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Final evaluation report: Implementation and outcomes of Credentials to Careers (Skilton-Sylvester et al. 2016)

  • Findings

    See findings section of this profile.

    Evidence Rating

Absence of conflict of interest.

Citation

Skilton-Sylvester, P., Myran, S., Myran, G., Ross, S., & Williams, M. (2016). Final evaluation report: Implementation and outcomes of Credentials to Careers. Canadian Lakes, MI: Myran & Associates LLC.

Highlights

  • The study’s objective was to examine the implementation of the Credentials to Careers (C2C) program on earnings.
  • The study authors conducted an implementation evaluation using data collected through interviews and focus groups, observations of class sessions, and analysis of artifacts.
  • The study found four key synthesis observations about the C2C program across seven colleges: "minding the gaps,” investing in curriculum and tapping local knowledge, the importance of career navigators, and meeting community and employer needs through collaboration with community partners.
  • The implementation study was well organized using quality assurance procedures for data collection. However, detailed information about the sample or the selection criteria for focus groups and interviews were not included in the study.
  • The embedded impact study was reviewed by CLEAR in May of 2020.

Intervention Examined

The Credentials to Careers (C2C) Program

Features of the Intervention

  • Type of organization: Community Colleges
  • Location/setting: Multi-state
  • Population served and scale: Adults; Low-skilled; Unemployed; Dislocated or displaced worker; 878 participants
  • Industry focus: Manufacturing; Information; Health care and social assistance
  • Intervention activities: Accelerated learning; Career pathways; Student support services; Technology
  • Organizational partnerships: Community stakeholders; Industry partners; Employers
  • Cost: Not Included
  • Fidelity: Not included

In 2013, a seven college consortium, was awarded a Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to implement the Credentials to Careers (C2C) program. The TAACCCT grant program was designed to assist community colleges in developing two-year innovative workforce education and career training programs. The C2C program was designed to provide training and credentials in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers, with a focus on advanced manufacturing, information technology, and health care technology. Through the consortium of colleges, the C2C program was implemented to prepare unemployed, incumbent, and displaced workers for employment in sectors of the STEM job market. The program's primary goal was to collaborate with strategic partners to increase attainment of credentials and help participants secure employment. To assist with this goal, five core design elements for the C2C program were established: 1) evidenced-based design, 2) stacked and latticed credentials, 3) online and technology-enabled learning, 4) transferability and articulation, and 5) strategic alignment.

Features of the Study

The study collected qualitative data through individual interviews and focus groups of students, teachers, career navigators, community partners, and administrators; observations of class sessions; and analysis of curriculum. Interviews were conducted in 45-minute sessions and used a semi-structured protocol based on research questions derived from the grant evaluation. Classroom observations were completed over one hour and allowed for informal focus group discussions with student work groups. Audio recordings were made of all interviews, focus groups, and observations to ensure accuracy and verify completeness of the notes taken. All qualitative data was coded and analyzed using qualitative software.

Study Sites

The intervention was implemented at seven community colleges across five different states in the US.

  • Shoreline Community College in Seattle, WA
  • Austin Community College in Austin, TX
  • Northern Virginia Community College in Annandale, VA
  • Los Angeles Trade Technical College in Los Angeles, CA
  • Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke, VA
  • Muskegon Community College in Muskegon, MI
  • Mott Community College in Flint, MI

Findings

Intervention activities/services

  • The study found that all C2C colleges were "minding the gaps" or helping students navigate transitions from one career pathway to another. The colleges sought out and implemented ways to minimize the difficulty of career pathway transitions by using strategies such as: designing "what's coming next" programs, providing wraparound support services, and lessening the time gap between levels of training.
  • The study found that consortium members developed purpose driven curriculum that met local needs and utilized local knowledge.
  • The study found that across all C2C colleges, the career navigator played a vital role. Career navigators provided a variety of supports for students including career counseling, assistance in goal setting, crisis intervention, soft skills training, and transition to internships and employment. Career navigators were also instrumental in recruiting students and employers in the community.
  • The study found that collaboration with community partners was instrumental in the development of the curriculum for the programs and creating shared knowledge and improved instruction.
  • The study found that collaboration helped support the overall goals of the C2C program in eight strategic areas: program design, curriculum development, student recruitment and retention, workforce training, job placement, program management, leveraging resources for the partnerships, and commitment to program stability.
  • The study also found that active collaboration and comprehensive partnerships that benefited each stakeholder were essential in building and sustaining effective programs.

Implementation challenges and solutions

  • One consistent implementation challenge found across all C2C colleges was the underutilization of career navigation services provided by the grant funds. However, the study found that using predictive analytics helped maximize the efficiency and expand the reach of career navigation.
  • The study notes that changes made as a result of the implementation analysis were the creation of career pathways, the use of evidence-based design, expanding student support, and addressing employer needs through strategic alignment of programs.

Considerations for Interpreting the Findings

The implementation studies of each of the seven community college sites were organized well with detailed information for each location. Quality assurance procedures for data collection were also utilized. However, detailed information about the sample or the selection criteria for focus groups and interviews were not included in the study.

Reviewed by CLEAR

August 2021

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