Absence of conflict of interest.
- The study’s objective was to examine the implementation of the Greater Cincinnati Manufacturing Careers Accelerator (GCMCA) to prepare students for employment in manufacturing and welding in Ohio.
- The study authors conducted an implementation evaluation using conference calls, emails, phone and in-person interviews, and document reviews. It was designed to assess the development of the GCMCA training program, monitor implementation outcomes, document successes and challenges, and make recommendations for continuous program improvement and sustainability.
- The study found that ongoing support and buy-in from college leadership and a strong employer base accelerated the success of the GCMCA, while a shifting economic landscape and delays in program implementation were challenges. Successes included a new program that filled a community training gap, inter-college collaboration, and innovative student-centered learning.
- The authors triangulated data across various data sources and presented preliminary and interim findings to GCMCA stakeholders for feedback and substantiation. However, some limitations of this implementation study included the amount of time needed to start the GCMCA which was lengthened due to the need for course/program approval and accreditation, and how the sampling of study participants was determined by program staff and not by the evaluation team, introducing potential selection biases in responses.
- The embedded impact study was reviewed by CLEAR in May 2020.
Greater Cincinnati Manufacturing Careers Accelerator (GCMCA) Program
Features of the Intervention
- Type of organization: Community colleges
- Location/setting: Multi-site in Ohio
- Population served and scale: Adults, TAA-eligible, dislocated or displaced worker; Veterans; 360 participants
- Industry focus: Manufacturing
- Intervention activities: Accelerated learning; Career pathways; Developmental education, Student support services; Technology; Work-based learning
- Organizational partnerships: Employers; Partners for a Competitive Workforce (PCW)
- Cost: Not included
- Fidelity: Not included
The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) program provided $1.9 billion in grants to community colleges to improve skills and support employment in high-demand industries, notably manufacturing, health care, information technology, energy, and transportation. Through four rounds of funding, DOL awarded 256 TAACCCT grants to approximately 800 educational institutions across the United States and its territories. The GCMCA initiative was designed by Cincinnati State Technical and Community College (CSTCC) and funded through a $2.75 million grant in 2013 during the third round of TAACCCT. The funding was used to support training programs in welding as well as computer numerical control and mechanical engineering technology manufacturing by providing stacked and latticed industry credentials in collaboration with local employers, integrating enhanced student support services, and incorporating technology-enabled learning.
The target population for the GCMCA were Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA)-eligible workers and veterans. The programs were offered at CSTCC’s campuses in Harrison, Evendale, and Clifton, Ohio, within two divisions: the Workforce Development Center (providing short-term workforce education and training programming) and the Center for Innovative Technologies (offering college credits towards an associate’s degree and industry certifications). The welding program focused on student-centered learning, which included contextualized math and English coursework and adaptive learning. Through the GCMCA, CSTCC improved its Pathway to Employment Center (PTEC) which provided student supportive services such as employment preparation, career guidance, academic support, and tutoring. A total of 360 students were served by GCMCA. The program’s logic model includes inputs (e.g., requirements of the TAACCCT grant, needed resources, stakeholders involved in the design and planning of the GCMCA, existing program infrastructure), activities (e.g., how participants flowed through the GCMCA programs, the possible pathways available, types of certifications/degrees offered), outputs (e.g., the TAACCCT-required performance outcomes), and outcomes for students, CSTCC, and employers.
Features of the Study
This implementation study evaluated the GCMCA, which was implemented across CSTCC’s three campuses in Ohio: West Campus in Harrison, Workforce Development Center in Evendale, and Main Campus in Clifton. Across these campuses, the authors collected predominantly qualitative data through conference calls, emails, phone and in-person interviews with key stakeholders, site visits, and document reviews. The sample of study participants included the GCMCA's project director, Data Manager, and Data Analyst; CSTCC and GCMCA leadership; GCMCA staff, faculty, and instructors; CSTCC staff and faculty, GCMCA program participants; employers; and industry partners such as Partners for a Competitive Workforce (PCW). Specifically, progress update calls were conducted with grant staff and leadership to support administrative and data-related functions, and quarterly implementation calls were carried out with GCMCA leadership to share updates on processes, progress, obstacles, and successes. Site visit interviews with the aforementioned stakeholders occurred twice during the evaluation across all three campuses to discuss progress, successes, and challenges with GCMCA implementation as well as lessons learned and ideas for sustainability. Also, program document reviews were completed to contextualize implementation efforts.
The objective of the implementation evaluation was to document GCMCA progress, monitor outputs, and provide recommendations for continuous improvement and program sustainability. To do this, the authors carried out a formative evaluation that focused on the GCMCA training programs and the services offered through PTEC by using a utilization-focused framework to inform research questions and an inductive thematic approach to analyze the study results. The study notes that the latter, which is influenced by applied phenomenology, was useful as it drew clear links between the posed research questions and results, and it provided a theoretical foundation for interpreting and extrapolating subjective meaning from qualitative data. Data was collected for different themes to provide real-time feedback to GCMCA stakeholders as the program rolled out. These themes included progress towards achieving desired outcomes, how strategies or activities that were not successfully implemented could be changed, how program activities could be sustained, and what the strengths, challenges, and environmental factors were that impacted the GCMCA implementation. The authors triangulated results across the various data sources to ensure the results were accurate and credible. Moreover, during the evaluation period, the authors presented preliminary and interim findings to GCMCA stakeholders for member checking, to confirm the facts that were reported, and to provide an opportunity for further elaboration on results and recommendations.
- The study found that factors that accelerated the success of the GCMCA included getting buy-in and ongoing support and engagement from college leadership, having a strong employer base to provide feedback on program training and coursework, and CSTCC’s existing grant structure, which fostered knowledge sharing and high quality data tracking and reporting.
- The study found that successes from the implementation included the development of a new welding program which filled a training gap in the community, the enhancement of machine-related trainings that facilitated increased inter-college collaboration, and innovations in student-centered learning such as contextualized math and English coursework.
Implementation challenges and solutions
- The study found that delays in full program implementation occurred due to lengthy approval and accreditation processes, having to design new approaches to developmental education, as well as difficulty in finding, hiring, and training qualified staff and faculty.
- The study found that to ensure data quality, mitigate the frequency of data entry error, and ensure existing staff were not overwhelmed, CSTCC hired additional personnel solely responsible for data collection, tracking, and analysis related to GCMCA.
- The study found that it was a challenge having to move GCMCA’s welding program to a different campus location and, as a result, students at that new campus location did not have easy access to student support services offered at the main campus. As a solution, PTEC tutors traveled between campuses to provide in-person services to welding students.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
A limitation to the implementation study included the amount of time needed to start the GCMCA, which was lengthened due to the need for course/program approval and accreditation, launching the welding program at a new campus location, and identifying and then training qualified staff, faculty, and instructors. Because of this, implementation evaluation efforts started in January 2014 while the GCMCA was not fully developed until September 2013. Another limitation included how the sampling of study participants was determined by program staff and not by the evaluation team, introducing potential selection biases in responses and implementation study results. Moreover, there was not sufficient detail explaining how those in the study sample were identified or selected or whether they were representative of their respective study participant populations involved in the GCMCA. The study also did not include a description of internal quality assurance procedures employed among the evaluation team to verify qualitative data collected and to ensure data accuracy.