support the field of sectoral employment development. Her vision has led AspenWSI to take on new initiatives that mirror the growth and expansion of the sector approach nationally, including projects that seek to assess the value of workforce development services to business customers, to shed light on the ways in which sector programs support constituents in their struggles to overcome a range of personal and systemic barriers, to create a framework for and document approaches to systems change, to understand the potential for greater collaboration among community colleges and community-based organizations, and much more. Maureen's previous experience includes consulting work for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris and work for the U.S. Peace Corps. Maureen's previous work for the Aspen Institute includes serving as Associate Director of the Local Employment Approaches for the Disadvantaged program, a research project which focused on the range of initiatives non-profit community groups engage in to promote employment opportunities for the disadvantaged. Maureen is the author of numerous publications on industry-specific workforce development and she has presented findings from her research at various national and regional conferences. Maureen has a Masters in Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina, an M.B.A. from Columbia University and a B.A. in economics and mathematics from Holy Cross College.

Amy Blair is a senior consultant to the Aspen Institute's Workforce Strategies Initiative and has almost two decades of experience working on research and evaluation projects designed to promote learning about highly promising poverty alleviation, sectoral workforce development, and self-employment strategies implemented by community-based and public organizations nationwide. Amy was a lead researcher on the Courses to Employment (C2E) project and through that project explored a number of different approaches to partnership between community colleges and nonprofit organizations that help low-income adults succeed in skills training and employment. She was a lead developer of AspenWSI's Business Value Assessment (BVA) methodology and tools designed for workforce programs to identify and measure the value of their services to employers. Amy has extensively researched and written about the sectoral approach to workforce development, serving as a lead researcher on AspenWSI's Sectoral Strategies for Low-Income Workers, Sectoral Employment Development Learning Project, and Jobs and the Urban Poor projects. Over the years her work has included developing and implementing longitudinal participant outcomes data studies, designing and convening a large number of focus groups with participants of nonprofit- and community college-based programs, site-based program research, strategic grant making, designing and facilitating meetings of direct service program leaders, investors and policy developers, and a wide range of information dissemination through publications, conference presentations and webinars. She attended Austin Community College and earned a M.S. in Community and Regional Planning and a B.A. in English from the University of Texas at Austin.

Matt Helmer has been a Research Associate with the Aspen Institute's Workforce Strategies Initiative since 2009. He currently works with the AspenWSI team on a variety of projects conducting quantitative and qualitative research, planning site visits, writing research publications and program profiles, and facilitating meetings and webinars. Matt has conducted quantitative analysis of students' education and employment outcomes for nonprofit-community college partnerships as part of Courses to Employment (C2E) and has assisted Goodwill Industries International with developing a tool to assess the impact of Goodwill-community college partnerships through the Goodwill C4 project. With funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Matt has been deeply involved in looking at the construction sector and the role pre-apprenticeship programs play in the industry and in regional economies. In this work, Matt has interviewed various stakeholders and helped plan and conduct in-depth site visits. Matt also facilitates meetings for the Sector Skills Academy, a fellowship program for workforce development leaders, and presents findings from AspenWSI's research at conferences around the country. Prior to joining Aspen, Matt worked in Seattle with Neighborhood House, a community-based organization that collaborated with the Seattle Jobs Initiative and Airport Jobs to help low-income individuals obtain employment. Matt has a Master's in Public Administration from the Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington and Master's of Arts Degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. He has worked in the ESL and special education fields for a number of years, leading several large curriculum development projects and serving as a teacher and teacher trainer. Mr. Helmer served as a Senior English Language Fellow at the University of Damascus in Syria on a U.S. State Department grant, has instructed visiting scholars from Afghanistan in research and academic writing skills, and worked as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Kingdom of Tonga.

Announcement of discussion on Workforce list Wednesday, November 30, 2011

[Workforce 586]

I am most pleased and excited to announce that we have a discussion scheduled next week titled Courses to Employment: Community College-Nonprofit Partnership Approaches to Serving Low-Income Adults with staff from the Aspen Institute Workforce Strategies Initiative (AspenWSI) as our guests! Please invite colleagues who would be interested in this discussion to join our list by going to

For resources to check out ahead of the conversation:

Putting Adult Learners on the Road to Success, a short film from WSI illustrating the importance of community college-nonprofit partnerships, is now available. The 19-minute film features participants from two Courses to Employment partnerships (Training Futures/Northern Virginia Community College and Capital Idea/Austin Community College), who are working to help low-income adults achieve greater success in higher education and the workforce. Students comment on the assistance they received in charting a career path as well as the supports offered in navigating the college system and juggling school, work and family. Discussion is included on the importance of engaging local leaders in building these partnerships that can result in higher skills and better jobs for their residents.

Update Issue 4: Sector Initiatives and Community Colleges: Working Together to Provide Education for Low-Wage Working Adults

This publication examines how some community colleges and sector initiatives are innovating and collaborating to benefit businesses seeking skilled workers, and low-income adults seeking education that leads to higher-wage employment. April 2007. Click here to download as a PDF or order a copy on-line.

Courses To Employment Update (Number 2) The Price of Persistence: How Nonprofit Community College Partnerships Manage and Blend Diverse Funding Streams

This report describes how nonprofit - community college partnerships, participating in the Courses to Employment (C2E) demonstration project, leverage multiple funding streams to address the barriers of low-income, adult learners to help them persist and complete their educations in community college, and to ultimately succeed in the labor market. Click here to download as a PDF.

Courses to Employment is a project we need to be aware of and the Aspen Institute is one of the major players in our field of Workforce Competitiveness. I know that this will be a discussion from which we will gain much information that will be of use in our work, and I hope you are looking forward to next week's discussion as much as I am! Donna Brian

Additional Information about Discussion Thursday, December 1, 2011

[Workforce 589]

Hello again, old and newer list members. Yes, we are adding new members who are interested in this discussion, and there is no limit as to the number the list can handle, so please keep spreading the word about the discussion and the December 5-9 dates.

Today, I'm sharing the outline for the discussion, day by day. As those of you who have been through these discussions before know, we don't expect that each day will be neat and tidy, and limited to the planned outline. Rather, these ideas are the ones that our guests will present each morning, and you can respond to these questions or ask other questions to expand the discussion to make sure your interests are covered. Then I'll try to organize all the presentations, questions, responses, and thoughts in a summary following the discussion. In past discussions, it has been difficult to follow each thread of the discussion because the postings don't come in ordered by topic, so the discussion seems to jump around. If everyone makes a special effort to make the subject line of any post you submit match the content of your post, it will help the discussion be more manageable. One other big help is if you will delete previous posts that are attached to your post, unless you are responding to a particular part or point of that previous post, in which case you might want to keep the specific part you are responding too while eliminating the rest. In other words, edit the previous post to only the part that is needed to understand your post. I hope that is clear!

So here's the agenda for the week:

Monday, December 5th: Overview of Courses to Employment

What is the Courses to Employment project and how does it work? Why are nonprofit-community college collaborations important and why should these two institutions partner? What are some of the challenges these two institutions in particular face in working together? Several partners from community colleges and nonprofits will present a little before and after picture of why they began their partnership and what that has meant.

Tuesday, December 6th: Partnership Models
How do partnership models and the roles and responsibilities partners have used differ? What are the common themes that seem important to success?

Wednesday, December 7th: Student Outcomes
What are the outcomes students served by these partnerships achieved related to educational advancement and employment? What data and indicators were used to measure their students' success? What are some of the challenges in obtaining this data?

Thursday, December 8th: Connecting Students to Jobs
How do these partnerships engage industry, and what role does industry play in these partnerships? How do these partnerships help students get jobs? How does partnering with industry actually work, and what are the challenges in partnering? How does partnering help students connect to employment?

Friday, December 9th: Support Services and Funding Streams
What supports do students need and how do partnerships fund these supportive services?

Our guests from the Aspen Institute Workforce Strategies Initiative will be Maureen Conway, Amy Blair, and Matt Helmer. Please don't wait for someone else to ask the question or share the information that is on your mind next week, and I know we will have a good discussion!

New members join the list in anticipation of the discussion

[Workforce 587]

I am Brenda Wilder with Goodwill Industries of Central Illinois, located in Peoria. I am the Program Developer and CARF Compliance Monitor. As the program developer, I am responsible for helping the vocational department develop new vocational skills training programs/classes for our participants. I am also responsible for monitoring our business functions and service delivery standards for CARF compliance. Our Goodwill is currently at the very early stages of developing a partnership with the community colleges in our territory, and I received an email from Goodwill International about the community college initiative on-line discussion through this list serve. Since we are at the earliest stage, I need as much information possible to assist us in determining what this partnership should look like that would be beneficial to the colleges, our participants, and us.

[Workforce 588]

Hello. I am looking forward to the discussions. I am an education consultant to local community colleges on transitions for adult learners pursuing career/occupational certifications, college degrees, and employment that provides a family sustainable wage. We serve 58 colleges. Please share specific information that can be re-tooled and used at the local college and classroom level. My specific interests include: employment market analysis, developing career pathways that match the needs of employers, effective student support and preparation strategies, writing proposals that match program design. Cassandra Atkinson, Ed.D., College and Career Readiness, Transitions Coordinator, NC Community Colleges

[Workforce 590]

I am Ellen Scully-Russ with The George Washington University. I teach in the Human and Organization Learning program at the Graduate School of Education and Human Development. I am new to this position, prior I spent many years with the US labor movement helping unions to negotiate and run education and retraining programs for union members. Some of our programs also offered training and job placement assistance to community members. So I have studied and worked the connection between education, workforce development, and the workplace for many years. I remain very interested in learning about the many ways stakeholders come together to make education and credentials widely available to working people and the ways these efforts can also help to improve working conditions and build new opportunity structures in the US labor market. I look forward to engaging you all in this list serve. Ellen Scully-Russ, Ed.D.

[Workforce 592]

I am Christopher M. Mullin, program director for policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges. In this capacity my chief responsibility is to provide analysis and supporting data to guide and enhance AACC's advocacy efforts; with an emphasis on federal student financial assistance, the performance of community colleges in serving low-income and minority students, accountability, institutional performance, college costs and related institutional policies. Additionally, I respond to immediate needs for the analysis of federal legislative, regulatory, and related policies while also playing a central role in shaping AACC's long-term federal policy agenda. I appreciate the opportunity to learn from and with you in this list serve. Christopher M. Mullin, Ph.D.

[Workforce 596]

My name is Bob Pawlak and I am the Vice President of Program Services for a large Goodwill Easter Seals in Dayton, Ohio. We are very interested in the topic of non-profit/community college collaborations that assist persons with disabilities and economic needs to successfully invest in themselves and their community by participating in community college programs. Our organization serves over 11,000 persons a year; over 5,000 in our workforce development programs. I look forward to the information that is about to be shared and learning ways that we can partner with our community colleges.

[Workforce 597]

I'm Jack Mills, director of the National Network of Sector Partners (NNSP). NNSP, an initiative of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, is a nation-wide membership organization dedicated to promoting and increasing support for sector initiatives, in order to improve employment for low-income individuals and other workers, and benefit the industries in which they work. NNSP works in partnership with local community stakeholders to design, implement, and improve sector initiatives. We also promote policies that support sector initiatives. Individuals who have low incomes often have limited skills, so effective approaches to literacy and occupational skill development are very important to sector initiatives.

Jack Mills, Director

National Network of Sector Partners (Insight Center's website including NNSP's section) (direct access to NNSP's section)

[Workforce 620]

My name is Sandee Kastrul and I am the president and co-founder of i.c.stars; we are a non-profit business, leadership and technology training program and social enterprise in Chicago formed in 1999 to develop 1000 community leaders by 2020. Using project-based learning and full immersion teaching, i.c.stars provides an opportunity for change-driven, future leaders to develop skills in business and technology. i.c.stars offers a unique two-year program that provides an opportunity for low-income young adults to develop advanced technical and leadership skills while earning an Associate's Degree. The program begins with a sixteen-week internship that immerses participants into the technology sphere, where they learn and master business, leadership and technology skills. After the initial training period, eligible participants are promoted into our residency and fellowship programs. The first role is as an i.c.stars "resident" working to deliver social media management for i.c.stars paying clients. After a period of 4-8 months, individuals can get promoted within our social media organization, or can opt to move into our Corporate Fellowship Program working as i.c.stars fellows on technology projects at major corporations in the Chicagoland area with our consulting partners. Sandee Kastrul

[Workforce 600]

I am Lisa Bauer, manager of workforce development for Goodwill of Greater Washington. In my position I manage our Northern Virginia career resource center (located in Arlington, VA) that provides access for community residents and other community based organizations for space sharing, etc. I also act as program manager for the training initiatives. We are very interested in the work being done around community colleges and nonprofit partnerships, in fact we just finished our first cohort of students through our C4 initiative and collaboration with Northern Virginia community college. I’m extremely eager to see any research being conducted and or completed around metrics and measurements for these types of relationships. I have four additional cohorts planned for the C4 training program in 2012 and I have a very strong desire to evaluate the ROI/cost benefit of the program.

Day 1 topic: The Value of Partnership

Monday, December 5, 2011

[Workforce 591]

Thanks so much to Donna for inviting us to share our research on community college-nonprofit partnerships and thanks to all of you for your interest in this work! We're looking forward to this week's discussion.

Matt and Amy and I are all looking forward to engaging with you this week! We appreciate this opportunity not only to tell you about our work, but also to learn from you.

This morning I'm going to:

  • Give you some background information about our Courses to Employment (C2E) research on partnerships between nonprofit organizations and community colleges
  • Introduce C2E partnership leaders at nonprofits and community colleges that were the subject of our research
  • Launch today's topic: The Value of Partnership

Courses to Employment (C2E) Background

Since the early 1990s, AspenWSI has been involved in research, evaluation and capacity-building activities in the workforce development field. Our primary focus has been on sector-focused workforce development strategies because we have seen that they are effective for low-income adults. Stated simply, these strategies focus on a particular industry or set of occupations, providing workers with needed skills and better job opportunities and connecting employers to the workforce they need to be successful. Here's a link to a publication that provides much more information and examples of the sector approach to workforce development:].

Back in the '80s and '90s, most sector initiatives were operated by nonprofits in relatively small, "stand alone" organizations focused on a particular industry. By the early 2000s, a few nonprofit sector initiatives were collaborating with their local community colleges, and these initiatives were achieving particularly exciting outcomes measured by employment, wage gains, and importantly, scale in terms of numbers of students. By about 2006 we were hearing of more and more cases in which colleges and nonprofits were working together, and we wanted to learn more about what we thought might be an emerging field of practice.

In 2007, with support from the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, we launched the Courses to Employment project to learn more about collaborative approaches. We approached it similarly to how we have approached learning about other emerging fields-by identifying a small number of partnerships both willing and appropriately positioned to participate in research and learning activities that would help us understand and begin documenting different approaches to partnership and also intended to provide program leaders with a place where they can learn from one another. We put out a request to community college and nonprofit workforce development leaders for letters of interest from partnerships interested in engaging with us in long-term research about their work.

We received 89 letters describing partnerships of a wide variety of types, working on different goals, and in different stages of partnership development. From these we ultimately selected six partnerships that had demonstrated a track record of working together, a focus on serving disadvantaged adults, an industry focus and ability to connect students to jobs, and management information system capacity for monitoring and reporting information about students' characteristics, progress and outcomes. We also tried to select a mix of industry foci and achieve some regional diversity. Very importantly, leaders of these partnerships also expressed their openness to sharing information about their work with others. Full disclosure-they received nice annual grants from the Mott Foundation to offset costs of participating in research and learning activities.

The six C2E partnerships are listed here, along with their leaders, who have worked with us over the years, and who we cannot thank profusely enough. We hope that many of them will join us in the discussion this week.

If you click here, you can watch a short video about partnership approaches and read profiles of each of the six partnerships.

Austin, TX

Capital IDEA (Steve Jackobs) & Austin Community College (Ellen Wuertz)
Chicago, IL

Instituto del Progreso Latino (Ricardo Estrada & Tom DuBois) & Wilbur Wright College (Madeline Roman-Vargas)
Fairfax, VA

Northern Virginia Family Service (Sharon LeGrande & Susan Craver) & Northern Virginia Community College (Bill Browning)
Flint, MI

Flint STRIVE (Jamar Baker) & Mott Community College (Robert Matthews)
Los Angeles, CA

Community Career Development, Inc. (Gloria Moore) & Los Angeles Valley College (Lennie Ciufo), East Los Angeles College (Gayle Brosseau) & Los Angeles City College (Alex Vaughn)
Seattle, WA

Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County (Peter Cavanaugh), Shoreline Community College (Susan Hoyne), Pacific Associates (Andrew Ang)

Between 2008 and 2011 AspenWSI researchers worked with these thoughtful, hard-working and inspiring individuals on a rigorous agenda of research and learning activities. We conducted annual site visits to each program where we observed classes, conducted focus groups with students, interviewed staff, instructors, local workforce development colleagues, business leaders, funders, etc. We worked with each site to plan and conduct a rigorous study of education and employment outcomes of program participants. We convened bi-annual learning meetings where we visited different partnerships, talked over findings in process, and invited local community stakeholders in for mini-conferences to inform them about the partnership approach.

The questions our research activities were designed to inform include:

  • Who does what in a partnership?
  • What roles, responsibilities, tasks and services are done by colleges? By nonprofits? How and why are these different across partnerships?
  • What do these strategies cost?
  • What are the elements of costs, and how are they financed?
  • What services do partnerships provide?
  • How do partnerships meet the academic and non-academic needs of low-income adults, and how does this relate to education and employment persistence and success?
  • What are the outcomes of these strategies?
  • What are the education, employment and income experiences of participants?

Before I start us off with today's question for you, I'll give you a little preview of how we see the week unfolding in terms of discussion topics.

On Tuesday we'll go into detail about the different approaches different partnerships have taken to working together. We'll talk about why their strategies differ and what roles the two organizations play in different partnerships.

On Wednesday we're going to talk in some detail about the participant outcomes of a few of these partnerships. Spoiler alert . . . they're really impressive. Large numbers of very economically disadvantaged students completed programs, earned certificates, college credits, and even Associates' degrees during our study period. And they got good jobs and earned higher wages than they were earning prior to participating in a partnership's program.

Thursday we will talk with you about some of the strategies the partnerships have used for engaging with industry and helping students connect to employment.

And finally, on Friday, we'll discuss the types of supports students need to achieve the types of outcomes they do in these partnerships, how the programs pay for them, and the ongoing challenge to raise funds to support partnership work.

We've seen an increasing number of community colleges and nonprofits partnering (formally and informally) to pull together the package of services and resources that disadvantaged adult students need to persist and succeed in an education program that is linked to quality employment. These include a strong academic program and academic supports for those who need extra help, a range of non-academic supports that help students with not only practical life supports but also more intangible motivational supports, and help preparing for and navigating the transition from school to employment.

Here are our first questions. We're looking forward to hearing from you! Maureen

  • We would like to know-from your perspective, given your institution, the region you live in, the current business mix and climate in your area and the students you work with, what value do you see in this partnership approach?
  • Are you involved in a partnership? Tell us about the goal of your work with your partner organization and the ways in which partnering has contributed to the effectiveness of your work.
  • If you're not engaged in a partnership, do you see gaps in your workforce or education strategy that you think could be addressed by partnering with another organization? What is this gap and how do you think about partnership as a way to fill this need?

[Workforce 594]

Thanks for this great introduction to the Courses to Employment project, Maureen. I especially thought the video was valuable. It's uplifting to see the real people and know a little of their stories and how their lives have been enriched by this effort. This looks like a great program!

In addition to community college and non-profit people on this list, we also have a lot of adult education teachers that work through their local schools' adult education programs. Have there been any of these practitioners and school systems involved in the Courses to Employment project? Do you see a way that they could be brought into a partnership with a non-profit and a community college? I'm assuming (maybe wrongly) that obtaining a GED is not an emphasis in Courses to Employment, and that seems to be a focus of many of these types of programs. Just wondering how (or if) it all might fit together. Are Workforce Investment Boards a part of the picture?
Donna Brian

[Workforce 595]

Those are great questions. I think that adult educators have played important roles in these projects. The one that immediately comes to mind is the automotive project in Seattle, which involved an I-BEST approach to instruction and we were very impressed with the ways in which the adult educator and the technical instructor worked together as a team in addressing the needs of participating students. The Chicago model involved integrating English language instruction into the health curriculum pathway. In Austin, they focused more on developing models to accelerate learning and college readiness.

And workforce boards certainly are part of the picture-the workforce board of Seattle King County was represented in our learning group and was a key partner in the Seattle program, and in addition, in Los Angeles, the nonprofit partner was the operator of a one-stop for that workforce board.

My colleagues can offer more details on these examples, but certainly many of the participants in Courses to Employment projects need the kind of services provided through adult education programs, and we would love to hear from folks on the list how they might want to be involved in this type of work, if they are not already.


[Workforce 598]

Thanks, Maureen and Donna, I'll chime in. In the group of partnerships we've been researching, adult education services figure prominently. Perhaps one of our C2E program leaders will want to chime in about their experiences with this, but I'll give a brief response based on one of the partnerships.

In Austin, Capital IDEA and Austin Community College work together on services for students who enroll with Capital IDEA for support and are starting from a variety of different levels in terms of education status. Some of their students are taking GED prep course work, which is offered at a number of different locations. Capital IDEA has tried to consolidate the GED students they support at one facility so that counselors can meet with students at the GED site and work with them there in peer support groups and one-on-one. They are helping them not only with issues related to completing the GED but also planning ahead to get ready to enter college.

The college's ABE department is involved in another important way in this partnership. In Texas students have to pass the TX Higher Education Assessment (THEA) exam to enroll in for-credit coursework. Many students need developmental education in reading, writing and math to pass it. Capital IDEA and ACC worked together to develop an intensive 12-week College Preparatory Academy to prepare students for the THEA. The Academy is staffed by ACC ABE instructors and is a conducted exclusively for Capital IDEA-supported students. Academy students have very high THEA pass rates. Here's a link to a white paper prepared by Capital IDEA on the Academy.

Amy Blair

[Workforce 599]


In Reading, PA we work with students who are coming into our program lacking skills and are not prepared for college. What kind of work was Austin doing to accelerate the learning of these students? Our students frequently need one, two or more semesters of work before they are prepared for college level classes.

Vicky Lichty, Reading Area Community College

[Workforce 604]

Vicky and team, Capital IDEA and Austin Community College created a College Prep Academy to deliver remedial education. It enables 84 percent of our remedial students to satisfy the state standards and begin degree credit courses. Here is the link:

Steven Jackobs, Executive Director, Capital IDEA

[Workforce 601]

Goodwill of Greater Washington is involved in a relatively new partnership with northern Virginia community college and we have just recently completed the first cohort of students from the partnership. From first glance the partnership is great success and we look forward to four additional cohorts in 2012. The goal of this partnership is to a) help disadvantaged (unemployed/underemployed) individuals gain market valuable skills that lead to careers with family sustaining wages, and b) provide these same individuals with access to educational pathways and opportunities that may not have been afforded or understood prior to this program. Successful graduates left with college credits, employability skills, two certificates, and completion of a state licensure process required for employment. One of the main keys to our success is an understanding that to align with industry (up from) is critical. With industry buy off from the start we have been able to validate the community need for these skills, validate the curriculum and content, and collaborate with experts throughout the design and implementation phases.

The question about effectiveness is most interesting to me and I suppose there are various measures depending on the desired outcome. I would love to hear thoughts on measuring the effectiveness and identifying the most accurate baseline - skills attainment, a career with higher wages at the end of training, continued post-secondary education? In this scenario where different entities may have a different outcome, I wonder if there can be two different goals that have mutual benefits for each partner?

Lisa Bauer

[Workforce 603]

Hi Lisa, I'm excited to see that you have a strong interest in measuring and evaluating the effectiveness of your program's efforts. On Wednesday, we'll dive more into this when we talk about the participant data studies we conducted for C2E partnerships. We've learned a lot about what accomplishments C2E partnerships are able to help students achieve both in terms of educational attainment and advancement and in gaining employment and higher earnings. We've also learned quite a bit about the challenges of collecting participant outcomes data (particularly related to post-training employment and earnings) so we're excited to have some discussion about those issues as well. You can review the C2E data studies at the following link The data studies are listed under "Sector and Higher Ed" and each document has the title of "Courses to Employment: Initial Education and Employment Outcomes Findings for (project name)." Headline is that these partnerships have helped large numbers of participants to finish education programs that have resulted in them obtaining good jobs.

During C2E, we also learned a bit about how these partnerships benefit employers and industry. Demand-side outcomes are hard to calculate or put a dollar figure on for a number of reasons. We have developed some tools for thinking about this type of outcomes assessment, however, known as business value assessment. That toolkit can be found at A brief report we recently published describing business value assessment is at

From C2E research, I'll offer a couple of anecdotal examples of business side outcomes. In Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Transit Authority credits the Bus Operator Bridge program, provided in partnership by Community Career Development and Los Angeles Valley College, with reducing turnover in bus operator positions and saving money related to overtime related to vacancies. We also know that Carreras en Salud, a partnership in Chicago between Instituto del Progreso Latino and Wilbur Wright Community College Humboldt Park Vocational Education Center, has been instrumental in providing the healthcare sector in the Chicago area with a pipeline of bi-lingual Certified Nursing Assistants and Licensed Practical Nurses, which one could assume has improved the quality of care for Latinos in the area as well.

To your mention of "costs", we'll also be discussing on Friday some of the expenses and costs associated with partners' work together. Specifically, we'll talk about the different support services partnerships provide to their students and how they fund that part of their work. We hope that conversation will give you some background on how you think about what the actual costs of your partnership and services are. Matt Helmer, Research Associate, The Aspen Institute Workforce Strategies Initiative

[Workforce 606]

Hi Lisa,

I think you are raising an interesting issue here about measuring effectiveness and how the institutional perspective may influence the choice of measure. Education institutions typically employ various measures of educational attainment, as you note, while workforce-oriented nonprofits generally track employment attainment and advancement. These goals are obviously complementary, since higher levels of education are associated with greater employment rates and earnings, and the promise of better employment and earnings often motivates students to work hard to achieve higher levels of education. However within that broad framework of complementarity, there are of course many particulars involved in defining what outcomes to track, gathering the data, and assessing what it means at various points in time.

A couple thoughts occur to me to share. One is that while these goals, as mentioned above, are generally complementary, they can also conflict. For example, if the timing of completing education doesn't correspond with the time of year when hiring happens-imagine a hospitality certificate program scheduled to be completed a month after a big new convention complex opens, in which case the best students may well withdraw and get jobs before they complete, lowering the education institution's success measure. The value of the partnership is providing a forum for working out these kinds of conflicts so that students maybe can find an alternate path to complete. Different partnerships will run into their own challenges, but having a partnership that brings different perspectives together can help find creative and productive solutions. Second, I think that many partnerships think of both the long-term goals and short term needs. Many struggling students have a short term need for income and need to take jobs when they become available. At the same time, the stronger their educational foundation, the more likely they are to be able to continue learning and build on initial success in employment. Again, having a partnership allows organizations to leverage each other's resources in order to balance the long term and short-term goals and achieve more together for their students and communities.


[Workforce 609]

Lisa and Maureen,

Good points. Creating educational systems that get "paid" for goals that are complementary to workforce goals is a challenge, particularly adult education systems. Struggling students conflicts between education and work is an age-old problem. Getting workers to return to school is very difficult and data indicate many do not return or return in some sort of distress. I am wondering if any systems ever provided tax or other incentives for individuals to return to training after entry-level employment? What about additional tax incentives for hiring individuals who have completed multiple or higher levels of training?

In general, once a student becomes an employee, new/additional partnerships may be needed if higher/family supporting wages were not achieved. Just another level of partnerships to consider.

Robin Matusow

[Workforce 611]

It's important for career pathway initiatives to develop and use appropriate measures of program impact. The resulting evidence can be used to guide learners, practitioners, employers, unions, and funders as they consider how best to use education to help workers attain, retain, succeed, and advance in meaningful employment.

Measures can focus on several types of outcomes, depending on the intended outcomes of the initiative. Options include:

  • learner gains (in skills, knowledge, credentials, career plans/portfolios);
  • learner employment status (Did they apply for jobs? Did they participate in job interviews? Did they do internships or visit worksites? Did they go to job fairs? Were they offered jobs? Did they get a job? Did they retain that job?.....);
  • learner job performance (e.g., attendance, retention, participation in workplace training, meeting production goals, use of safety and health procedures, ability to work in teams, ability to use technologies.....)
  • ongoing learner involvement in training and other career advancement activities;
  • worker ability to manage salary and benefits, understand and protect their rights, and prepare for career change and retirement;

It appears that the Aspen WSI Courses to Employment project is working on this question of how to measure the impact and otherwise evaluate career pathway initiatives. Those interested in this issue might also draw on the considerable work done in the workplace basic education field to develop meaningful measures of work-related basic education. The US Department of Education's National Workplace Literacy Program (of the late 1980s and early 1990s) required all of its programs to conduct evaluations. The National Institute for Literacy supported several projects that dealt with the question of workplace education evaluation. And, more recently, the New Zealand Department of Labour conducted an evaluation of its national workplace education demonstration program.

Current and past efforts in work-related basic education (both the current career pathway version and efforts in the area of workplace basic education for incumbent workers) show that this work of building new kinds of work-related adult learning systems has great potential benefits but also: (a) is complicated (needs to respond to many evolving needs and circumstances of learners and other stakeholders); (b) requires thoughtful, informed, and sustained planning, collaboration, investment, and innovation by multiple stakeholders.

Paul Jurmo

[Workforce 616]

Thanks Paul. I couldn't agree more that we need thoughtful assessment of programming, and that the information gleaned from assessment activities should be useful for informing program design. I really appreciate your listing such a wide variety of different types of outcomes for us to think about-some of which I would characterize as milestones, or interim outcomes that are important for measuring progress toward longer-term education or employment goals of initiatives and students. Some of these outcomes can be really challenging to define and collect meaningful data on (with reasonable amounts of effort). In particular I think about the question of learner gains in terms of skills and knowledge. I'd be interested to hear about how folks have developed ways of documenting learner gains for different types of training programs.

Amy Blair

[Workforce 618]

In Florida the C2E frameworks are industry-based and have multiple exit points that correspond to real job skills attainment. Most of the frameworks have soft skill attainment benchmarks also. Some skill attainment is measured in standardized testing, some by demonstration in the classroom or lab. The framework standards are pretty high. There are, however, some that are "hybrids" with greater emphasis on sort skill or as I call it Pre-C2E.

Robin Matusow

[Workforce 622]

At East Los Angeles College, our Technology & Logistics Program offers college-credit logistics courses that lead to skills certificates. These logistics skills certificates will soon lead to a Certificate of Achievement and an Associate of Science Degree in Technology & Logistics (recently approved). Students also document their learning by taking and passing two national logistics certifications tests-Certified Logistics Associate (CLA) and Certified Logistics Technician (CLT)-from the Manufacturing Skill Standards Council (MSSC) that is integrated into two of the logistics courses. We use the SLO assessment cycle to improve the program on an ongoing basis. Furthermore, this independent industry certification adds an additional layer of assessing skills and knowledge. Our Technology & Logistics Program was fortunate enough to receive funding support from Aspen about three years ago as part of their Courses to Employment study. These funds helped to offer needed logistics courses and expand the curriculum.

Elaine Shibata

[Workforce 624]

Thanks for sharing, Elaine. Are you working with a non-profit? How did you get this program and this partnership started? How do people get into the program?

Donna Brian

[Workforce 627]

When we first began this program five years ago, we did work with a nonprofit--the Wilshire-Metro Worksource Center--with whom we received some funding from the Aspen Institute. Our Technology & Logistics Program was rather unique in that it infused the technology used (like hand-held devices, GIS, WMS, etc.) in the logistics industry and not just logistics concepts using off-the-shelf textbooks. Offering our start-up logistics courses at a Worksource center enabled us to pilot-test and refine the courses prior to offering them on campus. Our logistics instructor who developed these college-credit courses worked extensively with industry to find out what knowledge and skills were important to employers in hiring applicants and in promoting existing employees. Where we lucked out was I was able to recruit one of our existing computer applications instructors who I knew had an extensive logistics background to develop this program. Because he had both a logistics and a technology background, he was able to evolve our logistics courses and infuse them with the gadgets, computers, and software programs used in the industry. It then made sense to house a logistics program under the Computer Applications & Office Technologies Department. Traditionally such a program is under the umbrella of the Business Department. Of course, all of this would not have been possible without the support of administration and the guidance of our dean, Gayle Brosseau.

A few years ago, a chance encounter with a UPS recruiter led to a meeting with some UPS high-level management who took notice of our program. We began a "partnership" and offered our college-credit courses to their supervisors and management. Many UPSers, as they are called, enroll into our courses every semester. In March 2010 we received a DOL grant in collaboration with some other colleges to offer logistics national certification. This funding enabled us to develop two more courses-Logistics 104: LOGISTICS: CORNERSTONE ESSENTIALS and Logistics 105: GREEN LOGISTICS & GIS TECHNOLOGY. Both of these courses are CSU transferrable and part of a skills certificate entitled LOGISTICS MATERIAL HANDLING CERTIFICATION. Many of our students have been able to find employment because of the national certification attached to the classes. We currently recruit students by connecting with local Worksource centers and veterans’ representatives; we make presentations at many events. In addition, because our courses are listed in the Schedule of Classes along with a description of the content, many college students looking for jobs and a career will enroll.

Elaine Shibata

[Workforce 630]

Dear Elaine,

I'm so pleased to hear about the developments of your program, and that many of your students have been able to find jobs. As you probably recall, at the time that we were working with ELAC and the Wilshire-Metro Workforce Center during the Courses to Employment project, the logistics industry was suffering in the L.A. area, many employers were laying off workers, and few were hiring. Students from the Logistics Academy, that ELAC and Wilshire-Metro partnered together to provide, as a result were finding it difficult to obtain quality jobs in logistics. Yet, the Academy was helpful to students at the Wilshire-Metro Worksource Center and many of them did find jobs in various industries, but the effect of the recession and its impact on the logistics industry meant that it did not make sense for Wilshire Metro to encourage or support students to continue additional logistics studies at ELAC.

I think this situation highlights one of the issues I mentioned the other day regarding the tension that can sometimes arise between the education goals of community colleges and employment goals of nonprofits. ELAC, like most community colleges, has a strong desire to build education pathways that are aligned with industry needs, even if those needs are projected and employers may not currently be hiring. On the other hand, a workforce nonprofit, particularly a publicly funded workforce initiative like Wilshire Metro's, is usually serving participants who need jobs immediately and their funding streams evaluate them based on placing students in jobs in the short-term. So their time horizon for thinking about education and jobs can be very different than that of a college, and requires them to be a little nimble and shift focus to where the jobs are. In this case, Wilshire-Metro shifted away from logistics and began focusing on the security sector, where employment opportunities were growing. They put together another short-term training with a partnering community college to place people in security guard jobs and had some success with that (as our data study on that program showed).

Similarly, with the work involving UPS, the entry-level positions available from UPS were at a wage rate that was too low for Wilshire-Metro's funders to count as job placements, and of course training of supervisors and managers was not part of their focus, as their goal was to help low-income and displaced workers find jobs. The interesting thing about UPS, however, was that it had a tuition benefit and hours that were a good fit for many of the people that came to Wilshire-Metro looking for jobs. So I think this also highlights the challenge of finding the appropriate metrics to track, as the UPS jobs did provide a good opportunity for some of the folks coming to the Wilshire-Metro, but the organization could not use their funding to place people or counsel them about how to succeed in the job and take advantage of the opportunity that UPS entry-level employment offered.

In any event, thanks again to Elaine for sharing the next part of the story at ELAC.


[Workforce 623]

The discussion related to outcomes has brought up some valid points and new perspectives to consider. I am appreciative of them. In light if what has been shared I thought I would contribute the following: After nearly two years of collaboration with institutional participants, state offices, and national experts AACC has just released a set of metrics that appropriately measure the work community colleges undertake. It includes metrics related to academic progress and outcomes, workforce (credit and non-credit) and community development, and suggestions for thinking about how to measure learning outcomes. Details about the metrics and the Voluntary Framework of Accountability can be accessed at

Chris Mullin

[Workforce 625]

I'm especially impressed with the metrics manual found at that leads right into our Wednesday topic on Student Outcomes. Donna Brian

[Workforce 602]

As a provider of adult literacy & ESL services at a library based program in Northern CA, the stakes we all have at this table are high. As collaborative providers (community colleges, non-profits, workforce boards and more), how do we support the learners/students with low-level literacy abilities to be prepared and ready for potentially new opportunities? How do we look forward to the needs being addressed in the workforce (one such example: the need for thousands of auto workers in MI by 2013/14) and prepare people so they're equipped to apply - and hold - new jobs being forecast in the various sectors throughout the U.S.? Students and learners are of various ages, and their abilities vary as vastly as their age! Each organization clearly is committed to being part of a solution, but what might that look like??

Lynne A. Price,

Adult Literacy & ESL Program Supervisor, Benicia Public Library

[Workforce 607]

Hi Lynne, I think you raise some very important points and interesting questions. I hope this week that we will show that nonprofit-community college partnerships that adopt a sector or industry focus to their work offer one promising approach to helping low-level literacy students succeed in college and the labor market. Since the early 1990s, we have been involved in designing and implementing a range of projects that have defined, evaluated, and advanced, through leadership and capacity building activities, industry-specific approaches to workforce development-what we have termed "sectoral" approaches. When you ask about addressing how we can address emerging workforce needs, we believe that workforce programs that adopt a sectoral approach are best positioned to meet businesses' needs and ensure workers are prepared for growing occupations in those industries because of their focus on building deep industry-specific knowledge and on establishing extensive employer/industry networks. We have seen these approaches work in various industries (e.g., health care, construction, manufacturing) and with various populations (e.g., ESL learners, ex-offenders, low-income adults) who have different needs and education and skill levels. Our work, as Maureen mentioned earlier today, into nonprofit-community college partnerships has been an extension of our research into sector initiatives.

To your last question, we have learned that successful sector strategies as well as effective community college-nonprofit partnerships that adopt this approach look very different from place to place. They can differ in the types of training they provide (e.g., long term vs. short term), the different supports they provide to workers (e.g., child care, housing, transportation, tutoring, etc.) and the roles different institutions play in these efforts. These differences make sense of course when we think about the different worker populations programs serve, the different industries and businesses these programs target and work with, and the disparate labor markets in which they operate that have varying competitive forces, employment opportunities, funding streams and political environments. As I mentioned above, the roles and responsibilities different institutions play in these solutions, as we will see tomorrow, also can differ greatly and are also dependent upon their own organizational strengths and weaknesses. So when you say ask, "Each organization clearly is committed to being part of a solution, but what might that look like?" I would say that what it looks like can vary greatly. Hopefully, tomorrow we will provide you with some examples of that.

Matt Helmer, AspenWSI Researcher

[Workforce 605]

Dear Lynn, Our college, Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA), is one of the C2E sites within The Aspen C2E Initiative. After hearing about the ways that our colleagues in the Austin and Chicago C2E sites worked with limited-English-speaking participants to prepare them for college-level workforce education, we developed such programs in Northern Virginia.

NOVA's new Adult Career Pathways initiative has developed a new ESL onramp for applicants to our nonprofit partner Training Futures who were not admitted into the program because their English language skills fell below the 7th grade (TABE test) measures needed for entry into Training Futures. We also integrated college transition services onsite at our region's largest GED program run by Fairfax County Public Schools. The attached project "dashboard" report shows early outcome indicators of this new initiative, with a short summary on page 2 summarizing the two specific projects described above.

Many of the CTE projects like ours have knit together local alliances with community colleges, CBOs and many other local partners that are designed to springboard ABE students quickly into post-secondary education and new careers. The C2E website describes several path-breaking initiatives that may help address some of your questions.

Bill Browning, NOVA Workforce Development

Day 2 Topic: Partnership Models: Who Does What in Nonprofit-Community College Partnerships

[Workforce 608]

In today's discussion, we'd like to discuss the roles and responsibilities nonprofit organizations and community colleges assume in their collaborative work together. It's important to say up front that there is no one model for collaboration between these two institutions. How each partnership is organized and how they approach their work is different and you'll hopefully see that a little more clearly later when we describe two of the partnerships in some detail (to see partnership profiles visit However, before we get into discussing how these partnerships differ, we want to tell you how they are similar.

Each of the partnerships focuses on a specific industry sector or occupation, and they all serve low-income adults who face barriers to education and employment success. All of these partnerships also have both education and employment goals for their students. They're trying to help participants persist and complete training, and then get them a job after training. To meet these goals, we saw the partnerships using a common framework of strategies that we think are essential to helping adult learners succeed in community college and the labor market. This common framework can be thought of as three overlapping circles that include:

  • Education Strategy-designed to meet student and employer skill needs.
  • Support Services Strategy-including academic supports such as assistance with registration or financial aid applications and non-academic supports such as assistance with childcare or transportation to promote success in college and the labor market.
  • Industry Strategy-including activities that align training with businesses' needs, helps participants to build their professional networks, creates opportunities for participants to engage in experiential learning, and informs career counseling to help students choose, obtain, and advance in an occupation in demand and fit to their needs.

Though the partnerships share this common set of strategies, how these strategies are implemented and what roles and responsibilities the participating institutions play in carrying them out looks very different among the partnerships. For example, some partnerships may provide non-credit training and others may provide for-credit training. Some partnerships provide long-term training of a year or more while others focus on shorter-term training. In some instances the nonprofit may play a substantial part in providing instruction, while in others the community college alone plays this role.

These differences in activities and strategies are due to a number of factors. Partnerships are working with different student populations, in different industry sectors and labor markets. Student and business needs are different, which presents the partnerships with different challenges and opportunities. Each of the partnerships is also operating in different policy and funding environments, which can impact how their work is funded and the services they are able to provide. Finally, within each partnership, each of the organizations has different institutional capacities and characteristics with different strengths and weaknesses that also affect how the partnership ends up looking.

To give you a sense of what this means on the ground, we will briefly describe two of the partnerships we explored through our C2E research.

Austin, TX-Capital IDEA and Austin Community College:

In Austin, Capital IDEA and Austin Community College partner to prepare and support students to succeed in completing A.A. degrees and for-credit certificates. Capital IDEA and ACC collaborate to serve students pursuing several different types of occupational skills training and education programs. But for the purposes of C2E research, we focused our research on looking at how the partners helped students working toward nursing and allied health occupation degrees and certificates. In this model, Capital IDEA assumes most responsibility for providing students with the supports they need to persist, which includes providing motivational supports through a peer support group, intensive case management, and extensive financial supports to help students pay for tuition, books, fees, childcare, and other expenses. They also work with other community agencies to link students to other support services such as medical care and domestic violence counseling.

Capital IDEA also does a great deal of work with and for students in terms of career counseling. They have an extensive screening and assessment process to match students with careers that are a good fit for their individual needs and interests, and that are in demand in the local labor market. To stay abreast of what jobs and careers are growing or are in demand, Capital IDEA has an extensive network of employer relationships they leverage to stay informed about changing skill needs of local healthcare employers. Capital IDEA also assumes responsibility for helping students with job search and placement-a process they initiate with students long before they are scheduled to graduate.

Austin Community College delivers all of the education and training in this partnership, which includes health care training and coursework in ESL, GED, and basic skills development. To help Capital IDEA students develop their basic skills, pass the college entrance exam, and learn study and test taking skills, ACC and Capital IDEA developed the College Prep Academy. The Academy is a full-time, 12-week program taught at ACC by ACC instructors that has achieved remarkable success preparing students to pass Texas' required higher education admissions exam and prepare for college-level coursework.

ACC recognizes that students benefit from the case management Capital IDEA staff offer and the college plays an essential role in helping counselors stay abreast of students' progress by regularly sharing data with the nonprofit. Staff from various departments at the college share data about students' attendance, their grades, and issues they are encountering with registration or financial aid. This information sharing is pivotal to the partners working together to meet students' needs as they arise.

Fairfax, VA-Northern Virginia Family Service and Northern Virginia Community College:

The six-month Training Futures program is a collaboration between Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) and Northern Virginia Family Service (NVFS). Training Futures prepares students for office administration positions, with a focus on positions in healthcare environments. Training Futures students are dual-enrolled at the college and with the nonprofit, and the nonprofit partner provides all training and instruction in the program, although a number of students continue to pursue further education at NOVA after completing Training Futures. Training Futures provides over 500 hours training in keyboarding, computer software, customer service, filing, and professional development. Training takes place off-campus at the nonprofit's facility, which is housed in a professional office building. This setting immerses students in a work-like setting and provides them an opportunity to see what jobs they are training for as well as interact with office professionals working in the building. Nonprofit staff also provide students with motivational supports, career counseling and case management, which includes coordinating referrals to supportive services.

Training Futures does a lot of the employer engagement in this partnership in order to help students find internships, to inform the curriculum, and to build the program's resources. Training Futures' job developers have relationships with companies and healthcare facilities all over the area that allow them to place students in a variety of professional office settings. Hundreds of volunteers are provided by employers and are a significant source of in-kind support to Training Futures. Volunteers serve as guest speakers, mentor students, conduct mock job interviews among other contributions.

Students may earn up to 17 credits for completing the Training Futures program (about 1/2 of the credits required for a Business Administration certificate). NOVA worked with TF to evaluate the curriculum and suggest minor changes to align it with specific NOVA courses. And the college worked with TF to certify nonprofit instructors as college faculty. The college works closely with the nonprofit to coordinate schedules (TF does not run on a schedule that matches college semesters), get students registered and enrolled in the appropriate classes and to help students apply for and obtain financial aid. After Training Futures, NOVA provides additional counseling and special attention to students who want to continue their education at the college.

Finally, the Training Futures model is interesting because the community college shares financial resources with the nonprofit. NOVA shares a percentage of tuition revenue it receives for TF students with Training Futures. NOVA also provides equipment and materials for training, most notably state-of-the-art computer hardware and software to TF (a satellite NOVA campus).

We hope that these descriptions of two partnerships have helped to illustrate how different partnerships can be from place to place. For today's discussion, we'd like to explore the following questions:

  • Is there anything that surprised you about what the college did or what the nonprofit did in these two examples?
  • Is there anything that seems similar to work that you are engaged in?
  • Do these examples generate ideas about how to structure a partnership that you hadn't considered?
  • What does your partnership model look like and why is it structured this way?
  • What roles and responsibilities do the different institutions in your partnership assume?

Matt Helmer, AspenWSI Research Associate

[Workforce 614]

Matt, Several years ago, when we first launched the NOVA college credit partnership with Training Futures (TF), we encountered several surprises, but one of them really blew us away.

While we knew from surveys that college was a goal for TF participants, we were surprised at how deeply the prospect of earning college credit resonated with TF participants. It's like it re-awakened a similar dream in many trainees, all at once. I've attached a story from the first TF cohort when they heard the news about NOVA credits from Training Futures' trainer and co-founder Susan Craver when she told them "From this moment on, you're already in college!"

We have learned from our own participants that "jobs" need not be mutually exclusive from "college". But too often our separate institutional cultures and systems operate as if CBO job training and community college education are located in different worlds altogether, rather than down the street from one another. Many C2E programs and other college-CBO partnerships blend their assets in creative combinations to help participants advance their college and career dreams simultaneously. Bill Browning, NOVA Workforce Development

[Workforce 621]

I agree very strongly with Bill's comment. We have many graduates who tell us, "the money is great.... but my degree makes me feel worthy." Conversely, there is a hidden danger to be alert to: people sometimes want college so badly, and can be so fearful of failure yet once again, that they intentionally (if unconsciously) sabotage themselves early in the process so as to get the pain over with quickly. We have to be ready to help some people struggle through a deep, emotional vulnerability.

Steven Jackobs

[Workforce 615]

Thanks for sharing those stories. I think your example in particular shows that where partnerships launch their work together and where they end up down the road can often look quite different. These are not static models of collaboration. As partnership engagement and trust deepens over time, we've seen partners grow and expand their work together. In some instances, this means the training program and services stops being something that is individually owned and controlled by one institution, and in a sense it becomes more of a "true partnership" where partners conduct more joint-fundraising, marketing, planning and decision-making activities together. I think we've also seen that successful partnerships sometimes start very small, that they often conduct a lot of trial and error with service delivery strategies and partnership arrangements, and that they frequently change and evolve in response to new information they gather about students' needs, local labor market conditions and opportunities, etc. Having processes in place of course to collect and share this type of information among partners is thus, crucial as well. We'll talk more on Thursday about how partners engage industry and collect labor market intelligence that informs their work.

Your second point about cultural differences between these two types of institutions as well is very important. You're right, the focus on helping students get "jobs" versus an "education" need not be mutually exclusive. I would say that as partners start and sustain their work together, it's something that needs to be acknowledged up-front and continually revisited if partners are going to work through the type of issues it can present. Maureen commented about this in a post yesterday as well and I'm reposting part of it here for those who may have missed it:

One is that while these goals, as mentioned above, are generally complementary, they can also conflict. For example, if the timing of completing education doesn't correspond with the time of year when hiring happens-imagine a hospitality certificate program scheduled to be completed a month after a big new convention complex opens, in which case the best students may well withdraw and get jobs before they complete, lowering the education institution's success measure. The value of the partnership is providing a forum for working out these kinds of conflicts so that students maybe can find an alternate path to complete. Different partnerships will run into their own challenges, but having a partnership that brings different perspectives together can help find creative and productive solutions. Second, I think that many partnerships think of both the long-term goals and short term needs. Many struggling students have a short term need for income and need to take jobs when they become available. At the same time, the stronger their educational foundation, the more likely they are to be able to continue learning and build on initial success in employment. Again, having a partnership allows organizations to leverage each other's resources in order to balance the long term and short-term goals and achieve more together for their students and communities.

Day 3 Topic: Student Outcomes

[Workforce 626]

Today, we'll be talking about the employment and education outcomes of C2E partnerships' students. The material we've put together for today's discussion includes:

  • Background about the C2E data studies
  • Highlights of outcomes from 2 very different partnership approaches
  • Summary of the types of challenges inherent in this type of outcomes research
  • Questions to launch today's discussion

Background about C2E Data Studies
An important goal of C2E was to learn about the education and employment outcomes that students served by these partnerships achieved. As Maureen noted on Monday, we worked with each Courses to Employment site to plan and conduct a rigorous study of education and employment outcomes of program participants. Because of the diversity of the partnership sites' education and employment goals, strategies, education pathways, duration of programming and employment environment, we felt it was necessary and most useful for our learning purposes and the learning needs of the partnerships to construct independent studies for each partnership (as opposed to looking at all of the students served by six partnerships in aggregate). The data studies used a non-experimental design, and outcomes were evaluated based on pre- and post-participation education and employment status, and where appropriate, interim education milestones. We don't have the time or space to go into details on all of the studies, but you can find detailed student outcomes reports at the following link under Sector & Higher Ed.

The data studies were designed to not only inform key learning questions about student outcomes, but also to help build capacity within each partnership for ongoing learning independent of AspenWSI's research efforts. Student outcomes data is very important to partnerships and to individual programs. Workforce leaders need data such as this to inform the management of program and planning, to adjust their strategies based on what is working and what is not, to report their successes and lessons learned to current funders, and to help develop and attract new funding sources. However, this means not only collecting data on final outcomes but also on participant characteristics at enrollment, the services participants receive, and the interim steps towards education and employment goals. In short, tracking all of this data can get complicated and messy quickly, particularly when multiple institutions are serving students as is the case with nonprofit-community college partnerships.

To help partnerships build their data management capacities, each participant outcomes study was designed based on the partners' existing data management system. We provided each site with substantial technical assistance to help assess their existing systems, and all made significant modifications in response to specific input. In most cases, outside data sources were needed to inform key learning questions. In particular, obtaining and managing information about education progress and employment outcomes was challenging for each partnership. Each site implemented different processes and used a variety of different data sources to obtain the data needed to inform questions about outcomes. In none of the C2E partnerships did either the non-profit organization or the community college partner have all of the information needed to answer relevant questions about outcomes. Thus on a case-by-case basis, we worked with the different partners and outside data providers to build the datasets needed to answer questions both about education and employment outcomes.

As Maureen noted on Monday, the outcomes C2E partnerships' students achieve are impressive and demonstrate that nonprofit-community college collaborations are promising approaches to serving low-income adults. We'd like to use today's forum to share highlights of outcomes from two of the partnerships. All of the partnerships achieved what we consider to be really exciting outcomes for the populations they serve, and we hope you'll have time to take a look at the outcomes of their work as well. The partnerships we highlight today are very different in terms of both goals and approaches. Training Futures (partnership between Northern Virginia Family Service and Northern Virginia Community College) is a relatively short-term training program. Capital IDEA and Austin Community College partner to serve students on much longer-term programs of study

Training Futures Student Outcomes
If you recall from yesterday, Training Futures is a 25-week program designed to prepare students for office administrative positions. Students can earn up to 17 credits at Northern Virginia Community College for successfully completing the program. We followed the experiences of the 253 students who enrolled in Training Futures between December 2007 and March 2010. 64% of the students were non-native English speakers, 75% were women and the median age of these students when they started Training Futures was 38. Almost 80% of the students were low-income when they enrolled. Only 51% were employed at the time of enrollment. Of those employed, most worked part-time, and typical occupations were cashiers and parking lot attendants. This diverse, low-income, adult population represents a community that Northern Virginia Community College staff and leadership recognize that they have trouble reaching and serving effectively.

Of the 253 participants, 237 or nearly 94% completed the six-month program. 84% of the students enrolled in the study earned college credit for Training Futures (median 17 credits). After Training Futures, 84.4% of Training Futures' graduates were employed, most typically as administrative assistants. In their initial job after Training Futures, participants worked a median of 40 hours per week and earned a median wage of $13.31 per hour, an increase of $3.02 per hour or 29.3% for those who were working at enrollment. Over 30% of the students enrolled in additional not-for-credit or credit coursework at NOVA after Training Futures, and these students tended to perform well (successfully completing 76% of the courses they took). During the course of our data study, Northern Virginia Community College began offering Training Futures graduates additional counseling and assistance to continue their educations at NOVA, which greatly increased the number of students continuing on to NOVA after Training Futures. 46% of all students from the last cohort of students in our study took additional NOVA courses after Training Futures.

Data for the Training Futures study was compiled from a database designed by Training Futures staff that captures data on participants' demographics, their training completion status, and their employment experiences pre- and post-training (gathered from participants in person, via phone and through email). Data on the number of credits students earned and their continuing education experiences after Training Futures at NOVA were gathered from academic records provided by the community college.

Capital IDEA and Austin Community College Student Outcomes
In Austin, Capital IDEA and Austin Community College (ACC) partner to support students pursuing for-credit certificates and degrees in nursing and allied health professions. Capital IDEA supports low-income students who start at a range of education levels including those who enroll in ESL coursework, GED preparation, the College Preparatory Academy (a pre-college basic skills development program) to those who enroll in for-credit pre-requisites or a certificate or degree program. In the study we conducted, we followed the experiences of the 991 students who enrolled with Capital IDEA between 2003 and 2008 and expressed intent to pursue a healthcare program at ACC. 88% of the participants were female, 44% were Hispanic, and 26% were African-American. Participants' median age at enrollment was 27, and 37% of participants were single parents.

During the course of our study, 37% (368 students) enrolled in a healthcare education program (meaning they had also completed for-credit pre-requisites). When our study concluded, 52% (193 students) had graduated from a health program, the majority from Registered Nurse or Licensed Vocational Nurse programs. Another 30% (112 students) were still enrolled in training when our study finished. Of the 193 students who finished a healthcare program, 96% were employed in the first full year after they finished, and these students saw a huge increase in their earnings. The annual median earnings of graduates after they completed their certificate or degree program was $44,223. The students in this group who were working in the year prior to enrolling with Capital IDEA earned a median of $13,545.

Though not all students completed a healthcare program, we learned through this study that students who completed interim training steps also improved employment and earnings. For example, students who completed the College Preparatory Academy and then ended training doubled their annual earnings from $7,255 to $14,110 after training. And students who withdrew from training, but who continued to use Capital IDEA's employment placement resources also improved earnings from median $13,560 pre-program to $22,377 after withdrawing.

Data for students' demographic information, their educational advancement and training completion was gathered from Capital IDEA's database. To track educational advancement, however, Capital IDEA uses students' academic transcripts that they receive from ACC at the end of each academic term. Students' employment and earning experiences were gathered from Texas Unemployment Insurance records through a data-sharing agreement between AspenWSI, Capital IDEA, and U.T. Austin's Ray Marshall Center, which conducts a wide range of work for the Texas Workforce Commission and has access to this data.

Data Challenges
As we have seen in these examples from Austin and Northern Virginia, the outcomes students achieved indicate these collaborations are effective for serving low-income adults-a key finding from our research. But getting this type of outcomes data is really challenging for a number of reasons. First, colleges and nonprofits are evaluated based on different metrics and timelines, and their data systems reflect these differences. In our research, neither institution alone had all the data they needed to adequately measure education and employment outcomes. We saw through C2E, however, that nonprofits usually take the lead on creating and managing data systems that can account for both employment and education outcomes. At the same time, nonprofits often lack the resources they need to build and maintain sophisticated data tracking systems as well as the capacity to analyze this data.

Collecting employment outcomes data in particular can raise a number of challenges. It is difficult and expensive to collect and maintain, and few nonprofits have access to public wage record data that may help reduce this burden. Colleges also do not typically maintain capacity to track employment outcomes (though many do track employment outcomes for special grant-funded programs). Issues with student privacy can also come into play, because institutions need to share data with one another.

Discussion Questions
In today' conversation, we've raised a number of issues related to measuring students' success, the data we need to look at a training program's impact on student progress and outcomes, and issues related to getting and using appropriate data. So today's conversation has the potential to go in a number of different directions, depending on people's interests. Here are a few questions:

  • What questions do you have about the student outcomes we discussed today for the partnerships in Northern Virginia or Texas? Do you have questions about outcomes from other C2E partnerships?
  • How do you measure your students' progress? What outcomes are you trying to help your students achieve and how do you know if they're successful?
  • What data challenges do you face in getting the outcomes data you need to know if your strategies are effective? What data solutions have you seen or created to address these challenges?

[Workforce 628]

These outcomes are very impressive! It looks like the longer the program, the higher the increases in wages for these participants. Does that seem to be true?

There are more and more questions running through my mind:

  • When we had the earlier discussion with the Jobs for the Future program of Career Pathways, there was a focus on the pathways that could have several "stopping off points". Do these Courses to Employment programs also have established career pathways that a student can look at to see where his/her chosen career path might lead?
  • Do Courses to Employment programs utilize "stackable certificates" as in the Ohio plans?
  • What part do the non-profits play in the partnerships? It seems like we've mostly heard the community college perspective. Are there people on the list who are representing the non-profits that could chime in here and share some of their thoughts?
  • What are some of the ways that these partnerships have gotten started and what are some of the pitfalls in getting these partnerships functioning?

Donna Brian

[Workforce 629]

Hi Donna, I'll weigh in on a few of these and see if others want to respond. To your first point, I would say from what we've seen that seems to be the case. The longer programs, those that lead to a degree or longer-term certificate, do seem to help students earn higher wages. In Chicago with Carreras en Salud and in Austin with the outcomes mentioned below, we saw that students who completed the longer-term programs to be Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVN), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) and Registered Nurses (RN) do earn higher wages in their employment following training. However, we also saw that these programs are much more difficult for students to complete and the dropout rates, particularly in healthcare pre-requisites, can be very high. For some students the coursework may be too difficult, the time commitment may be too long, or they may decide this career is not for them. On the other hand, in what we observed, the shorter-term programs do have very high completion rates, but some of the jobs, and I'll say again some because I don't want to over generalize, don't pay as well or have good benefits, but those jobs may be a good fit for specific populations who need to go to work more quickly or who are transitioning to something else.

A few of the C2E partnerships have some built-in starting and stopping points. This is of course particularly the case in healthcare programs (Austin, Chicago and Flint partnerships in Courses to Employment) where students can move through nursing or allied health pathways. For example, a student may start by earning his/her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification, go to work and then return to school to work on pre-requisites and then an LPN certificate. In other cases, a student may start by earning his/her LPN certification, go to work as a LPN, and then return for RN training. I think from what we've seen, however, that for students starting along the lower rungs of these pathways, including around the CNA level or other pre-college levels that it can be quite challenging to continue on successfully to that LPN or RN level. It takes partnerships providing a lot of intensive long-term supports over many years to help students make that leap and I think many partnerships struggle to provide the resources and maintain the level of intense engagement to larger numbers of students across many years.

Other partnerships too have starting and stopping points and what one may think of as "stackable credentials." The General Service Technician program at Shoreline Community College in Seattle, a program we will discuss more tomorrow, is a 3 quarter (one full academic year), 45 credit program in which students earn a for-credit certificate. The program is designed to prepare students for entry-level employment in the field of general automotive maintenance and simple repair and many students go to work directly after training. However, the program is also designed to bridge students, particularly those that are low-income and lack basic skills in math, reading and language, to a two-year degree program at Shoreline in automotive technology. Many GST students, with the assistance of a Career Navigator and because these programs at Shoreline are manufacturer-specific and employers sponsor training and students get paid work experience during the A.A.S.), do go on to pursue that two-year degree. During our study of the GST program, 35 students out of 126 that we followed entered the two-year program after completing the GST certificate. 22 completing the degree by the time our study ended (and most others were still enrolled).

I think I'll stop there now and let people involved in partnerships respond to your last two questions (as well as the first two).

Matt Helmer

Day 4 Topic: Connecting Students to Jobs

[Workforce 634]

Good morning everybody! We've had a few posts this week from folks talking about their strategies for helping participants link their education to work, and we'd like to continue in that vein today.

The adult students who participate in the education and training activities provided by the six partnerships in the C2E demonstration all have one thing in common. They need to get a job or get a better job than the one they have, usually as quickly as possible. Partnership leaders recognize that for their low-income, adult population to get and stay motivated to persist in an education program, students must see clearly how the work they do in class is preparing them for specific employment opportunities. So while everyone wants students to complete education programs, the goals of C2E partnerships' work together extend through to helping students obtain employment.

Today's conversation-starter includes:

  • A brief description of the types of things that C2E partnerships do to look at their local labor market through the lens of the student workers who must navigate it. The knowledge gained from these activities and this worker perspective not only informs job development and placement activities for students who complete training programs but also informs and drives the design of the programs themselves
  • Two examples of how C2E partnerships work strategically to design education programs that link their participants to employment

Description of C2E partnerships and view of local labor market for program design:

We've been referring to this broad area of work linking students to education leading to employment as "labor market navigation" activities. They include things such as:

  • Looking for where employment opportunities exist-not just "high demand" industries, but also niche employment opportunities, regardless of whether or not an industry is growing (we've seen great outcomes in work that's focused on opportunities in industries that are just "stable").
  • Learning what non-education factors employers use to screen and hire workers (e.g., unpacking the ubiquitous "good work ethic" into specific skills, worker characteristics, behaviors) and figuring out how to use this information to inform students and the curriculum.
  • Learning how advancement occurs within a specific industry (or company) and how individuals best prepare for it (e.g., should they be trying to get certain on-the job- training (OJT) experiences once they land a first job? Should they be learning a specific new skill even after they're hired?).
  • Figuring out how to educate students about the specific things they need to focus on to prepare for employment while they're in school (e.g., communication skills so they can articulate their value in an interview; back-up childcare plans; a part-time job to get work experience, an internship in the occupation or industry).
  • Updating labor market vacancy information continuously and steering students toward programs that prepare them for real employment opportunity.
  • Screening and assessment up-front, with an eye toward requirements of both the academic program and the occupation individuals are training for, to help students decide whether an occupation opportunity is right for them (and whether they can prepare for it with reasonable effort).
  • Building relationships with employers so program staff can promote the program and its graduates in job search.
  • Learning about employment outcomes of students and reviewing education program and other labor market navigation activities to figure out whether a program is successful or not.

Labor market navigation functions are shared by the community colleges and nonprofits across the C2E partnerships. If you've been following along this week, you've probably guessed that I'm going to say that the way they do this varies a lot across the partnerships. And of course they do. This is because both the institutions and individual staff have different relationships with other industry players. And they have different types of capacities and resources. And they have different missions.

Here are two examples from C2E partnerships that show different approaches to building labor market navigation functions into a partnership programs.

General Services Technician (GST) Program-partnership between Shoreline Community College and the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County

In Seattle, the GST program is situated within the Professional Automotive Training Center (PATC) at Shoreline College. PATC is sponsored by the Puget Sound Automobile Dealers Association and is used by them for their own incumbent worker training as well as for dealer-sponsored A.A.S. programs run by Shoreline for specific automobile manufacturers (e.g., Honda, Chrysler). These A.A.S. programs require students to enter with academic and technical skills that many of the low-income adults who are interested in auto service careers do not have. At the same time, there are a large number of jobs in automotive service and related occupations that require lower levels of skills. Shoreline developed the GST, a for-credit, and 3-quarter I-BEST program to prepare students for jobs in the industry while also improving their basic academic skills. The partnership developed a new position to help students persist in the program and transition to employment and ongoing education programs. This position, called a Career Navigator, has been provided by the WDC through a subcontract with Pacific Associates. The Navigator helps students access supportive services, navigate college registration and financial aid during the program, find an internship, and then helps them find a job when they finish. He also works with graduates (and students who withdraw from the program) to find new jobs when appropriate and enroll in additional training such as dealer-sponsored A.A.S. programs.

Because the GST is located in the PATC, instructors are in frequent contact with industry representatives of a variety of types. This is one source of industry intelligence that informs the design of GST. But the Navigator is also out beating the pavement meeting with the managers and owners of independent and chain auto repair shops (e.g., Pep Boys, Jiffy Lube, AAMCO, Sears), telling them about GST, getting their input about what types of employees they need, etc. He also keeps in contact with graduates and helps them advocate for OJT, employer support for them to return to school, etc.

Working with the Career Navigator is optional for GST students (and the Navigator was not on staff prior to 2008). In our C2E data study, we followed the experiences of the126 students who enrolled between 2006 and 2009. 81% of GST students served by the Navigator graduated (compared to 42% of those not served by the Navigator). 93% of Navigator-served graduates obtained employment (compared to 68%). And 69% of Navigator-served graduates were employed full-time (compared to 32%). 45% of all GST students (including both graduates and withdrawals) went on and continued their education at Shoreline after GST. They earned a median of 56 additional credits. And 35 students were admitted into and enrolled in a dealer-sponsored program (at the time our study ended 22 had completed an A.A.S. and 11 were still enrolled).

Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) Bus Operator Bridge-partnership between Los Angeles Valley College (LAVC), Community Career Development, Inc. (CCD) and MTA

The MTA operates Los Angeles' extensive bus and rail public transit system. Despite high local unemployment, the MTA has had difficulty recruiting, training and retaining qualified bus operators. MTA Bus Operator positions are union jobs with good pay and benefits.

Community Career Development (CCD), a non-profit one-stop WorkSource Center in the Mid-Wilshire District of LA and Los Angeles Valley College have partnered with human resources at MTA to provide a two-week Bus Operator Bridge program to meet MTA's need for a screened, diverse and skilled labor pool. The two-week program includes classes that prepare students for commercial driving permit exam as well as instruction in critical thinking, time management, customer service skills, test taking techniques, and positive study habits. The program brings in Bus Operators to talk with students about what the job entails, and includes up-close examination of an actual MTA bus. So students get a good sense of what driving a bus might be like. CCD staff recruit and screen participants for the program, provide participants with non-academic supports, and manage the day-to-day operations of the program.

Los Angeles Valley College's Director of Workforce Development developed and manages the relationship with MTA leadership and human resources. The Director uses these relationships to ensure the Bridge curriculum is up-to-date and instructors have the knowledge and skills they need to teach the Bridge. In its early years, the Bridge was located at CCD, but it is now delivered on-site at MTA's main office. After completing the 2-week Bridge program, graduates advance into paid MTA On-the-Job Training (OJT) at MTA (temporary employment). Successful graduates of MTA's OJT are hired by MTA and receive an extensive benefits package. CCD continues to support the workers after placement as well to make sure they are succeeding in their new jobs.

One of the many great things about this initiative is that students, in a very short period of time, can figure out if being a bus operator might be right for them, and LAVC and CCD have worked closely with MTA to develop effective recruiting, screening and assessment processes to help them select candidates who will be a good fit for this job. From 2006 to February 2010, the partnership conducted the 2-week bridge class 20 times and enrolled 651 participants. 362 (56%) successfully completed the bridge and passed the required criminal and driving record background checks. 360 of the 362 were hired by MTA for paid 6-week OJT ($11.09/hour, temporary employment), and 217 (60%) completed OJT and were hired as bus operators.

MTA's representative has commented to us more than once that the partnership between LAVC and CCD is so well coordinated that MTA staff sometimes don't know who works for which organization. MTA reports that Bridge graduates are more successful in OJT than candidates they recruit from other sources, and the Bridge has been a major factor in helping MTA to address a long-standing bus operator vacancy problem, to increase the number of OJT participants who are ultimately hired, and to reduce the cost of training and overtime due to vacancies. They also appreciate the program because it has helped them to expand recruitment and employment to include larger numbers of low-income Los Angelenos than MTA was able to reach effectively in the past.

Discussion Questions Looking forward to hearing from you! Amy Blair

  • Engaging employers effectively is a challenge for both nonprofits and colleges. Everybody is interested in learning about practical strategies for getting businesses involved in their work. Do you have experiences to share with the group on this front?
  • If you are involved in a partnership, how do you organize your work with employers? Who does what? What types of challenges does collaboration present? Opportunities?
  • Helping student-participants get jobs is frequently a "bread and butter" activity for non-profits, but most colleges have neither the mission nor the resources to conduct extensive labor market navigation work directly for students. Colleges do, however, usually work with employers to gather intelligence to inform curriculum design and focus program efforts. How is your situation similar or different from this scenario?

[Workforce 635]

During the summer I requested information from members of the Workforce Competitiveness list about statewide programs that support workplace education to build incumbent workers' basic skills, literacy and English language development for a policy brief for the Working Poor Families Project. I appreciate all of the information that was sent and learning about a variety of state efforts in interviews with many of you. The report was published this week; I am sharing it as promised:

Much of it pertains to the exchange of information during the rich discussion about the Courses to Employment initiative. I applaud Maureen, Amy and Matt for their impressive work and sharing their findings with us. As some of you commented, many points raised during this discussion are also issues in workplace education—the critical need for measuring outcomes and value; the importance of connecting training at the workplace to postsecondary education so workers can advance; the value of using sectoral approaches and strategies; the need to provide incentives that are valued and accessible; the essential element of partnerships between employers, colleges, community based organizations and workforce development systems; and the fact that many low-income individuals must work while in training or education programs.

Workplace education programs are designed to build basic reading, writing, math, or English language skills for low-skill workers and are often connected to the jobs skills needed by employers who sponsor them. These programs use public-private partnerships to address the needs of employers, local and state economies, and low-income workers. This brief reviews the rationale for workplace education programs, highlights effective state programs, and makes program and policy recommendations for strong programs.

With support from the Annie E. Casey, Ford, Joyce, and Mott foundations, the Working Poor Families Project works primarily to assess and strengthen state efforts to help low-income families advance and achieve economic security. For more information on the Working Poor Families Project, go to Thanks again everyone.

Carol Clymer

Day 5 Topic: Student Supports and Funding Streams

[Workforce 636]

Good morning everyone! We want to thank all of you for participating this week and again say thank you to Donna for hosting us. On our final day, we’ll be talking about what academic and non-academic supports partnerships provide to adult learners and how they fund these supports. So today we hope to:

  • Briefly summarize the different types of support services partnerships provide to adult learners
  • Describe how partnerships use multiple funding streams to provide these supports
  • Discuss some of the opportunities and challenges of using this approach

Student Supports

Throughout the week, we have heard about the range of supports that adult learners need to succeed in community college and obtain employment, and we have heard examples of how C2E partnerships provide some of these supports. It is probably clear by now that each of the C2E partnerships has its own unique support model. A mix of factors determine these support models, including the characteristics and needs of students, intensity and duration of the education program, and the practical reality of the type and level of resources available to the partnership.

Some of the partnerships offer services that help transition students to college by providing them with pre-college instruction to build their language skills, develop their basic reading, writing and math skill, help them earn their GED, prepare them to take a college entrance exam and, importantly, help them set clear and realistic education and employment goals. On campus, partnerships provide students with assistance with enrollment, registration, and financial aid applications. They also offer students a range of supports to pay for tuition, books or other training materials. Some of the partnerships offer structured tutoring services. Students also often receive services, such as job search, professional networking, mentoring and career advising, to help them succeed in finding work after completing an education experience. Throughout training, partnership case managers may work intensively with students on financial planning and offer motivational supports to help ensure students attend class, get good grades and access the services they need to succeed.

How Partnerships Fund Support Services

During C2E, a key area of our research related to how partnerships fund this part of their work together. C2E partnerships allowed us to examine their financial records, and we conducted numerous interviews with program leaders about their funding and service strategies over time. We also conducted focus groups with student-participants to learn about the types of supports they received and their experiences while in school, during job placement, and after they obtained employment. We published a report on this topic entitled, The Price of Persistence: How Nonprofit-Community College Partnerships Manage and Blend Diverse Funding Streams, which you can find at:

Across the C2E partnerships, funding structures varied greatly. Some had a steady base of public support, and others leveraged more philanthropic dollars. Even within an individual program, we saw funding structures vary greatly from year to year as programs lost support from some funding streams and gained support from other sources. Importantly, partnerships also generally have to manage funding sources relative to providing services to individual students, based on their eligibility for different funding streams.

Leveraging multiple funding streams is important to partnerships and programs for a couple of very important reasons. First, funding streams often come and go, and having a diverse funding mix helps programs allows programs to sustain themselves and continue to provide services on a consistent basis. Second, by having access to different funding streams with different goals and that cover different types of expenses and serve different populations, programs can serve a wider range of students, meet different students’ needs, and have greater flexibility (e.g., to respond to changes in their labor market with new programming or services more quickly). We haven’t seen any cases where a program or partnership has one funding stream that covers all the supports partnerships need to provide to their students. In fact, blending funding sources is essentially the norm. Thus to create a comprehensive and effective package of supports for an adult learner, multiple funding sources must be managed.

Building complicated and ever-changing financial portfolios takes organizational leadership that is creative and engaged in ongoing fundraising. Funding opportunities ebb and flow, and leaders often need to engage not only in fundraising but also in advocacy efforts to ensure that available public funding is sustained.

Discussion Questions

For our last day, we’d like to hear from you about the supports you offer students and the funding opportunities and challenges you encounter in this area. We're looking forward to hearing you're thoughts and experiences. Maureen

  • What supports does your student population need? How do you provide and fund those supports? Do you work with other organizations in your community to provide a richer set of supports?
  • Do you have a student story to tell? We’re interested in learning details about how individuals are supported with different resources over time so they can meet their goals.
  • What funding challenges do you encounter in providing student supports? What supports do you find it difficult to raise money for or provide? What work-around" solutions have you found to provide these supports?

[Workforce 638]

Great discussion. Can't wait to review all resources mentioned. In Miami Dade adult vocational education, we partner with our local center for independent living. They supply tutoring/advocacy services and placement for vocational rehabilitation students with disabilities. We partnered with them to supply mainly the tutoring we and VR could not supply. The CIL meets its funding thru its mandate from national CIL, a contract with VR and a county grant we wrote with the county to "fill" the gaps in student/ VR client services. After about two years, we ran a comparison of three students with disabilities groups: one following a program of study only, one with VR services following a program of study and one with VR and CIL following a program of study. The group with VR and CIL did the best by far. Our definition of "the best" was the greatest education gains. It was a small effort but one that allowed us to see great results. We unfortunately did not follow up long term.
Robin Matusow

[Workforce 641]

Hi Robin-The mix of services and how you funded them is really interesting-and it's terrific that you also managed to document which service mix seemed to be working the best! I was curious if you could say a little bit more about how you measured education gains-whether that was courses completed, or credits earned, or improvement on a competency assessment or some other measure?


[Workforce 643]

For us, educational gains are measured by the Test of Adult Basic Education, (TABE), a standardized test and specific industry skills gained in the classroom (OCP). The instructor documents skills gained. Additionally, we have a provision in our state board rule that says if a person with a documented disability cannot make gains on the TABE due to the disability, they can be "awarded" the gains if they demonstrate the skill. Some of the students took the TABE; some did not. All gained the required skills for the "OCP".

Robin Matusow

[Workforce 639]

Hi Everyone, Here is what I have to add to today's discussion. I am sorry I could not chime in earlier this week. This is what the Seattle King County WDC, Shoreline Community College, and Pacific Associates partnership has been doing, which now includes Seattle Jobs Initiative.

1. What supports does your student population need? Typically members of our population are in need of tuition assistance, transportation, childcare, and support services such as assistance with tools, and minor car repair (parts only) they are all automotive students after all.

2. How do you provide and fund those supports? As for providing funding we try and blend funding across multiple programs. These programs could be a combination of Pell grant, Basic Food & Training, Opportunity Grant, Worker Re-training, WIA Adult/Dislocated Worker, and in some cases G.I. Bill or DVR.

3. Do you work with other organizations in your community to provide a richer set of supports?

We generally will work with our One Stop partners (CBO'S) DSHS, ESD, Seattle Jobs Initiative, King County programs, Community College partners, and private funders dealers and dealer associations (Puget Sound Dealers Association).

4. What funding challenges do you encounter in providing student supports?

We always deal with the typical challenges around eligibility and available funds. But most critical can be timing issues related to funding sources. Due to deadlines for application and training programs start dates a pre-training funding plan must be in place to maximize on funding sources that are available to them.

5. What supports do you find it difficult to raise money for or provide?

Childcare seems to be the major one due to cost and hours of operation that they can serve students children. The other currently is rental assistance. Most programs cannot cover even half of a typical Seattle residents rent and most folks get in a situation of being a full month to two behind. We have been trying to once again blend funding sources to cover the costs of the request. We use CBOs, Faith based organizations, and sometimes DSHS as well. Each situation is unique.
Andrew Ang

[Workforce 646]

I neglected to mention in my post regarding employer interaction with the Seattle C2E project: We are currently working with over twenty dealerships (Honda, Toyota, GM, Chrysler, Nissan, etc.) in the Greater Seattle area to set up internships and post-graduation employment for students. Our automotive navigator is meeting weekly with various employers to do outreach for our students and program. The outreach that is being done covers not only the setting up of internships and placements, but also provides employers with information on tax credits for four current employees and new hires.

Andrew Ang, Pacific Associates, Automotive Career Navigator

[Workforce 647]

Andrew, Sounds great. What types of automotive internship jobs are available?

Valerie Hunt

[Workforce 652]

To answer the questions regarding internships available to automotive students is kind of complicated. We have established relationships through the Puget Sound Auto Dealers Association with most of the local manufacture dealerships. Our career navigator goes out to visit dealerships on a regular basis to develop a working relationship with each dealer as well as attending each manufacture advisory board meetings. We also maintain a forum on linked-in as well for the students and employer to connect. This outreach includes independent shops as well. Sometimes these will include larger non-manufacture shops such as Jiffy Lube or Les Schwab Tire Center. When a student enrolls in one of our two-year auto motive manufacture programs they already have a dealer sponsor or we assist in find them one. The term internship is a bit misleading because this internship actually is a permanent position. They work part time while in school for every other quarter (3 months) for the next two years. During their co-operative quarter they work 40 hours a week working on vehicles doing what they have just learned that pervious quarter in class.

Andrew Ang

[Workforce 656]

I have had several employers call who are interested in providing training in areas such as financial planning, landscaping, dog grooming, floral design, etc and want to partner with Workforce to receive on-the-job training dollars. Since the new regulations on hiring undocumented workers goes into effect 2012, many employers are interested in working with the ex-offender population whom I serve. This is an opportunity I would like to fill for these employers and provide positive employment outcomes. Any ideas on how to access training dollars for these employers?

Valerie Hunt

[Workforce 657]

Thanks, Andrew, I ran a similar program that trained individuals with disabilities in accounting, banking, customer service and admin support and, as part of the training, they needed to achieve 80% on the soft skills for the workplace in order to receive an internship. The (3) month internship served as the employers' probationary period, so if the individual was successful after (3) months, he moved to permanent employment. I accessed federal agencies with Schedule A appointments for disabled individuals and also the private sector employers. It had a high success rate.

Valerie Hunt

[Workforce 642]

I want add some information about student supports through a strategic placement of skilled staff to act as Navigators for students. They help student access resources from a variety of sources and coordinate between agencies. We had great success through our C2E project using a Navigator that was focused both on the school and workforce system and the automotive sector employers that our trainees looked for internships, employment and advancement opportunities. The ability to track changes in resources, understand how various programs can complement each other to benefit the students and communicate collaboratively makes all of the partners more effective. Here is a link to a recent report on the effectiveness of navigators in helping customers to complete their training and gain employment. The report explains the components that make up a successful navigator program and highlights two of our partnerships: the automotive career-pathways project at Shoreline Community College and the Homeless Employment Navigator partnership with Building Changes.

Peter Cavanaugh

[Workforce 644]

I agree with Peter. Added communication is a significant benefit to, in particular, the education provider. We gained valuable real time feedback on local market changes that, if we waited for state labor or other organizational feedback, we would have run the program in its current ineffective state for much longer. Feedback from partners involved in real time activities like placement, can be invaluable. Having other organizations involved with our students, although challenging to our system, gave us feedback we would have never gathered in our regular educational processes.

Robin Matusow

[Workforce 645]

At NOVA, we learned the value of such "navigator" services from our friends in Seattle, and are now placing these services at the center of NOVA's strategies for better-serving low-income adults and youth. By deploying cross-trained navigators who can provide ongoing support through a single personal relationship including access to tuition funding sources, navigational services across the college's many departmental silos, college academic counseling guidance, and career search support, both career and college success rates can rocket upwards quickly.

For new immigrants, adults without college histories in their families, disconnected youth, and long-term unemployed workers with no post-sec credentials, our complex systems of social service agencies, colleges and employers are just unfathomable. Too many give up in despair.

Re-aligning a region's social service, workforce, college and employment "systems" is an excruciating change process that takes years, with uncertain results. However, what Seattle's experience taught us, and we've now learned for ourselves in Northern Virginia, is that boundary-crossing professional navigators can effectively achieve the same "systems-realignment" results for the individual participants they serve but more immediately.

Bill Browning

[Workforce 655]

Hi Bill,

I hope we learn from NOVA as much as you have learned from Seattle - the scale of impact your program has reached is inspiring!

While "Re-aligning a region's social service, workforce, college and employment "systems" is an excruciating change process that takes years", it is incumbent upon us to do so. To that end navigators are really an end-around poor service coordination. Don't get me wrong - navigators will be needed; the Seattle Jobs Initiative in partnership with our local WIB and a number of CBOs, will be building on the excellent work of Peter Cavanaugh, Andrew Ang with the intention of a more standardized approach to this function locally. But at the very least, there should be an arena in which navigators provide feedback to the systems they navigate, and this feedback should influence these processes towards greater efficiency for their customers.

If we do not take on these "excruciating change processes", and create a more efficient workforce system where there are currently ossified silos of operation, we run the risk of having workforce funding cut all together from legislators fed up with the labyrinthine systems that the navigators are charged with navigating. As much as we need to standardize the navigator's role, we also need to work toward making them obsolete.

Matt Houghton

[Workforce 641]

Since this is the last day of our discussion, I wanted to check to see if you still have questions that our guests or other list members could answer. This list has more than 1,150 members now, all of whom have experience in some aspect of workforce development, and I think we collectively have the answers or the most up-to-date information available about how to make our workforce more competitive and our workers better prepared.

I was looking back through the posts of new members as to what their interests were and what they hoped to get from this discussion, and I'm pulling out some of that information from their posts and asking for their thoughts.

  • Brenda wrote: "Our Goodwill is currently at the very early stages of developing a partnership with the community colleges in our territory... I need as much information possible to assist us in determining what this partnership should look like that would be beneficial to us, the colleges, and our participants." So Brenda, what questions do you still have? What additional information do you need?
  • Cassandra said: "Please share specific information that can be re-tooled and used at the local college and classroom level. My specific interests include: employment market analysis, developing career pathways that match the needs of employers; effective student support and preparation strategies, writing proposals that match program design, etc." What's still not very clear, Cassandra? What areas would you like our guests to expand on?
  • Ellen shared information from her program and also said: I remain very interested in learning about the many ways stakeholders come together to make education and credentials widely available to working people and the ways these efforts can also help to improve working conditions and build new opportunity structures in the US labor market. What new ideas did you get that expanded your thinking, Ellen?
  • Chris's chief responsibilities in his job are to provide analysis and supporting data to guide and enhance AACC's advocacy efforts; with an emphasis on federal student financial assistance, the performance of community colleges in serving low-income and minority students, accountability, institutional performance, college costs and related institutional policies. What new information did you get from this discussion that will be a help to you, Christopher? What did you hope to hear about that hasn't been a topic yet?
  • Bob expanded on some of what Christopher had said and queried about the alternatives to the new 2014 GED Test. Do you know if there is any group from AACC looking at this issue? Marie responded with information that her discussion list, the Assessment list, had a discussion about the changes to the GED, and pointed us to a wealth of information in the summary of that discussion at Did you check that out, and did you find anything to share with our discussion? Bob also expressed this: We are very interested in the topic of non-profit/community college collaborations which assist persons with disabilities and economic needs to successfully invest in themselves and their community by participating in community college programs. Robin provided some information about their work in this area. Does anyone else have experiences to share?

Maureen and Amy and Matt have done a great job of presenting the information about the Courses to Employment project. It has been exciting to learn some of the details about yet another initiative that provides such positive results for the adult learners who need the boost. I hope that you will all take this opportunity to reflect on your needs and the conversation so far, and share pertinent information and ask those questions that are still on your mind.

Donna Brian

[Workforce 645]

Thank you all for your participation in our discussion on the Courses to Employment initiative. I know most of you may be thinking that you didn't send in questions or comments and so I'm not directing my comments to you, but you stayed with the list even though it got hectic on a couple of days and filled your inbox with messages, so if you lurked on the list, that was still participation. I also want to express our huge thanks to Maureen Conway, Amy Blair, and Matt Helmer from Aspen Institute's Workforce Strategies Initiative for their leadership in the field and for leading us in this discussion. The adjectives that come immediately to mind about their leadership in this discussion are

  • Well-organized
  • Informative
  • Thorough
  • Inspiring
  • Responsive
  • Expansive
  • Thought-provoking
  • Grounded
  • Timely

And I'm sure you are thinking of more superlatives as you look at my list! Thank you, thank you Maureen, Amy, and Matt!

We had one more post that came in as a part of the discussion, so this information is still on our mind. Another post came to me off-list which was a reaction to the discussion (or lack thereof!) on Thursday, and I'm sharing it with you here:

"Yesterday's discussion on C2E and student support certainly was lively and good. I wonder if the lack of interaction on the employer discussion is a reflection of how stymied folks may be working with employers especially during these tough economic times."

We know from all our past planned discussions on this list, Aspen Institute WSI "Courses to Employment", Jobs for the Future's "Breaking Through" project, Public/Private Ventures' Sectoral Employment Impact Study, and the National Transitional Jobs Network, that working with employers is a key to success. This issue, difficulties in working with employers, is one that we have experience in among our list members. Those of you who have had difficulty or hesitation in working with employers, please share your thoughts and/or frustrations. And those of you who have had some success in working with employers, please share your suggestions.

So this is the "formal discussion" wrap up, but not the end of the discussion, and, since this is a discussion list, let the discussion go on!
Donna Brian

[Workforce 648]

Since you urged us to keep talking, Donna, here are a few more points regarding the important issue of employer involvement:

  • Employer involvement in career pathway initiatives is vital and can take many forms. Employers can identify the jobs to focus these initiatives on and the skills, knowledge, credentials, and other assets that workers need for those positions. Employers can also provide internships, site visits, and jobs for program participants, as well as in-kind resources (e.g., guest speakers, equipment and materials) to use in instruction and meeting space (to use for instructional activities and planning meetings). Employers can also recruit other employers, labor unions, and public officials to get involved in these initiatives.
  • This issue of "how to get employers involved" was dealt with in the latter 1980s and 1990s during the heyday of workplace literacy efforts in the US. Considerable work was done to develop curricula that were relevant (and therefore appealing) to employers as well as collaborative methodologies for creating and nurturing active multi-stakeholder partnerships involving education providers, employers, unions, and worker-learners. (Massachusetts continues to promote this kind of collaborative planning for its workplace basic education programs.)
  • More recently, sector-based workforce development projects funded by federal and state agencies have reached out to individual employers (including larger companies which might have multiple locations) and trade associations within a given industry. (The National Retail Federation Foundation developed a sales-and-service curriculum for entry-level workers and other curricula for progressively higher levels of retail employees.) These collaborations allow education providers to meet with employers from multiple companies within an industry to get their input and invite their active participation in hiring of graduates of education programs customized to those industries.
  • Employers and labor unions have run some strong initiatives jointly, with education programs being funded under terms negotiated in labor contracts. In one major example, the Transport Workers Union operated a Training and Upgrading Fund which provided a variety of education programs (e.g., civil service test preparation, technical math and English courses to help workers move into college level electronics courses) to help NY City transit workers move into more rewarding jobs and respond to the industry's needs.
  • Funders can support the growth of effective career pathway initiatives (for both job seekers and incumbent workers) by learning from successful experience of the past 20+ years and using a variety of strategies to build employer and labor union involvement. These strategies can include: (a) outreach to individual employers and their associations to raise their awareness and invite their involvement; (b) inviting input from employers and unions about the types of jobs, skills, and credentials to focus career pathway initiatives on; (c) assembling existing effective curricula and creating new curricula to respond to identified training needs of job seekers and incumbent workers; (d) disseminating of effective curricula and assessment tools via professional development, clearinghouses, and other means; (e) building the expertise of educators and the employers and union staff who will play roles in organizing and running worker education programs; and (f) providing recognition, incentives, and technical support to those who invest in initiatives to train and hire workers.

In a nutshell: Employer (and union) involvement is very important, but proponents of career pathway initiatives must use well-informed, well-organized strategies to build and sustain effective partnerships with employers. Paul Jurmo

[Workforce 650]

I developed and implemented the Shadowing, Mentoring, Internship Learning Experience (SMILE) program in the 1990's in rural upstate NY. We worked with hundreds of employers, administrators, teachers and guidance counselors throughout three counties to place thousands of students into structured experiences ranging from a one day shadowing to a semester internship. The shadowing piece is still part of the Delaware County Better Employment, Skills and Training (BEST) program, sponsored and/or supported by agencies, BOCES, a college and employers. I also still have the specifics of the SMILE program that I can share, if anyone is ever interested.
Susan Lyons

[Workforce 651]

We at the National Network of Sector Partners have done a good deal of work and thinking about employer involvement. Sector initiatives work with multiple employers in an industry sector (and also representatives of unions where relevant, but I'm going to focus on employer involvement here.) Based on our research, and on the experience of sector initiatives that are members of our organization, sector initiatives find it helpful to involve employers in the following areas:

  • use of services (being "customers" of services);
  • planning and governing;
  • involvement in service delivery;
  • involvement in changing systems; and
  • supporting the sector initiative.

I'd like to know if these areas for employer involvement make sense to others on the list, and if there are other areas.

Often an employer will start by being involved in one or two of these areas. Effective sector initiatives work to broaden involvement so the employer becomes involved in more of the areas. We find that sector initiatives also work to deepen employer involvement in each of the areas identified above. For instance, regarding use of services, a minimum level of involvement is for an employer to learn about the services. On the other hand, a very deep level of involvement in this area is for the employer to hire program participants regularly and pay the program when a hire is successful. Another example: here are several levels of involvement in the area of planning and governing. At first an employer might be willing to identify needs through an informational interview. Later, with the sector initiative's encouragement, the employer might be willing to participate in a focus group. Then later, its involvement might deepen to participation on an advisory committee. Eventually, its involvement might deepen further to become a key leader regarding decision-making. Many employers are involved in service delivery -- the assistance in arranging internships is an example. Involvement in changing systems (services and how they're coordinated, employer practices, and policy) is less common, but it's an important role for employers. Examples of levels of involvement include providing advice, engaging in advocacy, and playing a leadership role.

I hope this builds on the points Paul and Andrew made.

Andrew -- could you say which tax credits you find employers to be interested in, and what types of information they find helpful? Many sector initiative work with employer to arrange internships and placements, but fewer provide info on tax credits.

Jack Mills, Director, National Network of Sector Partners

[Workforce 660]

I'm glad to see this interesting discussion of strategies and challenges in working with employers. To build on some of Jack's earlier comments about ways to engage employers, I thought I would offer a resource. A number of years ago we developed what we call a business value assessment toolkit (which you can find here: It's designed for workforce program leaders to use to identify the value proposition they offer their employer customers. The toolkit has some case examples, ideas about sources of employer value, and a handbook and spreadsheet tool that can help calculate. We also did a publication on building employer relationships in 2004 ( and although the environment has gotten more challenging since then, I believe some of the ideas and strategies described still hold.

Maureen Conway

[Workforce 653]

I started out in 2010 giving employers a handout that covered the WOTC credit. However, what we found was that often when employers tried to access this credit, the process took too long and the employer never got the credit. We have also given them information on the availability of funding for their incumbent workers as well. This seems to be the main hook when dealing with new employers to our network. We inform them that many of their current employees could be eligible for free or low cost skills upgrade training through the community/technical college system. We advise them on whom they may be and offer a plan to be able to back fill some of these positions with students who are currently in training. This seems to have worked very well. One of the key things I try to do when meeting with employers is never ask them for anything. I start the conversation with what can we do for you. They often get bombarded with request from schools and placement agencies. I try and address their needs and show them how we can meet those needs at no cost to them. After all they are running a business. Since we have been dealing with the dealer network out here for quite some time through Shoreline CC automotive programs we have built up some "street cred."

lol - Andrew Ang

[Workforce 649]

Thank you for this significant discussion. This has been a subject of additional local discussions. I particularly agree with the concept of looking for employment in sectors that might not always be high wage/high demand. Emphasizing high demand/ high wage employment has had a somewhat limiting effect on program design and outcome. Pathways have to start somewhere! Proper planning and entry-level success are great foundations for additional training/ engaging in employer training programs leading to high wage/high demand jobs.

Robin Matusow