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Evaluation of the Community College Consortium for Bioscience Credentials (c3bc): Final report. (Alamprese et al. 2017)

  • Findings

    See findings section of this profile.

    Evidence Rating

Review Guidelines

Absence of conflict of interest


Alamprese, J. A., Costelloe, S., Price, C., & Zeidenberg, M. (2017). Evaluation of the Community College Consortium for Bioscience Credentials (c3bc): Final report. Cambridge, MA: Abt Associates.


  • The study’s objective was to examine the extent to which the Community College Consortium for Bioscience Credentials (c3bc) colleges carried out core activities of the grant in terms of: 1) strategic alignment and partnerships, 2) course, program, and credential development and enhancement, and 3) student recruitment and advising. The study also examined preparation for further education and employment strategies, harmonization of standards across the consortium, and c3bc design and structure.
  • The study authors conducted an implementation evaluation using data from site visits, interviews with key stakeholders, review of curricula and other grant documents, documentation of activities reported during teleconferences and meetings, and review of grant reporting forms. From this qualitative data, researchers extracted common themes across topics and colleges and assessed capacity-building outcomes.
  • The study found partnerships with employers, industry stakeholders, and the public workforce development system to be critical for program success, although development of these partnerships required significant investment of staff time and knowledge. Other facilitators of success included the consortium’s hub structure, public awareness efforts, and cross-departmental relationships.
  • The implementation study was comprehensive in its design, data collection, and analyses. Findings align with research questions and are supported by data. However, the exclusion of students' perspectives may be considered a limitation.
  • The embedded impact study was reviewed by CLEAR in May 2020.

Features of the Intervention

  • Type of organization: Two-year colleges
  • Location/setting: Multi-site in California, Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah
  • Population served and scale: Adults; Dislocated workers; Veteran or military; 938 participants
  • Industry focus: Professional, scientific, and technical services
  • Intervention activities: Accelerated learning; Career pathways; Student support services; Technology; Work-based learning
  • Organizational partnerships: Employers; Industry partners; Workforce Investment Boards; One-Stop Centers; Four-year colleges
  • Cost: Not included
  • Fidelity: Not included

The Community College Consortium for Bioscience Credentials (c3bc) was formed in response to the bioscience industry's need for education and workforce development programs that can provide the industry with a skilled workforce. The c3bc, led by Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College Career Training (TAACCCT) grantee Forsyth Technical Community College, was comprised of 12 colleges across eight states. However, three of the 12 colleges collaborated on the grant’s activities but did not develop new courses or credentials and were not part of the evaluation. The colleges comprising the c3bc collaborated with industry employers to develop bioscience courses, programs, and credentials and to develop, update, and harmonize skill standards. Specific activities conducted by the c3bc colleges varied based on existing capacity and regional industry needs. The grant's approach was based on an extensive review of the state of bioscience in STEM education and the future need for biotechnicians. The colleges of the c3bc leveraged their bioscience expertise and resources to produce multiple interventions rather than implement one intervention across the entire consortium.

The c3bc grant was designed to bridge the gap between Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) and other displaced workers to prepare them for the workplace. However, colleges varied greatly in their target populations depending on the program and credential/certificate offered (e.g., recent high school graduates, veterans, current bioscience industry employees, or nontraditional students who were displaced, seeking a career transition, or reentering the workforce). The study included a "conceptual model" that guided grant activities. The model included components such as program participants, entry and exit points, industry standards, input from industry, certificates and credentials, exit to jobs, and four-year colleges.

Features of the Study

The implementation study design was guided by the c3bc's conceptual model. It involved the following data collection methods: site visits, interviews with key stakeholders, review of curricula and other grant documents, documentation of activities reported during c3bc teleconferences and meetings, and review of grant reporting forms (submitted to the lead college and the U.S. Department of Labor). From this qualitative data, researchers extracted common themes across topics and colleges and assessed capacity-building outcomes (e.g., courses, credentials, partnerships). The evaluators used a standardized interview protocol to conduct the face-to-face interviews and a documentation form for the class observations to ensure consistency. However, topics were customized to reflect the college’s bioscience subsectors, goals, and other college-specific activities. The evaluators developed a qualitative database for each college to store data. The database was updated as new information became available. As the evaluators updated each college's qualitative database, they verified whether the new information was consistent with existing information. If not, they sought clarification from college staff. The authors did not include a fidelity assessment in the study.

Study Sites

  • Austin Community College (ACC) in Austin, Texas
  • Bucks County Community College (BCCC) in Newtown, Pennsylvania
  • City College of San Francisco (CCSF) in San Francisco, California
  • Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
  • Ivy Technical Community College in Indianapolis, Indiana
  • Los Angeles Valley Community College (LAVC) in Los Angeles, California
  • Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
  • Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) in Salt Lake City, Utah
  • St. Petersburg College (SPC) in St. Petersburg, Florida


Intervention activities/services

  • The study found that employer and industry partnerships were critical to program success, as were public workforce development partnerships. Partnership development was an ongoing effort that required significant investment of staff time and knowledge.
  • The study found that course development required significant resources, staff, time, and coordination with partners.
  • The study found that cross-departmental relationships and administrative support helped facilitate course, program, and credential development and enhancement.
  • The study found that public awareness efforts were critical for building understanding and support for these programs, as well as recruiting students. Assessment and advising can help ensure students stay on track and are prepared to meet course requirements.
  • The study found that the organization of courses into an explicit career pathway and stacked/latticed credentials can facilitate student success. Provision of internships and hands-on training was considered desirable by employers.
  • The study found that the c3bc's hub structure helped facilitate collaboration, as did the leadership of Forsyth Tech.
  • The study found that bioscience skill standards provide a framework for curriculum development that can be customized to specific positions as part of the process of aligning curricula with industry needs.

Implementation challenges and solutions

  • The study found that partnership development with Workforce Investment Boards (WIBs) and One-Stop Centers was relatively slow, partially due to limited interest in bioscience jobs and staff’s lack of familiarity with the bioscience industry.
  • The study found that colleges’ bioscience programs were relatively small compared to other science programs and varied in their visibility. There was a limited pipeline of students ready to move into the newly developed programs.
  • The study found that c3bc coordinators conducted extensive outreach to WIBS and One-Stop Centers and provided information about bioscience jobs and their colleges’ programs. Through these efforts, three colleges obtained Eligible Provider Status for their programs.
  • The study found that, to reach potential students, c3bc staff conducted extensive awareness and outreach to both community and college stakeholders. Through meetings with academic departments, workforce education, continuing education, and advising offices, c3bc staff demonstrated the value of bioscience programming. Their efforts resulted in increased cooperation between c3bc staff and staff in other departments and more referrals from advising and counseling offices.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The implementation study was comprehensive in its design, data collection, and analyses. The findings aligned with the research questions and were supported by the data. The authors did not note any limitations, although the study lacked a fidelity assessment. Further, it does not appear that the evaluators conducted interviews or focus groups with students, who might be considered key stakeholders. Selection for participation was also not discussed, so employers, staff, faculty, and other partners who participated in interviews could be those who feel most strongly about (or most invested in the success of) the grant. This was not discussed by the authors.

Reviewed by CLEAR

July 2021

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